Courtesy: Benjamin Wong
Guiding Hongkong to ESG Investments
早在 2018 年 9 月，香港證券及期貨事務監察委員會 (SFC) 首次公佈了對香港 ESG 投資的監管，以及其綠色金融戰略框架。該框架主要關注兩個問題，即環境和氣候變化相關風險的披露，以及資產管理公司將 ESG 因素融入投資過程。
該框架隨後於 2019 年 3 月發佈通知，進一步推動了 ESG 調查的發展，該調查確定了 ESG 和氣候風險在資產管理中的整合。調查發現，83% 持有證監會牌照的基金經理在評估一家公司的投資潛力時，會考慮至少一項 ESG 因素。其中，35% 的受訪者表示，他們高度重視治理層面，全面實施 ESG 政策，明確角色，進一步提升 ESG 投資的發展，23% 的受訪者關注氣候變化風險的財務影響。
到2020年10月，在證監會註冊的非上市ESG基金只有30只。數量較少可能是由於難以維持以 ESG 為重點的基金，同時也難以吸引散戶投資者，以及基金通函的複雜和苛刻要求，阻止基金經理為其基金獲得 ESG 標籤。基金通函針對證監會認可的基金，這些基金將全球知名的 ESG 指標和標準作為其投資考慮因素。他們還旨在提高 ESG 因素整合過程中 ESG 基金披露的品質。
證監會就來年基金經理管理及披露氣候相關風險提出新的諮詢總結。這將要求基金經理在管理投資和風險管理過程時考慮氣候變化風險。證監會亦會實施兩層方法，以進一步支持基金經理實施 ESG，包括基準標準和增強標準。證監會亦會就基金經理如何主要專注於 ESG 投資提供進一步指引。 ESG 基金應證明其總淨值的至少 70% 用於 ESG 相關投資，但 ESG 因素的考慮和實施需要逐案證明，這意味著基金管理人不能產生一些ESG 因素有利於其他因素。
雖然證監會最初的重點是環境方面，因為與其他因素相比，它被認為更加發達，並得到更標準化和可衡量的指標的支援，證監會也認識到其他方面的重要性，並正在努力發展和實施.自 2002 年 1 月以來，ESG 和以氣候為重點的基金現在將被要求納入 ESG 因素、報告和對指定 ESG 標準的引用，同時發佈年度定期評估，以便為 ESG 投資者提供更容易的考慮過程。
2022年初進行了一項共有3770名來自香港不同人口領域的受訪者的線上調查，以進一步瞭解香港投資者目前的ESG環境。調查發現，只有 30% 的受訪者在調查前聽說過 ESG 投資並瞭解 ESG 的含義。另一方面，調查還顯示，月收入較高的人與收入較低的人相比，對 ESG 投資的認知度更高，這或許也與他們的教育水準有關。同時，在 ESG 投資的意向和行動上仍有巨大差距，目前只有 5% 的受訪者投資 ESG 產品，儘管超過 50% 的受訪者計畫在未來一年內投資 ESG 產品，將其當前投資的 10-40% 分配給 ESG 產品。
儘管 ESG 在香港尚未成為熱門話題，但隨著 ESG 的興趣和意識不斷提高，截至 2022 年 3 月，ESG 基金的總銷售額在三年內增長了 1.5 倍，其中最受關注的話題似乎是環境機會和清潔能源。提高對 ESG 投資的教育和認識非常重要，因為在以前從未聽說過 ESG 的人中，多達 70% 的人沒有興趣投資。這表明當他們得到更多的指導和理解時，他們對這個問題有極大的興趣，特別是考慮到 ESG 投資的所有好處，包括風險管理和長期利益。然而，目前，基金經理仍缺乏急需的 ESG 培訓、足夠的分析工具、標準化指標和激勵措施。
Hongkong Approach on ESG Investing
Back in September 2018, The Securities and Futures Commission of Hong Kong (SFC) first announced the regulation for ESG investing in Hongkong, along with its Strategic Framework for Green Finance. The framework focused mainly on two issues, namely the disclosure of environmental and climate change-related risks, and asset manager integration of ESG factors into the investment process.
The framework was later followed by a circular in March 2019, which further promoted the development of an ESG survey that pinpoint the integrations of ESG and climate risks in assets management. The survey finds that 83% of fund managers with SFC licenses will consider at least one factor of ESG when assessing a company’s investment potential. Of them, 35% claimed that they pay utmost attention to the governance aspects by implementing ESG policies across the board and defined clear roles to further elevate the development of ESG investments, while 23% focus on the financial impacts of the risks of climate change.
The SFC and Hongkong Monetary Authority (HKMA) came up with a joint statement on the Green and Sustainable Finance Cross-Agency Steering Group. The group is responsible for providing strategic direction to regulate the policy and market development in Guangdong, Hongkong, Macau, and the Greater Bay area, while also working towards enhancing the country’s position as the leader in Asian sustainable finance.
By October 2020, there are only 30 unlisted ESG funds registered at SFC. The low number is perhaps due to the difficulties in maintaining the ESG-focused funds while also attracting retail investors, along with the Fund Circular’s complicated and demanding requirements that prevent fund managers to obtain ESG labels for their funds. The Fund Circular targets SFC authorized funds that take globally known ESG metrics and criteria as their investment considerations. They also aim to enhance the quality of ESG fund disclosures during the ESG factors integration process.
SFC came up with a new Consultation Conclusion on the Management and Disclosure of Climate-Related Risks by Fund Managers in the upcoming year. It will require fund managers to consider climate change risk when managing investments and the risk management process. A two-tier approach will also be implemented by the SFC to further support the implementation of ESG by fund managers, including the baseline standards and enhanced standards. SFC will also provide further guidance on how fund managers can focus primarily on ESG investment. An ESG fund should demonstrate at least 70% of its total net worth in ESG-related investment, however, the consideration and implementation of ESG factors need to be demonstrated on a case-by-case basis, meaning that the fund manager cannot yield some ESG factors in favor of the others.
Although SFC's initial focus is on the environmental aspect, as it is considered to be more developed compared to other factors, and is supported with more standardized and measurable metrics, SFC recognizes the importance of other aspects as well and is working towards their development and implementations. Since January 2002, ESG and climate-focused funds will now be required to incorporate ESG factors, reports, and the reference to the named ESG criteria, along with releasing an annual periodic assessment to provide an easier consideration process for ESG investors.
Understanding the Investors
An online survey with a total of 3770 respondents from various demographic sectors in Hongkong was conducted at the beginning of 2022 to further understand the current ESG environment for investors in Hongkong. It finds that only 30% of the respondents have heard about ESG investing prior to the survey and understand what ESG stands for. On the other hand, the survey also shows that those with higher monthly income have higher awareness regarding ESG investing in comparison to those who earn less, which is perhaps, also in conjunction with their education level. At the same time, there is still a huge gap between the intention and action on ESG investing with only 5% of the respondents are currently investing in ESG products although over 50% of the respondents plan to invest in ESG products within the next year, allocating 10-40% of their current investment to an ESG product.
Although ESG is yet to be a popular subject in the Hongkong setting, with the rising interest and awareness of ESG, the gross sale of ESG funds has increased by 1.5x in three years by March 2022, with the highest interest seemingly in topics around environmental opportunities and clean energy. It’s important to increase the education and awareness regarding ESG investing as up to 70% of those who have never heard about ESG before are not interested to invest in one. It shows that there is huge interest in the issue when they are given more guidance and understanding, especially considering all the benefits of ESG investing, including the risk management and long-term benefits. Yet at the moment, fund managers are still lacking the much-needed ESG training, sufficient analytical tools, standardized metrics, and incentives.
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About the Author
Xaveria Livienna is a freelance writer and researcher for the Taiwan Architecture and Building Center, currently pursuing an MBA degree in National Taiwan University of Science and Technology. Her main interests revolve around digital and content marketing, as well as CSR and sustainability.
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