ESG in Emerging Markets
可持續投資，或目前更廣為人知的 ESG 投資，最早始於 1960 年代，旨在為開展更具社會責任感的商業活動的公司提供激勵。投資者不再只關注企業的經濟表現，而是關注其環境、社會和政府 (ESG) 方面。在現代，ESG 運動讓投資者更加了解那些受其資金影響的人。它還為投資者提供了有關企業對股東以外的利益相關者的影響的更多信息。與得分較低的公司相比，ESG 評級較高的公司一再表現出更好的業績，尤其是在不穩定時期。
在全球投資者的濃厚興趣下，僅 2020 年，全球 ESG 基金就達到了 1.7 萬億美元，而歐元區的 ESG 資產總值已經接近 2080 億美元。預計到 2025 年，這一數字將達到 53 萬億美元，但在很大程度上取決於 ESG 框架在新興市場和發展中國家的表現。正如《巴黎協定》和可持續發展目標 (SDG) 所提到的，只有發達市場和新興市場的利益相關者能夠共同努力提高 ESG 評級，特別是在仍然缺乏資金支持的全球南方，這個數字才有可能實現高度相關。
一些人批評制定歐盟可持續發展報告標準的歐洲財務報告諮詢小組忽視了全球需求，因為這些標準幾乎不適合大多數新興市場。他們認為，我們現在擁有的 ESG 評級體系已經過時，標準不適用於新興經濟體國家。評級有利於那些已經有資金維持其活動可持續性的大公司，同時拒絕那些急需它們的公司。目前，大約 60% 的發展中國家的主權信用評級較低，僅僅是因為當前的 ESG 因素與其國家金融活動的運作方式不一致。投資者將這些新興市場視為高風險投資，因為需要更長的交貨時間和昂貴的流程才能恢復利潤。可持續金融論壇秘書長 Francesco Bicciato 還補充說，“新興國家通常被視為投資對象，因為它們擁有高風險高回報機會和高地緣政治風險。”
當前的全球 ESG 評分只強調最終結果的表現，而往往忽略為實現目標而付出的努力，對改善的進展沒有積極價值。與此同時，新興經濟體國家更加複雜多樣，文化內涵豐富，地方法律各異。他們在開發更先進和更可持續的技術時經常遇到困難，例如在高功率經濟體中的技術，這進一步使他們失去了他們迫切需要的 ESG 資金的資格。然而，這些市場通常被證明具有經濟效率，即使它們無法遵循此類 ESG 標準。
不可否認，新興市場的 ESG 評級迫切需要包容性。專家們提到了他們對 ESG 在全球南方國家重要性的擔憂，他們認為 ESG 在亞洲的參與可以被視為挑戰和機遇。由於這些國家仍然需要能夠確保這些公司朝著更可持續的未來運營的製度框架，因此投資者現在正在獎勵負責任的企業行為，特別是對於資源有限的國家而言，這是一個好消息。
Sustainable investment, or what is currently known better as ESG investing has first started in the 1960s as a way to provide incentives for companies with more socially responsible business activities. Investors are no longer focusing solely on the economic performance of the business, but instead on its environmental, social, and governmental (ESG) aspects. In the modern era, the ESG movement has allowed investors to be more aware of those who were impacted by their funds. It also provides investors with more information regarding the businesses’ impacts on its stakeholders, apart from the shareholders. Firms with better ESG ratings have repeatedly shown better performance compared to those with low scores, especially in erratic periods.
With immense interest from the global investors, in 2020 alone, the ESG funds have reached a whooping USD 1.7 trillion worldwide, while the total ESG assets value in Eurozone was already close to USD208 billion. The number is predicted to reach USD 53 trillion by 2025, however, it heavily relies on how well ESG frameworks can perform in emerging markets and developing countries. As mentioned by the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), this number is only possible if both developed and emerging market stakeholders can work together for the betterment of ESG ratings, especially in the global south where the lack of financial support is still highly relevant.
Some criticize the European Financial Reporting Advisory Group which works on EU sustainability reporting standards, to have ignored the global needs, as these standards are barely suitable for most of the emerging markets. They argue that the ESG rating system that we have now is rather antiquated with criteria that are not applicable in countries with emerging economies. The ratings have favored bigger companies who already have the funds to maintain the sustainability of their activities while rejecting those who are in terrible need of them. Currently, roughly 60% of developing countries are receiving low sovereign credits rating, simply because the current ESG factors are not aligned with how the financial activities operate in their country. Investors view these emerging markets as high risks investments as it would take longer lead times and costly processes to bring back profits. Francesco Bicciato, the Forum of Sustainable Finance secretary-general, also adds that ‘emerging countries are often seen mainly as investment objects as they have high-risk high return opportunities with high geopolitical risks.’
The current global ESG scoring put emphasis only on the end result performance while often ignoring the efforts taken to reach the goals, giving no positive value to the progress towards betterment. At the same time, countries with emerging economies are more complex and diverse, with huge cultural aspects and varying local laws. They often experience difficulties to develop more advanced and sustainable technologies like those in high-power economies, further disqualifying them from the ESG funds they terribly need. Yet, these markets are often proven to be economically efficient even though they are not able to follow such ESG standards.
Other difficulties are expected to arise due to the fact that these major rating agencies are located in countries with developed markets, blinding them from the varying cultural and geographical aspects that are often highly interrelated with economical conditions in emerging markets. Often, these emerging markets are also the main producer of raw materials needed for production in developed countries, in a way taking responsibility for the outsourced pollution of the supply chain.
It is undeniable that there is a pressing need for inclusivity in regard to the ESG ratings in emerging markets. Experts have mentioned their concern about the importance of ESG in the global south countries and they believe that ESG engagement in Asia can be seen as both a challenge and an opportunity. As these countries are still in need of the institutional framework that could ensure that these companies are operating towards a more sustainable future, it’s good news that investors are now rewarding responsible corporate behavior, especially for countries with limited resources.
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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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