Korea Times forum proposes global investors' ESG principles
By Baek Byung-yeul, The Korea Times - The importance of environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) has greatly expanded as a key facilitator to promote the transformation toward sustainable growth in the post-COVID-19 time.
For the sake of sustainable growth, it has become essential to understand global investors' investment principles. From this standpoint, The Korea Times hosted the Global ESG Forum at the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) building in central Seoul, Oct. 29, providing an opportunity to discuss key ESG issues and trends among global investors and help them strategize effective ESG tactics. The event was held in cooperation with the KCCI. In accordance with the health authority's quarantines guidelines, only 49 officials working at local companies and global investment institutions attended the event.
Korea Times Chairman Seung Myung-ho gave a welcome speech to announce the start of the forum. Financial Supervisory Service (FSS) Governor Jeong Eun-bo delivered an opening speech and Korea Investment Corp. (KIC) CEO Jin Seung-ho gave a keynote speech.
"Now is the time to solve social problems through responsible management and more actively implement management that has a positive impact on the environment. ESG, which demands environmental and social responsibility, and sound and transparent management, has become the most important factor in sustainable development beyond the problem of corporate survival," Chairman Seung said.
"We've seen that the more environmental and social responsibilities are fulfilled through ESG management, the more positive an effect they can have on corporate performance. To secure sustainable growth engines, companies should make ESG management a more active corporate strategy. I hope today's forum hosted by The Korea Times will serve as an opportunity for domestic companies to come up with more realistic and effective strategies for ESG management."
In his opening speech, FSS Governor Jeong stressed that companies should further strengthen their ESG responses, before it is too late to catch up with changing trends, even while the global economy is struggling with uncertainties caused by the prolonged virus pandemic and global supply shortage issues. "Under severe internal and external economic conditions, I think ESG management practices can be a big burden on companies. Nevertheless, the emphasis on ESG at today's forum is due to the justification that it is difficult but is the way we should go and the urgency that it will be late if not now," he said.
The FSS governor further mentioned that pursing ESG can threaten corporate management practices, but it also presents opportunities to meet more investors.
"As an example to that is that the ESG level of companies has a positive effect in attracting foreign investors. Also, the so-called value consumer, led by the MZ generation, is showing purchasing behavior in consideration of the ESG activities of companies, so ESG has become an important factor in securing future consumers," he said. The MZ generation is a Korean term referring to people born between 1981 and the early 2010s.
In his keynote speech, KIC CEO Jin urged institutional investors to join hands together to pursue ESG strategies based on social responsibility.
"The KIC took an initiating role in establishing global stewardship principles among domestic institutional investors, and has made great efforts to improve profitability and sustainability through ESG investment," the CEO said. "The introduction of an ESG integration system that applies ESG values to the entire asset group and working processes can be a representative example of our efforts."
For ESG value to contribute to improving environmental problems and solving corporate and social issues, Jin vowed that the KIC "plans to continue developing ESG investment and invest in ESG strategy funds and green projects."
After the speeches, two panel discussions followed. Moderated by Richard Lee, senior partner of McKinsey Korea, the first panel discussed global investors' ESG investment principles, with panelists including National Pension Service (NPS) Global Responsible Investment & Governance Division Head Yi Dong-sub, BNL Paribas Asset Management's Global Client Group Head Steven Billiet, BlackRock Korea Country Head Choi Man-yeon and Swiss Re Korea Branch Head Jonas von Oldenskiold.
The Korea Times President-Publisher Oh Young-jin moderated the second session, discussing how to bring ESG value to society, with SK SUPEX Vice President Kwon Key-joon and Shinhan Financial Group Deputy President Park Sung-hyun.