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EY seminar defines pathway to sustainable corporate environment

BY: Justice Agbenorsi

Accounting and advisory firm, EY Ghana, has organised an Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) seminar to foster deeper understanding of the rapid changes in ESG regulation.

It was also to showcase the ability of the advisory firm’s Climate Change and Sustainability Services (CCaSS) unit to support businesses with ESG services and define a path to a more sustainable future for the country’s corporate environment.

The company was named a leader for ESG and sustainability consulting services by independent research firm, Verdantix, in its 2022 report.

Building upon decades of sustainability leadership at the global, regional and local level, EY's CCaSS unit in Ghana had the resources, skills, experience, and influence to help build a stronger and more sustainable business for the benefit of all.

Speaking at the event, EY Ghana Country Leader, Ferdinand Gunn, said taking steps to understand and appropriately respond to global ESG issues was imperative.

He, therefore, underscored the importance of the seminar considering the scale of the unfolding climate change challenges - the increasing severity in weather patterns, inequality within and between nations, human rights issues, or bribery and corruption.

Mr Gunn stressed the need to ensure a sustainable and inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and protect the environment as the climate crisis deepened.

“I am certain that the outcome of this event would foster the need for businesses to adopt ESG best practices and enhance reporting on ESG metrics. This serves as a timely opportunity for sharing critical knowledge and information with a view to enhancing environmental, social and governance principles,” the Country Leader of EY Ghana stated.

Context

According to forecasts collated by Environmental Finance, green bond issuance is expected to reach $790 billion in 2022, jumping about 50 per cent from $534 billion last year.

Also, COP26 published Climate Finance Delivery Plan provides a clear roadmap for developed countries to deliver on the $100 billion per year goal to support developing economies to meet their climate action commitments.

The picture presents huge opportunities for banks and businesses in the country and other developing economies for which the Ghanaian corporate environment can leverage the opportunities to enhance the country’s resilience and support her development trajectory.

Financing

The Deputy Director, Banking Supervision Department, Bank of Ghana, Ismail Adam, who delivered the keynote address, stated that incorporating ESG into an institution’s business made it possible to attract more capital, green finance and investments.

“Better ESG risk management can help companies to lower costs and attract more investments. Incorporating ESG into a business, therefore, helps to maintain and heighten the reputation of the business to its stakeholders, employees and potential investors,” Mr Adam said.

He added that stakeholders often used ESG engagement information to form their opinions of a company, which had positive impact on the company’s outlook.

Objectives

The seminar highlighted the increase in global ESG regulations as well as funding opportunities that are available for businesses in developing countries.

A Partner of EY and CCaSS West Africa Leader, Samuel Agbevem, indicated that there was rising pressure on corporate boards and government leaders to demonstrate that they were adequately equipped to understand and oversee ESG issues — from climate change to equal opportunities to human rights to social unrest.

“Although many businesses set sustainability goals and publish ESG or sustainability-related data, these efforts have not translated to big wins neither have most companies been able to access the large available pool of ESG funds or formed new partnerships based on their ESG efforts,” he pointed out.

Mr Agbevem explained that was because investors, regulators and the broader public were beginning to exercise greater scrutiny of corporate sustainability efforts.

A panel made up of a Deputy Director-General (Finance) of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Paul Ababio, the Director Local Content, Petroleum Commission, Kwaku Boateng, and the Chief Sales and Distribution Officer of MTN, Shaibu Haruna, shared various perspectives on how companies in the country could adopt ESG, create awareness and build capacity.

The participants called for increased collaboration and value-focused partnerships to drive ESG integration and regulatory compliance.