Sustainability pioneer’s advice on meaningful reporting

A report is the means to share data and support decision-making. Reporting influences stakeholders, and increasingly shareholders’ perceptions. Hence, transparency in reporting is crucial for a company to earn stakeholders’ trust and reputation. To prepare ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance), sustainability, as well as CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) reports, companies recognise the central role materiality plays. The definitions of materiality are evolving. Significant resources deliver to use; large chunks of data to adapt the context to the definitions set by the reporting authorities, to channel the corporate message. The CEO and top leadership allocate resources to the reporting tasks and, by approving the final document before publication. The top management teams held both publicly and internally accountable for the content. The report identifies the unique story of the company.  The report content is the foundation from which the core message arises and for which the reporting team is responsible for delivering.

The founder of ESG Matters, Dr. Glenn Frommer, is our bearded grandpa of sustainability. His life experience and caring character have earned him this familial title. As the sustainability pioneer, he had partaken in setting up standards such as GRI G4 Reporting Guideline, the AccountAbility 1000AP Standard, and Reporting 3.0. How did he go from being an aerospace student to a sustainability pioneer? What does he think about the difficult part of setting up standards for reporting? Let’s find out more about his journey!

Photo above: Dr. Frommer from ESG Matters

Q1: Hello! Dr. Frommer, I have heard your team call you grandpa. How did you get this title?

A: My sustainability history with my long flurry beard earns me the grandpa’s name of sustainability. I was working on the noise propagation study in the before-computer era in the 70s. It is hard for my young team to imagine all data reduction, slopes, and plotting done by hand calculation. At that time, It took me one year to map one million points on graph paper.

Since then, I have put my effort into NASA’s Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicles (MIRV) program and NYU medical school pulmonary testing, applying fluid mechanics to breathing. I began my Ph.D. at Stanford University in California in 1973, looking at how the cochlear transformed acoustical signals into electrical ones and how the brain uses the information. Complexity and cutting-edge stuff put me onto the idea of working in a societal area.

My working profile of over twenty-two years in Mass Transit Railway (MTR) consolidated my academic knowledge and my work experiences into sustainability. That is why I got the title of the grandpa of sustainability.

Q2: How had you moved from your aerospace academic background to the sustainability field? Do you see your staying in Hong Kong as one of the turning points?

A: Since my move to Hong Kong in August 1992, I have rooted my ESG matters in this place with no question.

Independence at my young age did an excellent job for me, especially when I started to work on my own as an Environmental Manager in the Projects Division in MTR. Engaging in the project of the longest road in the world and rail suspension bridge and associated rolling stock, I was there to ensure the success of the Lantau and Airport Railway (LAR). The success in terms of my then-position meant zero environmental impacts raised from the LAR projects, having no harm to human lives and biodiversity around the site.

The year 2013 was the turning point of my life – retiring from the position as Head of Sustainability from MTR. I have been talking about sustainability for over twenty-two years. After my retirement, how could I sustain my advisory work and further develop from my experience to my goal of working in a societal area?

In 2014, I founded ESG Matters Limited.

I have never stopped learning, from my academics, from my career, from my life. I have comprehended well about learning during my time in Hong Kong. Hong Kong has an exceptional culture of learning, and we can build on that for sustainable development. We are all far behind what we need to achieve. There are almost no countries capable of providing a sustainable lifestyle with regenerating natural resources for our future generations. The current Covid-19 event is just the first test. Climate change is not far behind; after that, the biodiversity will collapse. There is so much to do and not much time to do it in.

Q3: What is ESG Matters? More than a company name, what do ESG Matters mean to you?

A: Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) matters to our society, our employees, our government, and our investors. ESG is the entire spectrum of environmental and social issues that make our organizations accountable while seeking continual improvement. The establishment of ESG Matters Limited hits right on the rising need for ESG. More than advisories, our team shapes ESG Matters with a commitment to accelerate the pace of ESG through technology. That is our flagship ESG Dashboard.

I am very fortunate to be associated with a young, intelligent, and dedicated team at ESG Matters. Our team has so much to encounter. I am confident that our team will commit to technological progress in the ESG sector.

Q4: As our grandpa, what advice would you like to give to the rising leaders who engage themselves in the sustainability field, in an attempt to develop the practices for their corporation?

A: I am pleased that I have got a chance to set up standards such as GRI G4 Reporting Guideline, the AccountAbility 1000AP Standard, and Reporting 3.0. Setting standards is not difficult. The most challenging part is how to apply these standards to real cases. Questions that we will need to ask are: how and what you would measure, how to compute the numbers, how you record, what you would use to compare the result, how you would use the numbers to reduce the impacts to the acceptable level. These are not easy tasks. The key is to develop the process, implement the systems, and get others to recognize the benefits of doing so.

The development is ever-changing, and big corporations are starting to pay more attention to ESG topics, whether for reputation, ESG reporting, commercial purposes. Leaders will need to focus on the areas which are beneficial to employees and organizations concurrently. When CSR is the initiative, ESG factors revealing the performance in the report. It is necessary to develop productive skills, competencies, and habits through continual learning to the ESG factors to confront the evolving world.

By: ANewR Consulting Limited, a digital environmental consultant headquartered in Hong Kong since 2008. Our expertise has grown into the context of air and water qualities, noise, green building, waste management, and remediation. With extensive know-how in environmental planning and assessment, feasibility study and policy review, ecological design, monitoring, and audit (EM&A), ANewR has matured to be a leading management consultancy. Standing in the digital transformation reign, ANewR has participated in various environmental digital projects – interactive 3D visualisation, immersive automation virtual environment, Virtual reality, automation system, and monitoring platforms.
(Website: https://anewr.com, LinkedIn: ANewR Consulting Group, YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnpvmxnR9hbNxytSfBdfV8Q/videos)

Technology inspired by ESG

It is not hard to see organizations taking International days as one of the topics for communications on social media with their audience. International Women’s Day, World Environmental Day, World Oceans Day are just a few of the examples. When we are looking into the meaning of these International days, they are addressing the area of ESG – Environmental, Social, and Governance.

Photo above: International day promotion (https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6765090475234996224)

ESG is said to be an issue that countries must concern about. United Nations’ Paris Agreement, Sustainable Development Goals set out to urge countries to action and to put effort into raising awareness. For traditional businesses, it is time to rethink their business and management approach; for listed companies, green financing and listing rules would be the points for them to repurpose their strategies. For Start-ups, ESG is a business opportunity.

Photo above: ESG development in the city 

The year 2021 has arrived. Reviewing the past, the year 2020 in Hong Kong is challenging, politically, socially, and economically. Still, the Year 2020 is the Hong Kong Exchange’s 20th Anniversary—Hong Kong’s ESG reporting reaches another milestone this year. After July 1st, 2020, the ESG Guide and related Listing Rules will be enhanced, with some changes being introduced. Two key differences are the amendment of the “Environmental” key performance indicators (KPIs) to require disclosure of relevant targets and the disclosure obligation of all “Social” KPIs to “comply or explain”.

What does it mean? Companies are now required to set the aims of their actions relating to the environmental aspect. “Comply or explain” rules the governance of the companies to address the social issues. Such rules upgrade directs the companies to necessarily care about ESG matter. At operation level, ESG data has to be authentically and recorded and provided for reporting, to communicate with the Investors about how the companies are doing.  

This underlies a business opportunity – ESG data will be stored and reported in a digital format, available for upload and download. This gives rise to an ESG Dashboard – to incorporate the ESG integration and help the listed companies to identify potential process across all ESG activities that can result in long-term value creation. Start-ups become part of the ESG development in igniting the technological change of organizations and societies to empower businesses and individuals to create sustainable positive change. ESG Dashboard is developed to assist listed companies with ESG reporting and risk management.

Photo above: ESG Dashboard

ESG Dashboard streamlines the collection of relevant data and information from the issuer’s business operations, enabling listed companies to monitor their ESG reporting progress. ESG Dashboard converts mass data into presentable environmental and social data which helps with the fulfillment of the requirements. All of these features make ESG Dashboard the indispensable ESG reporting tool.

What do we see for the future after all? Technology improves communication, accelerates the pace of green finance and ESG development, to boost sustainability for business and society as a whole.

By: ANewR Consulting Limited, a digital environmental consultant headquartered in Hong Kong since 2008. Our expertise has grown into the context of air and water qualities, noise, green building, waste management, and remediation. With extensive know-how in environmental planning and assessment, feasibility study and policy review, ecological design, monitoring, and audit (EM&A), ANewR has matured to be a leading management consultancy. Standing in the digital transformation reign, ANewR has participated in various environmental digital projects – interactive 3D visualisation, immersive automation virtual environment, Virtual reality, automation system, and monitoring platforms.
(Website: https://anewr.com, LinkedIn: ANewR Consulting Group, YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnpvmxnR9hbNxytSfBdfV8Q/videos)