The Al-Attiyah Foundation and Qatar Free Zones Authority (QFZ) hosted an educational workshop on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) Tuesday.
The ‘Workshop on Building Capacity for ESG in Qatar Free Zones’ gathered a diverse cohort of delegates to explore the opportunities and challenges associated with integrating effective ESG strategies into businesses operating within the free zones in Qatar.
The ESG criteria, pivotal benchmarks for a company’s behaviour, are employed by socially conscious investors to scrutinise potential investments. Environmental criteria consider how a company safeguards the environment, including corporate policies addressing climate change.
Social criteria examine how a company manages relationships with employees, suppliers, customers, and the communities where it operates. Governance delves into a company’s leadership, executive compensation, audits, internal controls, and shareholder rights.
During the workshop, Naif al-Suwaidi, chief of Regulatory Affairs at QFZ, gave a welcome opening speech. Markus Reichardt, vice president of Next-Source Materials Inc; Ted Paulus, senior director of Position Green; and Ahmed Elidrisy, Environment and ESG adviser at QFZ, shared insights on topics, such as best reporting practices for ESG, developing ESG strategies, and ESG initiatives within the QFZ.
HE Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah, Qatar’s former minister of Energy and Industry and chairman of the Al-Attiyah Foundation, stated: “Many investors and financial institutions consider it essential to align their portfolios with ESG performance. Not only can implementing effective ESG strategies improve a business’ impact on the environment, society, and governance bodies, but companies that perform well on ESG are better positioned for the long term and better prepared for risk and uncertainty.
“However, adopting ESG principles brings numerous challenges, such as identifying the best reporting framework to implement and the lack of standards to measure results or impact.”
HE the Minister of State and Chairman of Qatar Free Zones Authority Ahmad al-Sayed stated: “We are honoured to co-host the Workshop of Building Capacity for ESG in Qatar Free Zones with the Al-Attiyah Foundation. ESG investing, in alignment with Qatar’s Climate Change Strategy, represents a shared commitment to responsible business practices.
“Thanks to the steadfast coordination with the Al-Attiyah Foundation, we embark on a journey towards a future where responsible business conduct is ingrained in our operations. This workshop serves as a catalyst for enduring positive change in environmental, social, and governance principles, inspiring a strengthened commitment to sustainable practices beyond these discussions.”
QFZ is at the forefront of sustainability. By implementing minimum ESG standards, offering cutting-edge technologies, and enforcing reporting requirements for businesses within the zones, QFZ is driving sustainability at its core. Simultaneously, it prioritises its own infrastructure's environmental and social sustainability, creating a green, dynamic work environment. Aligned with Qatar’s ambitious environmental goals, QFZ collaborates with industry leaders.
ESG was coined in 2004 when a report commissioned by the UN, ‘Who Cares Wins - Connecting Financial Markets to a Changing World’, called for “better inclusion of environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) factors in investment decisions.”
Although ESG struggled to gain traction with investors and institutions in the years immediately following the UN report, the term is now ubiquitous in the corporate landscape. By May 2021, it was referenced in almost a fifth of earnings calls, driven by the imperative to address climate change, along with recent events such as widespread demonstrations against racial discrimination and the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Investing within an ESG framework currently represents the fastest-growing segment of the asset management industry. Assets in ESG funds grew by 53% year-on-year to $2.7tn in 2021, according to data provided by Morningstar.
The panel of experts sharing insights during the event.