By Ira Srivastava

1. Deloitte publishes India ESG Preparedness Report. A recent report from Deloitte surveyed 150 Indian businesses to determine their sustainability readiness. Here are some key takeaways:

  • 88% of respondents shared that ESG and sustainability regulations will have immediate effects on their operations
  • 75% believe that sustainability and ESG are crucial for boards to discuss
  • Just under 60% of respondents are prioritizing setting progressive ESG targets
  • 71% of the surveyed businesses already share information with ESG ratings organizations voluntarily
  • Despite the high importance placed on ESG strategy, just 27% of respondents “are well prepared to meet ESG requirements”, and 15% of suppliers were “ESG ready

While it is heartening to hear that Indian businesses are increasingly accepting ESG and sustainability, more work needs to be done to ensure they are prepared to act. 

2. Standard Chartered funds a historic coal plant phase-out project. Standard Chartered has announced it will provide funding to shut down an Indonesian coal plant ahead of scheduled retirement. Chief sustainability officer Marisa Drew shared that this is “the first public-private blended finance facility that will be raised to shut down a coal plant early”. Coal plants in developing countries are much earlier in their lifespan than western coal plants, and “the only way to get them shut down earlier is to pay someone off”. Drew expects to receive US$30 billion in funding from development and private banks that will be directed to a number of projects around Indonesia. While Singaporean banks have participated in coal phase-out projects, Standard Chartered would be the first global bank to do so. 

3. Vanguard weighs in on Exxon’s shareholder lawsuits. Earlier this year, ExxonMobil pursued legal action against Arjuna Capital and Follow This, two investors that submitted proposals pushing Exxon to step up Scope 1, 2, and 3 emission targets. The two organizations withdrew their proposals, but Exxon did not drop their lawsuit. Asset management firm Vanguard raised concerns with Exxon regarding the “potential chilling effect on future shareholder proposals”, but after more consideration it concluded that Exxon was using appropriate oversight. This comes at a time when climate-related shareholder proposals are growing in number. The US Securities and Exchange Commission is also increasingly dismissing environmental shareholder proposals as attempts to micromanage a company, as nearly 69% of such proposals in 2024 were excluded. 

4. KMPG releases 2024 ESG Assurance Maturity Index. This survey of 1,000 global companies across different industries analyzes the preparedness of these organizations for ESG assurances in the future. The first round of data was collected in October 2023, with another round of interviews being conducted in Q2 of 2024. 

  • All 1,000 respondents “anticipate being required to provide ESG disclosures” under one of several frameworks such as the ISSB, CSRD, or SEC disclosure rules
  • Stakeholders, financial markets, and investors are all increasing pressure on companies to disclose on ESG matters 
  • In October 2023, 56% of companies were publishing ESG disclosures, but just a few months later that percentage has jumped to 77%
  • Assurance preparedness is growing but slowly, as the average ESG maturity grew very slightly from 46.5 to 47.6 
  • The survey found that larger companies are better prepared than SMEs. The financial services sector scored the highest while science/healthcare and infrastructure were the two lowest scoring industries

5. Despite the backlash, ESG investing is steadily growing. According to a report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, ESG investing is still gaining popularity. Last year, the median return for sustainable funds was 12.6% compared to the market average of 8.6%. This outperformance trend has been consistent since 2019, showing that ESG investing is not a passing fad. Despite outflows in investment in the United States due to political backlash, European funds saw inflows of over US$10 billion. The report also points out that poor performance in sustainable industries such as clean energy generation were largely due to interest rate hikes, while Russia’s invasion of Ukraine caused fossil fuel prices to soar. Read the full report here.

Ira Srivastava is Competent Boards’ Program Coordinator. Follow Competent Boards on LinkedIn.

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