An educational workshop on Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG), jointly hosted by the Al-Attiyah Foundation and Qatar Free Zones Authority (QFZ), successfully concluded yesterday.
The one-day event, titled 'Workshop on Building Capacity for ESG in Qatar Free Zones,' assembled a diverse cohort of delegates to meticulously explore the opportunities and challenges associated with integrating effective ESG strategies into businesses operating within the free zones in Qatar.
ESG criteria, pivotal benchmarks for a company's behavior, are employed by socially conscious investors to scrutinize 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.
The term 'ESG' was coined in 2004 when a report commissioned by the United Nations, titled '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 percent year-on-year to $2.7 trillion in 2021, according to data provided by Morningstar.
Throughout the workshop, attendees heard from an array of experts, including Naif Al Suwaidi, Chief of Regulatory Affairs at QFZ who 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. They shared their insights on topics such as best reporting practices for ESG, developing ESG strategies, and ESG initiatives within the QFZ.
His Excellency Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, the former Minister of Energy and Industry for the State of Qatar 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."
His Excellency Mr. Ahmad Al-Sayed, Minister of State and Chairman of Qatar Free Zones Authority stated “We are honored 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.” He added: “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.” Al-Sayed concluded.