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From ESG to Impact: Redefining Sustainable Finance

2 July, 2024
From ESG to Impact: Redefining Sustainable Finance

The financial world is undergoing a transformation. Investors are increasingly looking beyond just returns, focusing on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors to make a positive impact. This shift was the heart of the "From ESG and Sustainability to Impact: The Future of Finance" panel discussion at Reset Connect 2024. Let's dive into the key takeaways!

Beyond the Buzzwords: The Rise of Impact Investing

While ESG integration is important, the panel highlighted its limitations. Inconsistent frameworks and companies cherry-picking metrics create confusion and hinder progress. The answer? Impact investing. It goes beyond simply measuring ESG factors; it actively seeks measurable positive social and environmental outcomes alongside financial returns. Think renewable energy companies or initiatives promoting social justice. Frameworks such as the EU's SFDR with its Article 9 classification are helping to make impact investing more quantifiable.

ESG vs. Impact Investing: What's the Difference?

•    ESG Investing: Focuses on managing risk and achieving competitive financial returns while considering ESG factors.
•    Impact Investing: Aims to generate measurable social and environmental benefits alongside financial returns. It's a more targeted approach for investors who prioritise positive impact.

Challenges and the Road Ahead

Standardising data and measurement methodologies is crucial for reliable impact assessment. Organisations such as the ISSB are working on harmonising global standards, but data quality remains a challenge. The panel also stressed the need to move beyond a carbon-centric view. Issues surrounding biodiversity loss require a more holistic approach. Frameworks such as the emerging TNFD and the Kunming-Montreal Biodiversity Framework aim to raise awareness and encourage businesses to consider their impact on nature.

Collaboration is Key

Regulation is playing an increasingly important role in pushing sustainable finance forward, as evidenced by China's new regulations (see Guidelines on Self-Regulation of Listed Companies – Sustainability Report (Trial)) and the growing importance of ESG in the Asian market. However, collaboration is essential. Investors, businesses, policymakers, and the public all need to work together.

Looking Ahead: A Sustainable Future

The Reset Connect discussion offered valuable insights. The transition from ESG to impact investing reflects a growing focus on driving positive change. By ensuring data quality, adopting a broader view of sustainability, and fostering collaboration, we can unlock the full potential of impact investing and create a truly sustainable financial future.