Daily ESG Briefing: Ping An begins developing ESG data tools and platforms for China

The latest developments in sustainable finance

China’s Ping An Insurance has launched an ESG evaluation system in partnership with Xinhua News Agency's China Economic Information Service, to provide companies and investors with solutions to promote sustainable investment in the country. The tool uses 350 data points across more than 10 ESG themes in a bid to help organisations meeting both Chinese and international standards, according to a statement. It uses artificial intelligence techniques including natural language processing and remote sensing satellites for data collection. The pair also plan to develop an ESG data platform, enterprise evaluation reports and consulting, financial indexes and product development to contribute to the sustainable development of China's economy.

The Investment Company Institute’s board of governors has approved a statement promoting better ESG disclosures by US listed firms. The fund association specified that reporting should be aligned with the TCFD and SASB standards. “Fund managers require access to financially material ESG-related information from corporate issuers that is accurate, comparable, and timely,” said Chairman George Gatch, who is also the CEO of JP Morgan Asset Management. “There is an emerging global consensus that companies should follow TCFD recommendations and SASB standards, and ICI members support this approach to help ensure fund managers can get useful information to make important decisions consistent with the investment objectives of funds and the needs of their shareholders.”

There are more CEOs called James and Michael in the S&P 500 than there are female CEOs, according to new research from Equileap. The firms were assessed on 21 gender-related factors including parental leave, pay gap disclosures and healthcare benefits. 91% do not publish details of the gender pay gap, although 99% have policies in place on gender non-discrimination in recruitment. Just 8% of all Chairs, CEO and CFOs are female, and more than half offer less than two weeks of paid maternity leave. Meanwhile Moody’s has said that recent moves by Nasdaq to introduce stronger rules on gender diversity at the boards of listed companies “could have positive credit implications”. Brendan Sheehan, VP-Senior Credit Officer in Moody's Investors Service's ESG group, said: "Our analysis of nearly 1700 hundred North American and European companies found a positive relationship between board gender diversity and credit quality.”

FTSE Russell will axe eight Chinese companies, including controversial surveillance firm Hikvision, from its indices, following a US order to restrict investors from buying their shares. The index provider said it would remove the firms from its FTSE Global Equity Index Series and a number of other benchmarks later this month. 

UK regulator the Financial Reporting Council has found that auditors “did not challenge the management of audited entities effectively on the significant judgements they had made”, in a study on the topic. It said that the findings have prompted it to undertake new analysis of its inspection results “to identify recurring themes requiring audit firms’ attention, examples of good practice and to correlate these results with root cause analysis undertaken by the largest UK audit firms”. 

The International Council on Mining and Metals has published a series of equivalency benchmarks comparing the requirements of its Mining Principles with similar rules. The project covers the World Gold Council’s Responsible Gold Mining Principles, the Mining Association of Canada’s Towards Sustainable Mining programme, the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative, the Responsible Mineral Initiative’s Risk Readiness Assessment and the Copper Mark. 

FCLTGlobal, an initiative to promote long-term business and investment, has launched a tool to assess the timeframe of savings, investments and corporate spending. “The project’s main conclusion is that a significant gap exists between the amount of time savers intend to hold an investment and the actual duration of the investments themselves,” the group said in a statement. “The data shows a difference of more than eight years between the expected investment horizon of the everyday saver and the true time frame that their capital remains committed to a particular investment. Likewise, corporations have access to capital with short-term time horizons that are misaligned with their own longer-term objectives.”