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Thước đo ESG và các Metric của tài chính doanh nghiệp

ESG, or Environmental, Social, and Governance, describes a set of principles for the development of sustainable businesses, and a new suite of standards by which businesses can be assessed.

Unlike the purely financial metrics that represent our bread and butter, ESG requires finance professionals to adopt a different approach to measurement and benchmarking – partly because the activities in question are more amenable to qualitative assessment, and partly because international standards for measuring ESG simply do not yet exist.

So how do we measure progress on ESG? As finance professionals, how should we approach this burgeoning field? And what role do we have to play in the embedding of ESG principles within our organizations?

Thước đo ESG

Standards are coming

The lack of universally-acknowledged standards for measurement is, without doubt, the most significant hurdle on the path to the mainstreaming of ESG. Standards are important for all parties involved, from the businesses looking to improve their practices to investors making funding decisions, all the way to clients and consumers considering a purchase.

Thankfully, international standards are on their way. There are major efforts to establish a framework for the measurement of some core ESG activities and it is expected that these will be published in the coming months.

We already have a number of ISO standards that are applicable to activities that come within the banner of ESG. For example, ISO/TC 322 provides a framework for the standardization of ‘sustainable finance’, while ISO 26000 defines best practices in ‘social responsibility.

More broadly, however, the rise of ESG and associated developments, such as CSR and impact investing, demand a change in approach amongst stakeholders who have previously been concerned with hard figures – and that includes finance professionals.

Qualitative, not just quantitative

As finance professionals we tend to be concerned almost exclusively with things that we can measure – we are quantitative animals. This mindset is going to have to evolve, as many of the activities and practices with which ESG is concerned are not easy to reduce to lines on an Excel sheet.

Those activities also, by nature, tend to cut across traditional departmental boundaries. ESG is cross-functional, requiring input and participation from every part of the business. To give one simple example: measuring efforts to improve working practices or employee safety will require finance professionals to develop new ways to interface with HR and HSQE (Health Safety, Quality, and Environment) teams, along with other functions such as procurement.

Synthesizing is the key

Primarily, though, ESG is going to force finance professionals to expand their understanding of measurement and impact. It’s difficult to put a dollar value on many of the activities with which ESG is concerned. For example, how could we measure the value associated with weeding out bad working practices throughout our supply chains? Or, to take the principle to its ultimate conclusion, is it really feasible (or even desirable) to measure or meaningfully express the value of habitable earth protected from climate catastrophe? Clearly not.

The most practical approach is one of granularity. Let’s break down these big concepts into their constituent parts, and therefore enable ourselves to hypothesize, test, and measure the impact of specific actions. Those actions will, of course, depend on the nature of our businesses. And, just as importantly, measuring them will require a new mindset in Finance and beyond – one that recognizes the importance of qualitative data and that takes a holistic, ‘zoomed out’ view not only of our organizations but also of the world in which they operate.