Pandemic triggers ‘coming of age’ for ESG

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A panellist at the iGaming NEXT Online: Bright Future conference this week has highlighted the business-critical nature of environmental, social and governance (ESG) polices in the wake of the pandemic.

Edison Group director of ESG Kelly Perry was speaking alongside Aspire Global sustainability manager Liesbeth Oost on the Eliminating the Gambling Stigma panel this week.

“Investors have been voicing their concerns about sustainability for several decades but actually, you might look at 2020 and 2021 as the coming of age for ESG”, she said.

She attributed the enhanced focus on ESG to several drivers, including the introduction of new mandatory regulations, government policies and ‘build back’ initiatives across the globe, aimed at post-pandemic recovery.

However, she said there had also been major developments among institutional investors. Perry said 80% of investors are now including ESG considerations in their investment decisions.

Moreover, she added: “We are seeing a shift in fund allocation globally. So around 40 trillion assets under management are now falling into ESG portfolios, and that’s a third of the global assists under management”.

She urged operators and suppliers, and other parts of the industry, to ensure “ESG is driven throughout the whole business”, adding: “You need to walk the talk”.

Describing the ways in which businesses can build ESG into the fabric of what they do, Oost asked: “Do you have a sustainability committee and who sits on there, do you have a board member on it, are there executive management people on it? Sustainability culture, but also the commitment, needs to be carried from the top. Otherwise your job, or my job, isn’t working”, she explained.

“I report at least quarterly to the sustainability committee which has two board members and two execs, and this really gives them the push, but also [highlights]the importance of the goals and the planning we are setting out together”.

The panel agreed that the absence of any unified metrics on ESG, in any sector but specifically for gambling, does make compliance and best practice a difficult target to hit.

However, Perry urged businesses to identify ESG frameworks that work for them. “If I’m looking at it from an investor’s perspective, the importance right now is to show that you are identifying frameworks, you are adhering to the new policies and regulations that are coming in”, she said.

Oost agreed, pointing out that sustainability can mean something different to different parts of the industry. “It’s so important to pinpoint at the right topics and the right priority areas”, she said.

“We are making our metrics, and this is where we can measure the impact on the different stakeholders and pinpoint at the right topics. But it’s also very good to work with external agencies who can have a different look at your business to rate what your sustainability strategy looks like – if it’s effective, if it corresponds with what investors are actually asking for in meetings – that kind of knowledge and intelligence is very important to incorporate”.

You can watch the session with Liesbeth Oost (Sustainability Manager, Aspire Global), Kelly Perry (Director of ESG, Edison Group) and Scott Longley (Director, Clear Concise Media) on igamingnext.tv.

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