ESG Need Economic Growth for Emerging Markets
The Emerging Markets Institute (EMI) at the S.C. Johnson College of Business at Cornell University believes that for emerging markets, ESG (‘Environmental, Social, and Governance’, a set of standards that refers to the three main criteria in measuring sustainability) will not succeed without economic growth.
This opinion was stated by Gail & Rob Canizares Director of the EMI – Lourdes Casanova, a Faculty Fellow at the Institute – Anne Miroux, Research Fellow at the Institute – Shailja Bang Shah.
They recognize there are alternative metrics that could help in the measuring progress of emerging markets.
At Cornell University’s EMI, they have added a “D” to the usual ESG acronym. The EMI D-ESG Framework provides a way to measure sustainable growth that is inclusive, environmentally friendly and also focuses on governance. (The choice of “D” is a reference to development.)
“We believe that economic growth is an imperative for emerging markets, not only to achieve poverty reduction but also to support E, S and G targets. At the same time, countries have to avoid pitfalls around growth such as pollution, exclusion and inadequate checks and balances, which is also where E, S and G come into play.”
About The EMI D-ESG Framework
The EMI D-ESG Framework rewards progress and aims to motivate countries to grow sustainably. It compares 21 emerging market countries within their own peer group.
The framework does not burden emerging countries with unrealistic targets better suited for developed nations. Further, it measures progress and considers today’s realities when making comparisons by factoring in a decade’s worth of readings.
Performance of Countries in the EMI D-ESG Framework
China comes out on top due to the resilience of its economic growth over the past decade. This position is supported by a shift toward “quality growth” that has been marked by rising interest in ESG issues.
Vietnam‘s economy has been rapidly growing too, giving it a D-ESG score just below that of China, with help from good environmental and social scores.
Malaysia and Indonesia are doing well on economic growth and social and governance, but lagging on the environment.
In the case of the Philippines, lagging ESG ratings offset fast economic growth. India, too, lags on environmental and social concerns.
About ESG Implementation in Emerging Markets
According to Cornell University’s EMI opinion, many observers see a need to focus more on environmental and social concerns rather than preserve a single-minded obsession with growth, given the seriousness of the climate crisis and societal problems. This is particularly true in rich nations, where large portions of society have achieved levels of relative wealth.
However, this change in perspective can be hard to accept in many emerging markets, where even now a large part of the population lives below the poverty line. While we worry about rising temperatures, people in emerging economies are more concerned about basic needs for food, water, clothing and shelter.
“For them (emerging markets) and for their nations, growth still matters more. But neglecting environmental and societal concerns is not an option, either.”
Rising pollution and heat wave concerns in New Delhi and clean water crises in Jakarta are just early signs of a bleak future that will bring more inhumane conditions to emerging nations. This highlights the dilemma on whether to prioritize economic growth or ESG goals.
Future Steps to Take (for Emerging Market’s ESG)
The term ESG was first coined by the International Finance Corp., part of the World Bank Group, in a 2005 study.
“It is now time for the World Bank and other global multilateral organizations to attach development to their ESG measurement toolkit, especially when it is applied to emerging economies.”
Growth will continue to be a priority for emerging markets, but it needs to be combined with ESG to ensure sustainable and inclusive long-term development. Success will not be easy and will require more help from rich nations for the fight against climate change.
Both financial assistance and the affordable transfer of green technologies will be needed. Support from developed nations disappointed during the pandemic, and this approach will not work for the climate crisis.
The $100 billion commitment of aid made so far by developed nations is woefully short of what will be needed by developing countries; the shortfall has been estimated at more than $900 billion.
“Principles and structures of global collaboration must be rethought. A holistic and collaborative approach is necessary to support emerging economies to tackle the dilemma of growth versus climate change.”
Organizations such as the World Bank can play a key role in this reconfiguration. Societies in the Global North must realize that there is only one planet that is shared by all. We must protect our shared environment while raising everyone’s living standards, especially those of our fellow world citizens living in emerging and developing nations.
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About The Emerging Markets Institute (EMI) at the S.C. Johnson College of Business at Cornell University: