The ESG Interview: Asia Plots its Own Path

Mercer’s Alexis Cheang sees parallels and differences in the approaches of the region’s asset owners and policy-makers.

As Head of Responsible Investment for the Pacific region at investment consultants Mercer, Alexis Cheang spends a lot of time working with asset owners, helping to turn their beliefs and priorities around ESG issues into investment processes and practices.

Based in Sydney, many of her clients are Australian superannuation funds, some of which are among the most proactive in demanding rapid action from investee companies, with fossil fuel finance and transgression of indigenous rights in the mining sector being particular flashpoints.

However, taking Asia-Pacific as a whole, Cheang says engagement on climate and other ESG issues is less direct than in Europe or her native United States. This is partly because Asia-Pacific asset owners are typically one or two steps behind western hemisphere peers in fully integrating their ESG beliefs into processes such as manager selection, proxy voting and engagement. But there is also a cultural element.

“In the US, engagement is very public. Asset managers or owners will file a shareholder proposal and tell companies what they want. It’s fairly forthright,” she says. “But that approach is not culturally appropriate in Asia… [continues]

Read the full article on Regulation Asia’s sister publication, ESG Investor.

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