By Dr. Jan-Alexander Posth, Senior Lecturer at the ZHAW School of Management and Law
“Environmental, Social and Governance” (ESG) compliant investment has a long-standing history, dating back to the 1960-ties in the US.
With developments like climate change now being a certainty and global pollution not only endangering health but also negatively affecting productivity, ESG has experienced an even greater renaissance: It is now increasingly recognized that ESG-compliant investing and policy design has the potential to creatively reshape whole industries and to positively influence the development of economies as well as societies.
China, too, has realized this and embarked on an epic undertaking to transform its economy. After rushing through its industrial revolution and now in the final stage of its 12th Five-Year-Plan, China today faces an economic slowdown as well as natural resources scarcity, industrial pollution and corruption, all hampering further economic growth and social development. In order to countermand this trend, the Chinese government has initiated a set of reforms, aiming to, again, rapidly transform its economy – this time along ESG criteria.
ZHAW SML is consistently exploring the opportunities associated with ESG, impact investing, and green finance. With the ongoing shift of focus towards this new research field, it is essential to understand the implications on a broader, international and global scale – climate change and pollution being a global problem. China being a major and still emerging driver, plays an important role in global economic development as well as in green finance and it is thus of immense importance to understand the implications of China’s development and its action taken with regard to ESG policy, green finance, and the overall transformation of its economy.
Therefore, for me it was a great opportunity and an honour to be invited to China by swissnex China and ZHAW Resort Internationales this summer. My ESG investigation round trip to China started in Shanghai with a tight agenda consisting of valuable on-site visits and two talks given, one at the office of swissnex China and one at ShanghaiTech University. I then transferred to Beijing by high-speed train where the program continued with high-ranking visits and highly interesting meetings and discussions, covering a wide variety of ESG related topics. Again, swissnex China did an incredible job at linking me up with important ESG stakeholders and at facilitating meetings. Being able to talk to researchers and practitioners alike, I gained an in-depth insight where China focuses when thinking ESG and how this needs to be integrated in China’s overall objectives.
I am thus positive, that this broader understanding, alongside a wider scope of research and the established contacts during my visit, will help to enable a deeper bilateral understanding of ESG and related matters from a Chinese and Swiss point of view, resulting in long-lasting cooperation, bilateral research activity and new insights on both sides.
Finally, I would like to express my profound thanks to swissnex China, and especially to Ms. Libing Gu, for their excellent coordination of my visit and their continuing help during my stay as well as to ZHAW Resort Internationales for supporting the trip.