Global perspectives

Esther An

<IR> Business Network participant

Chief Sustainability Officer, City Developments Limited

As the issuer of a dedicated sustainability report in Singapore since 2008, City Developments Limited (CDL) has proactively adapted its reporting strategy to the ever-changing business and sustainability landscape. Over the years, CDL’s sustainability report has evolved from being performance-focused into an environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategic planning and communication tool. Today, CDL has a uniquely blended sustainability reporting framework aligned with relevant global frameworks and guidelines, including the International <IR> Framework, Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Standards, Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) recommendations, UN Sustainable Development Goals and Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) real estate sector standards.

CDL’s adoption of integrated reporting in 2015 enabled it to articulate how its ESG practices connect with its financial and business performance, allowing stakeholders to better understand how its strategic ESG integration aims to create sustained business value. Furthermore, the interconnectivity of CDL’s six capitals makes for a compelling strategy and communication framework to present how CDL generates value through the CDL Value Creation Model and performs towards achieving its 2030 targets, set out in the CDL Future Value 2030 Sustainability Blueprint. In addition to its annual Integrated Sustainability Report, CDL has reported its short-term progress towards achieving its 2030 goals through online quarterly sustainability reports since 2017

As businesses face unprecedented challenges, CDL’s longstanding commitment to strategic ESG integration for over 25 years has placed it in a stronger position to attract investments for better and strong recovery towards sustainable growth. CDL’s integrated ESG reporting approach is aligned with the four key pillars of its ESG strategy – Integration, Innovation, Investment, and Impact.

This strategy has contributed to CDL’s high ranking in 12 leading global sustainability ratings, including the 2020 Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World ranking, which saw CDL ranked top among listed real estate firms globally. CDL was also the only company in Southeast Asia and Hong Kong to score double ‘A’s in the 2019 CDP A-List for corporate climate action and water security, as well as to secure ‘AAA’ rating by MSCI ESG Research since 2010.

Devastating disruptions caused by global climate, health and economic crises are reminders that resilience and strong fundamentals are critical for business survival. Coupled with investors’ growing demand for transparent and quality ESG disclosures, companies that demonstrate strong ESG integration, resilience and long-term strategy through their reporting will see positive returns. The next ten years may see businesses increase their disclosure levels on their impacts, resulting from the increasing expectations of regulators, investors and civil societies.

Furthermore, demands for consistency and comparability of data over the years have driven progress in efforts to align various reporting standards and guidelines. The joint statement of intent issued on 11 September 2020 by the IIRC, GRI, SASB, CDP and the Climate Disclosure Standards Board is a big step towards this goal. The key to success is an effective integrated reporting framework that connects sustainability disclosures to reporting on financial and various capitals.

On 15 September 2020, New Zealand became the first country in the world to mandate climate risk reporting for banks, asset managers and insurers based on the TCFD recommendations. This is a big step in the right direction, and we are hopeful for more countries to follow suit. To ensure data and information credibility, we can expect increased adoption of external assurance for sustainability reporting, allowing investors and analysts to utilise corporate disclosures with confidence and make sound investments in companies that are deemed more sustainable and resilient.

Sustainable development requires a global movement and corporates should strive to be part of the solution. By mobilising and deploying resources and capitals responsibly, companies can create more resilient business models that contribute to the common good for people and the planet.