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Jun 02, 2020

Covid-19 shines spotlight on the ‘S’ in ESG

As Covid-19 continues to wreak havoc around the world, impacting people and businesses everywhere, the value of ESG practices to companies has never been greater

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As Covid-19 continues to wreak havoc around the world, impacting people and businesses everywhere, the value of ESG practices to companies has never been greater. And while the social factor was often neglected in the past, the pandemic has underscored its importance as one of the three pillars of ESG and the vital role it plays for companies, especially during these extraordinarily difficult times. What’s more, with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEX) making disclosures on climate change and social issues mandatory from 2021 by imposing the new requirements on companies whose financial years begin on or after July 1, 2020, the spotlight is now firmly on the social actions of Hong Kong-listed companies. 

These new factors have rapidly pushed investors to look further into how companies manage relationships with their workforce as well as the wider societies in which they operate. In today’s world, social metrics now have an increasingly measurable financial impact on investments. And companies understand that making rash decisions that negatively affect employees or communities will result in long-term damage to their reputations, particularly in the current climate.

So employee care and the actions of a company in the society where it operates are moving front and centre amid the pandemic. Take Airbnb as an example of how businesses are ramping up their efforts to be socially responsible: the company is helping departing employees find new jobs by launching an “alumni talent directory”. Airbnb has also promised to redeploy its recruiters to spend the rest of the year helping 1,900 laid-off employees find new jobs. 

Socially-responsible companies are also extending their efforts far beyond simply helping their individual workforces. Ford, General Electric, and 3M are partnering to convert their manufacturing facilities and produce protective medical equipment, face masks, and ventilators. Top fashion conglomerates such as LVMH, along with major clothing manufacturers like Gap, ZARA, and Hanes, are converting their factories from producing clothes to making face masks for doctors and nurses and hand sanitizer for the public. 
At the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Annual Meeting in Davos, the yearly gathering of the world’s top leaders in Switzerland, Ping An, a Chinese financial conglomerate listed in Hong Kong, presented its ESG investment strategy focused on smart poverty alleviation. Ping An has developed various poverty alleviation models for specific industries, such as the Ping An “Poverty Alleviation Insurance Scheme”. To date, this unique model has already supported 70 projects in 13 provinces across China and provided a poverty alleviation fund worth RMB 490 million in total, raising the annual per capita income of 46,000 low-income people by more than RMB 2,000.

At Hill+Knowlton Strategies, in light of companies placing more emphasis on ESG metrics, we have created H+K Better Impact™, which is a tailored performance strategy to empower businesses and brands to have a better impact on people and the planet. Our holistic approach includes a unique Score/Act/Consult/Partner process that helps businesses zoom in on the best areas to target for their sustainability endeavours.

An ongoing benchmarking against the UN Sustainable Development Goals identifies the goals that most align with a business’ performance, stakeholder values and brand purpose. A nimble yet effective process, presented in a robust report within 6-8 weeks.
Building on the recommendations of our Better Impact™ Score to create and deliver strategies that ensure a company’s communications are credible and authentic. It’s our way of empowering and enabling brands to have a Better Impact™ on people and the planet.
Expert consulting to engage a brand’s audiences on the issues that matter to them, to create lasting preference and real-world positive impact. This either compliments the Better Impact™ Score and Action or are standalone communications campaigns.
Collaboration and partnerships play a critical role when companies, governments and cities wish to drive sustainable growth. Partner ensures the right partnerships are in place to drive your sustainability agenda. 

To help companies listed on HKEX successfully navigate their way through this changing environment, H+K has also partnered with Alaya Consulting, Hong Kong’s first dedicated ESG consultancy firm, to host the Comply + Amplify webinar which will feature ESG experts from both companies discussing a wide range of topics. The Comply + Amplify webinar will tackle the big questions on how to align investor and corporate interests in ESG. 

The Comply + Amplify webinar will be held on Tuesday, June 16, 2020. To register for the webinar, please send an email to:

To learn more about Better Impact™, click here:




Andrew Scott

Andrew Scott

Editor / Writer at Hill+Knowlton Strategies, Greater China
Gabriel Tan

Gabriel Tan

Head of Financial Communications at Hill+Knowlton Strategies, Greater China