Gigi Lee CPA, Senior Manager – ESG and Corporate Services at Dah Sing Bank, Limited, on the benefits of being a continuous learner, and how companies can maintain momentum after embedding a sustainability strategy
What are the three biggest lessons in your career so far?
The first is to not be afraid of taking on new challenges, even if it means changing course. In a world that is so volatile, the ones who can easily and quickly adapt to changes are those who can survive the ebb and flow of the economy. The second is to maintain a good attitude. You may not like everything you do, but your attitude determines how far you go, how others perceive your capabilities and how much they can rely on you. The last lesson is that even if you are already at a senior position or if you are a subject matter expert, you still need to be open-minded and willing to absorb new knowledge.
What do you like most about specializing in ESG?
I facilitate the design and implementation of corporate environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategies, programmes and initiatives through stakeholder engagement. I also lead the execution and continuous enhancement of ESG governance including the preparation of ESG reports and other sustainability-related disclosures, developing ESG-related policies and guidelines, as well as raising staff awareness on ESG. As a nature lover, specializing in ESG resonates most with my personal core values and gives me a sense of satisfaction that I never had in my previous roles. I find it meaningful and rewarding to advocate something within the corporate world that has an impact on the sustainable development of our society. It is also fantastic to witness and experience how fast ESG has evolved in recent years.
In what ways has your CPA training helped you in your career?
The analytical mindset I received from my CPA training has certainly helped in a lot of situations throughout my career. The skills in preparing financial reports, analysing and auditing financial data are also very useful when it comes to ESG data management, as both share similar, if not the same, principles. Measuring impact, setting key performance indicators and targets are critical components of an ESG strategy and my past training as a CPA has allowed me to manage these tasks more naturally.
How can organizations get it right when it comes to building a sustainability or ESG strategy?
It is important to have a long-term vision but also mid-term milestones. Sustainability goals in general may take a longer time to achieve, but there will be a lack of urgency and motivation to take concrete action if long timelines are set. Being able to identify some “low-hanging fruit” or small wins in your ESG strategy and communicating them would help gain further support from management and key stakeholders. It is also critical to draw the connection between your ESG and business strategies in order to demonstrate the value and impact to your business, and to let your stakeholders see the relevance of your ESG strategy to them, rather than something that is just nice-to-have.
What do you view as critical for effective ESG reporting?
While it’s important to measure ESG performance in a quantitative manner, it is also essential to evaluate the resources a company can put to measure its impact. ESG disclosure requirements are becoming more and more sophisticated nowadays. A company needs to strike a balance between data quality in terms of, for example, relevance, completeness and accuracy, and data collection efforts such as frequency, quantification methodology and the manpower needed.