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The environmental, social and governance reporting standards in the Caribbean are still being developed,with Guardian Holdings Limited, Republic Financial Holdings Limited, Sandals Resorts International and HADCO being highlighted as proactive companies, pursuing ESG as sound business practice. Together with UK-based Cambridge Strategy Group, a decade-long blue economy advisor to a Caribbean entity, they were represented on the panel “ESG Trailblazers: Corporate First Movers” at the 2nd Annual CaribESG & Climate Financing Summit, held in Trinidad and Tobago at the end of November.

The segment, moderated by UNFCCC Global Ambassador and CEO of the Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator, Racquel Moses, explored their lessons learned and the opportunities for ESG.  Ian Chinapoo, Group CEO of Guardian Holdings Limited, noted the development of post-disaster insurance products for the most vulnerable, increased data governance and a spotlight on mental health as part of its commitments.  Gebhard Rainer, CEO of Sandals Resorts identified its focus on reducing plastic use in all markets whether or not there were existing regulatory restrictions and on using more sustainable building materials. The eleven year-old Sandals Foundation, whose administrative and management costs are funded by Sandals International, was created to support education, community and environment initiatives. Sandals has developed its own ESG key performance indicators against which progress is measured.

Robert Millard of Cambridge Strategy, referencing an example outside of the region, identified a notable trend impacting the London law firms it advises, where lawyers have been pushing back or refusing to represent clients whose practices damage the environment or disregard diversity and inclusion. 

Globally, ESG is playing a greater role in access to finance for private and public entities and will affect the sustainability of big business. The Group Co-Chief Executive Officer of The HADCO Group of Companies, John Hadad said the manufacturing, distribution and importation conglomerate is changing its business model, assessing the partners and suppliers it works with and how it works with them to ensure longevity and in spite of the absence of local ESG regulations.  

Republic Financial Holdings Limited, has committed to the six principles of responsible banking as outlined by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). These include aligning business strategy to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and reducing negative impacts and increasing positive on people and the environment. Group Vice President, Richard Sammy however noted that at the government level data to support the development of an ESG ecosystem was a necessity. 

Despite more established ESG regulatory environments in the Global North, Moses noted in her comments that in the Caribbean and the rest of the Global South, there are many high-impact, innovative ESG initiatives that need to be highlighted to demonstrate leadership in this area.

The summit was held with attention to four pillars: “Making the Case for ESG in the Caribbean”; “Financing and Markets”; “ESG and Impact Investment” and “Getting it Right – Implementation”.