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Only 10pc of listed firms comply with ESG norms

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Reporting on environmental social and governance (ESG) has lagged at 10 per cent of Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) listed firms, almost six months after the companies were required to make disclosures blamed on the absence of enforcement action.

NSE chief officer regulatory affairs Loise Wangui said although the bourse gave companies up to a year to comply with ESG norms, there is no way to enforce this as it is still a voluntary affair.

Only seven out of 63 listed firms have complied with the NSE directive to make the disclosures following the release of the guidelines in December 2021.

Safaricom, East African Breweries, Nation Media Group, Bamburi Cement, KCB Bank Group, Kakuzi and Standard Chartered are the firms that have issued an ESG report to the bourse.

NSE says British American Tobacco is yet to issue a report but they have an ESG agenda as part of its strategy.

“For now since there is no baseline, there is no standard globally so what we need is people to start the journey first,” said Ms Wangui.

“So when we have a global baseline ideally that is when we will have full compliance. Right now it is still more voluntary. We want our companies to mature in that area first,” she said.

NSE became the fourth exchange in Africa to issue an ESG manual guiding listed companies on measuring and reporting ESG matters.

Regulators are trying to future-proof companies within their jurisdictions from being locked out of financing options that may destabilise operations if they cannot access local and international funds.

Issuers are expected to include a sustainability/ESG section in their annual integrated reports or can also choose to publish a separate report.

Ms Wangui says about 29 listed firms are compliant to a certain degree including aspects of their ESG reporting in their annual releases but do not cover all aspects required.

She said some are giving fragmented snippets with their stories all over the place so you have to read through to get where the ESG story is.

Ms Wangui said what the bourse is doing right now is capacity building to help companies understand how to do it.

Ms Wangui said despite the slow adoption, NSE expects players to fully comply in the 2023 financial cycle between June and December.

“Financial year ends are different for each company but ideally by 2023 is when we will see those reports coming between June and December,” said Ms Wangui.

Listed companies are expected to adopt the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) standard the most widely used framework for sustainability reporting.

The reports are expected to show their wider impact on society, ranging from their contribution to the country’s GDP, how they handle fraud or corruption cases and the measures they have taken to protect the environment.

NSE expects the listed companies to outline steps taken to put in place a policy on ESG, assignment of an ESG manager, have a corporate code of ethics as well as provide means of addressing non-compliance.

Other metrics include people diversity, employee composition and environmental policy, estimation of carbon footprint, data and cybersecurity incidents as well as health and safety events.

Firms have traditionally limited themselves to making financial disclosures in their annual reports, but investors are increasingly keen on learning how they are impacting the environment and the wider society, corporate governance practices and fraud mitigation.

The ESG reporting will be integrated into the normal annual reports or in separate sustainability reports.

The disclosures are expected to enhance transparency around listed firms, helping unlock new investments, especially from international investors.

NSE’s decision to support companies by issuing guidelines for reporting on ESG matters is a proactive step toward supporting listed companies to attract more foreign and domestic capital in the future.

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