RIYADH: The focus on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) programs is no longer a “niche” approach, but it needs to be made easier for investors to embrace the right platforms, a senior executive from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund said this week.
“ESG is moving to a norm market, rather than a niche market, and we need to make it easier for investors to choose ESG platforms,” Fahad Al-Saif, head of corporate finance at the Public Investment Fund (PIF), told delegates at the UK/Saudi Sustainable Investment Forum 2021 this week.
The PIF in April launched the Sudair Solar Energy project in Sudair Industrial City, one of the largest solar parks in the country. The first phase of the project is expected to begin producing electricity during the second half of 2022 and Al-Saif said this was evidence of the Kingdom’s embracing of new forms of energy sources, in line with its wider ESG goals.
“Energy production is focused on green energy. Balance should be in every area and it is critical, consistency is important.”
PIF governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan said in April that he believed ESG programs made solid business sense. This became clear when it was reported earlier this month that the fund could sell bonds as soon as the fourth quarter as it seeks to develop a new ESG framework.
PIF has asked banks to help it develop an ESG framework, Reuters reported, citing four sources, in a move that could allow it to expand its funding base to attract ESG-focused investors.
ESG investing is set to become a major theme of this year’s Future Investment Initiative (FII), Saudi Arabia’s flagship investment forum planned for October.
“We have a moral responsibility as the FII Institute to own this global conversation about ESG, because it is becoming a very hot topic,” Richard Attias, the institute’s CEO, told Arab News in an interview this month.