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Asia ESG investing poised for rapid growth, sustainability exec says


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Asia ESG investing poised for rapid growth, sustainability exec says

The ESG Insider newsletter compiles news and insights on environmental, social and governance developments driving change in business and investment decisions. Subscribe to our ESG Insider newsletter, and listen to the latest ESG Insider podcast on SoundCloud, Spotify and iTunes.

Asia is sometimes seen as a laggard in the global ESG movement, but the head of sustainability at Southeast Asia’s largest bank says that could change.

Mikkel Larsen, chief sustainability officer at Singapore's DBS Group Holdings Ltd., expects rapid growth in ESG investing in Asia — partly due to growing investor demand and partly because of rising pressure from regulators in the region.

"You've seen around Asia a number of regulators stepping up, and they're not deterred particularly by the COVID-19 crisis," Larsen tells us in an interview for the latest episode of the ESG Insider podcast.

In this week's newsletter we feature stories about the steps that regulators and central banks around the world — from Singapore to France to Russia — are taking to address sustainability and governance issues.

And we bring you a pair of stories on facial recognition technology. The issue is making headlines for its role in systemic racism in the U.S., and for its privacy implications in Europe. Several large tech companies announced plans to scale back or pause sale of facial recognition technology, but the market for this product is still expected to be booming in the coming years — see our Chart of the Week for a growth estimate.

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Chart of the Week 

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Top Stories 

Podcast: COVID-19 shows many ESG agendas have 'forgotten about the people'

The pandemic has brought social issues to the forefront and highlighted that the climate agenda cannot come at the expense of people, Mikkel Larsen, chief sustainability officer at Singapore-based DBS Group, tells ESG Insider. The bank stopped financing coal-fired power plants, but only after finding price-competitive renewable energy alternatives. "We were not willing to accept that lack of electricity — we are in Southeast Asia where 65 million are still without electricity — was necessarily going to be the trade-off," Larsen said.

Big tech's pause on facial recognition not likely to blunt deployment

The global facial recognition market is expected to reach $15.4 billion by 2024, according to estimates from Variant Market Research. Though recent calls for police reform have thrown a spotlight on the risks involved in the technology, various companies stand ready to capitalize on the segment's potential by continuing to work with law enforcement and by supporting other use cases.

Facial recognition tech tests the limits of Europe's data privacy laws

The European Union and the U.K. are separately exploring new guidelines for live facial recognition technology, which pairs surveillance equipment with visual-recognition software so images can be analyzed, for example by searching a database of suspects for matches — known as remote biometric identification. In Europe, remote biometric identification is banned under the General Data Protection Regulation. A European Commission spokesperson said this is the most "intrusive" form of facial recognition, and its use is also governed by human rights law.


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