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Hong Kong bourse tightens ESG reporting for listed companies

Hong Kong's stock exchange will require listed companies to disclose significant climate-related issues and shorten the filing deadline for their environmental, social and governance reports from July 1, 2020.

In a Dec. 18 statement, the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Ltd. said new mandatory disclosure requirements will include a statement setting out the board's consideration of ESG matters, application of reporting principles of "materiality," "quantitative" and "consistency," as well as explanation of reporting boundaries of ESG reports.

Further, the "environmental" key performance indicators will be amended to require disclosure of relevant targets, and the disclosure obligation of all "social" KPIs will be upgraded to "comply or explain," said the exchange, a unit of Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Ltd.

In addition, the deadline for publication of ESG reports will be shortened to within five months after the financial year-end. Companies are currently advised to publish ESG reports within three months after their publication of annual reports, which is usually around three months after the financial year-end.

As part of its ESG disclosure review, the exchange reviewed ESG reports for the financial year ended March 31, June 30 or Dec. 31, 2018, from 400 randomly selected issuers. Among others, the findings show that a majority of issuers' ESG reports contained little or no description of board involvement.

The exchange said responses to the consultation indicated strong support to the proposals to enhance the ESG framework.