Enrolments for ESG courses surge in Hong Kong amid exponential demand for staff with requisite skills

  • Companies have been looking to equip their staff with ESG skill sets amid a competitive hiring landscape to reach their sustainability goals, says recruiter
  • Growing interest in ESG education shows that ecosystem is building up around ESG as a career path

Providers of environmental, social and governance-related certifications and accreditations have seen rising enrolments for their courses amid “exponential demand” for ESG-related jobs in Hong Kong and Asia, according to headhunters.

Registrations for the CFA Institute’s certificate in ESG investing, which familiarises professionals with ESG principles and portfolio management, hit an all-time high in Hong Kong in July. Registrations topped 160, a 77.8 per cent increase compared with 90 in September last year when the course was first rolled out globally, according to the latest figures from the institute.

Hong Kong has recorded about 1,100 registrations, accounting for around 8.5 per cent of the 12,800 globally since last September. The city also remained the top market in Asia for registrations, ranking just behind the UK and US globally.

“ESG investing is evolving quickly, and will clearly be a key part of the investment future,” said Nick Pollard, managing director for Asia-Pacific at the CFA Institute.

With climate-related risks and greenhouse gas emissions becoming a pressing issue, companies across the world have been allocating more resources towards improving ESG. The scope of ESG in investments is also growing. Inflows into sustainable funds has grown from US$5 billion in 2018 to more than US$120 billion in the first two quarters of 2022, according to McKinsey.

Registrations for the European Federation of Financial Analysts Societies’ Certified ESG Analyst (CESGA) exam, which is held every three months, has also grown by an average of 40 per cent quarter-on-quarter in Asia-Pacific.

The number of CESGA holders in the region reached 414 after the last intake in June, surging nearly fivefold from 76 in June 2021, according to environmental organisation Friends of the Earth (HK), which administers the programme in the Asia-Pacific.

Companies have been looking to equip their staff with ESG skill sets amid the competitive hiring landscape to reach their carbon neutrality and sustainability goals, said Greg Brittian, head of sustainable business in Asia-Pacific for Acre, a specialist sustainability recruitment firm.

“We are certainly seeing a marked increase in companies looking to upskill their employees in this area. This is being driven by the substantial increase in demand for the [ESG] skill set and the challenges faced by companies looking to make external hires in such a competitive market for competent professionals.”

He added that the demand for ESG-related jobs in Hong Kong, China and across Asia was already remarkably high. “We only see this increasing,” said Brittian.

Last week, Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Christopher Hui Ching-yu told the Post that the government would ease immigration requirements for overseas ESG and fintech talent to support Hong Kong’s development into a high value-added and diversified economy. The government will also deploy more resources to develop local ESG talent by providing them with the requisite training to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills, he added.

Headhunters also pointed out that the growing interest in ESG education was a further indication of the ecosystem that is building up around ESG as a career path.

“There is definitely an exponential demand for ESG roles within Hong Kong’s job market,” said Martin Xiang, principal in Heidrick & Struggles Hong Kong.

“We are seeing more hiring within the financial industry, including banking, rating agencies and private equity firms, as well as consulting firms and local Hong Kong corporations,” said Xiang.

“ESG education and certifications are still relatively new in the market, and can be helpful for entry-level hires, though having real world ‘internship experience’ and demonstrating their abilities and concrete skills in putting theory into real business scenarios will be viewed as more valuable,” said Xiang.

“Having the relevant domain expertise and technical background to help with ESG reporting, while also understanding the changes in regulations and global trends will be what sets individuals apart,” said Xiang.

John Mullally, regional director of recruitment consultancy Robert Walters, also agreed that ESG certifications or accreditations were beneficial but not essential to landing an ESG job.

“Do it because you are interested in it. If you are interested in it you are going to get a lot more from that course of study … than someone who is just doing it so that they have it on their CV,” said Mullally.

Source: South China Morning Post

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