Cover Edris Boey, head of ESG Research at multi-family office Maitri Asset Management

Edris Boey, head of ESG Research at multifamily office Maitri Asset Management in Singapore, highlights why sustainability is good for business and investors

Edris Boey believes that the key to the success of any business today lies in its ESG (environment, social and governance) principles. And the data increasingly supports it. 

Companies that apply an ESG screen to investments have proven to be more resilient during periods of economic stress, as evidenced by S&P's global market intelligence report that more than half of ESG-linked funds outperformed the S&P 500 in the first several months of 2021.

They’re also popular with investors, as global sustainable investment—an approach that considers ESG factors in their portfolio selection—has increased by 55 per cent since 2016, hitting US$35.3 trillion in five major markets (Europe, the United States, Canada, Australasia and Japan), according to a 2021 GSIA report.   

Among family offices, Maitri Asset Management has emerged as a leader in this approach with Boey at the helm of ESG research. Started by the Singapore-based Tolaram Group in 2015, Maitri expanded in 2019 to work with multiple families and embrace ESG principles.

“I oversee Maitri’s overall ESG policy direction and lead our in-house ESG Team,” she explains. “I developed and am responsible for executing and maintaining Maitri’s Responsible Investment (RI) approach. I also work closely with the portfolio managers to analyse investments more holistically.”

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Boey and her team’s efforts saw Maitri becoming the first multifamily office in the Asia Pacific to earn the B Corporation (B Corp) certification, an accreditation that can only be achieved by companies that have undergone a rigorous assessment process to meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability. 

“For us, it is paramount that everyone in the organisation walks the talk,” the passionate leader enthuses. “I am very proud of our collective efforts.”

The family office recently announced its commitment to net-zero targets, which includes having 50 per cent of its assets under management (AUM) in line with net-zero by 2030; they are also active in various sustainability initiatives. Twenty-five per cent of Maitri’s earnings goes to the Ishk Tolaram Foundation, which provides access to quality education, healthcare and skills training to underserved individuals in Indonesia, Nigeria, Singapore and Estonia.

Here, Boey shares more insights on the importance and challenges of ESG investments, while underscoring the growing green bonds market and how ESG policies may look like in the future. 

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I would expect climate change to feature prominently in any ESG investment strategy over the next few years.
Edris Boey, head of ESG Research at Maitri Asset Management

Has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted the importance of ESG investments?

Edris Boey (EB): If there is anything that the pandemic has taught us, it is the importance of maintaining our investments in public services, which can help preserve society’s well-being during challenging times. For example, ​​climate-related disasters have exacerbated the effects of Covid-19, with many losing their livelihoods from extreme weather events such as floods, fires and droughts.

Therefore, there is a need for investors and businesses to look beyond propping up their bottom lines and recognise that failing to consider environmental and sustainability issues could lead to very drastic and negative effects on society. 

How did you build your confidence in the ESG market as an investor?

EB: I started off in the sustainability sector as a consultant. The problem-solving skillsets I acquired, along with the business operational knowledge as an in-house sustainability manager, have enabled me to understand and interpret sustainability aspects with confidence. 

At Maitri, I now sit on the other side of a table—as an investor—and it has become clear to me how important it is to understand how things work in the businesses we look at, as we place an ESG lens on the majority of the investment decisions we make. 

For aspiring investors, a good place to start would be to look at a company’s sustainability report and assess how they are measuring their progress against global sustainability reporting standards, such as those established by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and/or the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB).

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There is a need for investors and businesses to recognise that failing to consider environmental and sustainability issues could lead to very drastic and negative effects on society.
Edris Boey, head of ESG Research at Maitri Asset Management

Do you see yourself as a mentor to others interested in sustainability? 

EB: I am very passionate about helping like-minded professionals who are just starting their careers in sustainability. I take a personal interest in nurturing young graduates in the sustainability space, hoping to empower them not only with the right skills and motivation to develop better solutions, but also to progress in their sustainability careers.

How does the growing green bond market play a role in achieving long-term environmental goals? 

EB: Green bonds are a key component of the capital market that raises funds for sustainability projects, and they have been quite effective in promoting green outcomes. For example, analysis by the European Union’s Joint Research Centre found that the carbon emissions of green bond issuers’ assets achieved an average reduction of around four percent, as compared to similar non-green bond issuers.

We are currently witnessing a lot of debate to allow natural gas to be included in the EU taxonomy, given how challenging it is to manage the transition from hydrocarbon fuels to clean energy. This has been exacerbated by the energy crunch across Europe and Asia. If natural gas is indeed added to the EU Taxonomy, we can expect the number of green bond issuers to have a sizeable increase. 

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What does the future of ESG look like? 

EB: The higher the benchmark set by a national government, the tighter the limits will be. At the same time, this will also be accompanied by tighter limits for high emission industries and greater funding for cleantech industries. 

I would expect climate change to feature prominently in any ESG investment strategy over the next few years. The recent COP26 summit, where countries have pledged to phase down the use of coal, reduce methane emissions, and put a halt to deforestation, may be a driving force for change.

For businesses, we expect to see a renewed wave of shareholders and activists asking them to outline their climate action plans or net-zero targets, even if they are not in sectors traditionally recognised as high emitting. This is because investors are increasingly adopting a ‘climate risk’ lens, especially when it comes to evaluating their growth prospects and potentials as an investment option. Hence, companies need to start putting in place a sustainability framework and be ready to deal with tough questions on the environmental and social aspects of their business.

This Front & Female article is sponsored by Citi Private Bank for our Women of Worth series celebrating and supporting independent women to pursue their worth. Join the Front & Female community by subscribing to our newsletter and following #frontandfemale

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