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APRU SWM Forum 2023: Advancing UN SDGs and ESG for a Sustainable Future
The APRU SWM Forum 2023 was a significant event dedicated to exploring emerging sustainability-related issues, convening experts and enthusiasts. Held annually, this year’s forum revolved around the theme “Advancing UN SDGs and ESG for a Sustainable Future.” Hosted by the APRU Sustainable Waste Management (SWM) Program in collaboration with the International ESG Association (IESGA) and Korea University ESG Research Institute, the event was led by Prof. Yong Sik Ok, Chair and Program Director of the APRU SWM Program. Esteemed speakers, including Mr. Jamil Ahmad (Director of Intergovernmental Affairs UNEP New York), Prof. Chan-woo Kim (Former Ambassador for Climate Change and Government Representative from Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs), and Dr. Monica Contestabile (Chief Editor of Nature Sustainability) offered their expertise and insights on UN SDGs and sustainability research. Prof. Yong Sik Ok, in his opening address, underscored the interconnectedness between ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance), UN SDGs, and sustainability, guiding the proceedings of the forum. Prof. Rhee initiated an important query, reflecting the impact of collaborative research along with its inherent advantages and disadvantages. Additionally, Prof. Kim underscored the collective responsibility to work together towards achieving UN SDGs, emphasizing that every individual plays a role in this global initiative. “UN SDGs serve as the blueprint for sustainability, which should remain consistent irrespective of geographical distinctions, as they are universally applicable,” said Mr. Ahmad. Mr. Jamil Ahmad, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs UNEP New York Dr. Contestabile highlighted the interconnectedness of numerous global sustainability issues, underscoring the necessity for multifaceted perspectives to formulate long-term solutions. She stressed the importance of collaborative research to address these complexities effectively. Furthermore, Dr. Contestabile emphasized the significance of framing research questions that hold substantial meaning for policymakers. Only when sustainability research aligns with policymaking can it effectively influence new policy developments toward a more sustainable and greener future. Following the keynote speeches at the APRU SWM Forum, IESGA Director Yoora Cho presented the analysis results of recent research conducted by IESGA. The study focused on evaluating nature-positive commitments in biodiversity performances of Korean corporations. Based on these commitments regarding biodiversity, the TOP 200 corporations were ranked accordingly. In addition, ongoing research initiatives by IESGA concentrating on ESG and sustainability were highlighted during the event. These studies encompassed diverse areas such as ESG evaluations specifically tailored for higher education institutions and the comprehensive assessment of nature-related issues prevalent among energy sector companies listed in the Fortune Global 500. These ongoing research endeavors showcased a multifaceted approach toward examining and addressing sustainability concerns across various sectors and institutions. During the Q&A session, participants engaged closely with the Chief Editor and the UNEP Director, seeking clarification on pressing sustainability and research-related issues. Comprehensive discussions ensued regarding the correct approach to conducting interdisciplinary research, acknowledged as highly challenging, and strategies to persuade policymakers through research findings to adopt or update policies. Additionally, a key message emphasized was the necessity for more impactful sustainability research to achieve the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. The focal point highlighted the indispensable requirement for collaboration between local institutions, government authorities, ministries, local administrations, and decision-makers to effectively advance sustainability initiatives. The APRU SWM Program, under the leadership of Prof. Yong Sik Ok, played a pivotal role in advancing the pursuit of the 2030 agenda on sustainable development and ESG. As the APRU SWM Forum 2023 drew to a close, it culminated in an extensive exchange of invaluable knowledge, emphasizing the urgent need for collaborative efforts aimed at fostering a more sustainable future. The discussions and insights shared throughout the forum not only underscored the significance of collective action but also highlighted the diverse strategies and innovative approaches essential for addressing multifaceted sustainability challenges. The event showed us ways to reach the ambitious goals outlined in the 2030 agenda, emphasizing the crucial role of collaborative initiatives in reshaping our global trajectory towards sustainability.
December 29, 2023
IESGA's 6th Global Conference Forges Pathways to Empowering Sustainability
The 6th Global Conference, organized by the APRU Sustainable Waste Management (APRU SWM) Program on November 28 – 30, 2023, concluded with great success, attracting 377 representatives from academic institutions and global industries across over 30 countries. Titled “6th Global Conference: ESG Management and Sustainability,” the event chaired by Prof. Yong Sik Ok fostered intellectually stimulating engagements, with the APRU SWM Program playing a pivotal role. The program collaborated with esteemed institutions including the International ESG Association (IESGA) and Korea University ESG Research Institute. Prof. Yong Sik Ok, the Chair and Program Director of the APRU SWM Program, also holds the esteemed position of President at the IESGA. Additionally, Prof. Jay Hyuk Rhee, who served as the conference chair, holds positions as the President of the IESGA and at the Korea University ESG Research Institute. Prof. Yong Sik Ok (left) and Prof. Jay Hyuk Rhee (right)   Nature Masterclasses and lectures by Editors of Nature Journals One of the highlights of the dynamic event was the Nature Masterclass and Lectures, featuring Chief Editors from the Nature journals. The Lectures hosted by Prof.Yong Sik Ok served as a significant platform for knowledge exchange, fostering discussions on critical environmental and sustainability concerns. The panelists were chief editors from distinguished publications such as Nature Climate Change (Dr. Bronwyn Wake) and Nature Reviews Psychology (Dr. Jenn Richler). The editors offered comprehensive guidance to participants on structuring manuscripts effectively. Utilizing numerous examples from published articles, the editors engaged participants by encouraging them to assume the role of a journal editor. They requested feedback on each aspect of the manuscript and prompted participants to determine whether they would accept the manuscript for publication. Jenn Richler, Chiel Editor of Nature Reviews Psychology Bronwyn Wake, Chief Editor of Nature Climate Moreover, attendees had the unique opportunity to interact directly with each editor. This interaction allowed them to receive personalized feedback on their abstracts, enabling them to further refine and improve the content of their abstracts. The editors’ hands-on approach provided invaluable insights into the editorial process and enhanced participants’ understanding of crafting manuscripts that meet the standards of leading scientific journals.   The key lectures by sustainability leaders from Stanford and Oxford, the UNEP Director, and the IUCN Director General Another significant aspect of the global conference comprised keynote lectures delivered by distinguished academic figures, notably Prof. William A. Mitch, Co-chair of the APRU SWM Program from the Doerr School of Sustainability at Stanford University, and Prof. Amir Amel-Zadeh from the Saïd Business School, University of Oxford. These lectures greatly enriched the discourse by offering profound insights that furthered discussions on sustainable business practices. Their presentations underscored the imperative need for implementing quantifiable metrics to assess the impacts on natural resources, a crucial aspect that can substantially aid industries in attaining long-term sustainability goals. Dr. Bruno Oberle, Director General of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), emphasized the significance of securing reliable data and systems for corporate sustainability and biodiversity preservation. He stressed that this proactive approach not only mitigates risks but also reveals opportunities for growth. Moreover, he underscored the importance of early engagement, enabling corporations to influence regulations while championing environmental conservation efforts. Dr. Bruno Oberle, Director General of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Mr. Jamil Ahmad, Director of the UNEP, provided a holistic perspective on conservation and global sustainability efforts. These sessions, marked by collaborative exchanges and forward-thinking dialogues, delved into multifaceted topics, encompassing climate change mitigation, sustainable development, the intersection of psychology and environmentalism, and innovative strategies for ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) management. Conference participants praised APRU SWM Program’s dedication to fostering interactive and impactful engagements, uniting prominent leaders to tackle the urgent challenges our planet faces. The Nature Masterclasses and Lectures received acclaim for catalyzing cross-disciplinary discussions and nurturing collaborations aimed at advancing global sustainability practices. The contributions of APRU SWM Program and the insightful perspectives shared by the panelists have reignited momentum toward achieving a more sustainable and environmentally conscious future. The 6th Global Conference: ESG Management and Sustainability stood as a testament to the potency of collaboration and knowledge-sharing, showcasing how collective efforts led by APRU SWM Program can drive changes toward a more sustainable world.
December 29, 2023
Routes Towards a Sustainable Society: Forum with Springer Nature Editor-in-Chief
Original post on EurekAlert by AAAS. The International ESG Association (IESGA), in collaboration with the APRU Sustainable Waste Management Program (APRU SWM), the Korea University ESG Research Institute, the Korean Society for Consumer and Advertising Psychology, and Springer Nature, hosted a forum with Sir Philip Campbell, titled “Routes towards a sustainable society.” The forum was led by Prof. Yong Sik Ok, the HCR Professor at Korea University, the Chair and Program Director of the APRU SWM Program, as well as the President of IESGA. Prof. Jay Hyuk Rhee, the Director of the Korea University ESG Research Institute and the President of IESGA, played a key role alongside Prof. Ok. Sir Campbell, a prominent British astrophysicist, is an Honorary Fellow at Cambridge. He held the position of Editor-in-Chief of Nature for 22 years and currently serves as the Editor-in-Chief at Springer Nature. He is also a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of British Science Writers (2019) and was recognized as a Knight Bachelor for his contribution to the field of science on the late Queen’s birthday in 2015. ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) holds a place of paramount importance across both research and industries. Its significance resides in shaping responsible practices, ensuring sustainability, and promoting ethical governance. The adoption of an interdisciplinary approach is imperative to effectively tackle the multifaceted challenges tied to ESG, thus fostering holistic solutions for a more conscientious world. Within the current ESG era, this Forum provided a notable platform to link ESG and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). It was graced by the presence of CEOs and representatives from diverse industries, as well as esteemed high-level professionals from media societies. During the welcome address delivered by Prof. Rhee, it was duly highlighted that ESG stands as an emerging phenomenon. The significance of embracing an interdisciplinary approach, harmonizing research, and education, was underscored for the effective implementation of ESG principles. During his speech on societal challenges of research, including research communication and its societal impacts, Sir Campbell emphasized the need for conducting interdisciplinary research that covers a wide array of disciplines in order to achieve UN SDGs by 2030. He added that the findings of such research could provide actionable recommendations to help overcome the challenges faced by the society, environment, and economic sectors. Moreover, he emphasized that researchers must realize their power to influence high-level policy development. According to Sir Campbell, for any research to impact the society, it must take on-board the target group of the society that will benefit from it, as its stakeholder. He further added that to find relevance in the social dimension, universities and researchers should pursue research that aligns with the UN SDGs and their national policies; encourages multidisciplinary research projects; and promote practices like open data, available tools, and open access. The panel discussion, led by Prof. Yong Sik Ok, sparked further deliberations by emphasizing on the link between UN SDGs and ESG and the impact that media has had on research. It deep-dived into the use of machine learning techniques for developing quantitative indicators from qualitative datasets. In addition to these rich discussions, the forum was also a great platform for participants to socialize and share their research insights, which could potentially materialize into collaborative research in the future. Such fora serve as a fertile ground for new ideas that can benefit society and support the goal of achieving the UN SDGs by 2030. Agreeing on this with Sir Campbell, Amasha Withana, the secretary of the APRU SWM Program, commented, “Universities, research institutes, governments, and private organizations should collaborate more on research that has a societal impact.”
September 18, 2023
Towards a Sustainable Biochar Market in Korea
Original post on EurekAlert by AAAS. Korea recently witnessed a significant meeting aimed at fostering a strong and sustainable biochar market. The unique meeting involved the Korean Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (MAFRA), featuring an esteemed assembly of international university experts and Corporations. Deputy Minister Mr. Beom Su Park spoke about how MAFRA identifies biochar as an ideal technology for achieving carbon neutrality in Korea. Under the government action plan, MAFRA has been conducting research in collaboration with research institutes and industries concerning the sustainable biochar market, especially in converting livestock manure into biochar. MAFRA also implements finance and policy-based actions to create infrastructure for a sustainable livestock manure-based biochar market. MAFRA plans to provide subsidies for facility installation, livestock manure treatment, and voluntary greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction projects (10 USD per 1 ton of GHG). The amendment of the Livestock Manure Act to define and set standards for biochar is also in the pipeline. Biochar is crucial in the carbon removal portfolio of several big companies. Thus, even during the meeting, professionals shared their perspectives on best practices for good quality biochar and future actions towards its commercialization led by Prof. Yong Sik Ok, the Chair and the Program Director of the APRU SWM. APRU SWM is a pioneering endeavor devoted to advancing sustainable waste management practices. It achieves this through synergistic research endeavors, interdisciplinary partnerships, and the dissemination of knowledge. APRU SWM fosters collaboration between academia, industry, and government to tackle urgent waste challenges. APRU SWM also drives positive change and sustainable growth through a holistic approach and strong leadership in Asia-Pacific and worldwide. The distinguished participants of the meeting included Prof. Scott Chang from the University of Alberta, Canada; Prof. Ondrej Masek from the University of Edinburgh, UK; Prof. Stephen Joseph from the University of New South Wales, Australia; Prof. Lukas Van Zwieten from New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Australia; Prof. Daniel Alessi from the University of Alberta, Canada; Prof. Shinjiro Sato from Soka University, Japan; and Dr. Janelle Jung from Gardens by the Bay in Singapore. This event also saw active involvement from key representatives of Korean corporations, including CJ CheilJedang, Shinsegae Food, Nongwoo Bio, Wonjin Group, and Platform Partners. The proceedings of the meeting were overseen by Prof. Yong Sik Ok, a distinguished Highly Cited Researcher and full professor at Korea University, serving as the chair and program director of the Association of Pacific Rim Universities Sustainable Waste Management Program (APRU SWM) concurrently as the president of the International Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Association (IESGA). Accompanying him was Prof. Jay Hyuk Rhee, director of the Korea University ESG Research Institute and also the president of IESGA. Nonetheless, Dr. Kevin Kung, the co-founder of the Canada-based start-up company Takachar and a prize winner from the XPrize Foundation and Musk Foundation, highlighted the importance of the size of the biochar production plant. According to Prof. Rhee, an expert in the field of Business Administration, integrating ESG principles with business strategies through biochar technology creates a potent synergy for sustainability. The meeting highlighted how businesses adopting biochar showcase environmental responsibility by enhancing environmental health and carbon capture. Such an approach fosters social well-being through reduced ecological impact while adhering to governance standards. Biochar integration cultivates a holistic ESG-driven path, benefiting both the environment and communities. Prof. Daniel Alessi from the University of Alberta, Canada, appreciated Korea’s efforts regarding biochar; he noted, “Korea is the first nation to develop a national plan for converting animal manure into biochar and creating a commercial biochar market.” Many experts also discussed the need for exploring other possible environmental applications of biochar besides using it in soils as an organic amendment. Amasha Withana, the secretary of the APRU SWM program at the meeting, said, “The collaboration between industries and academic institutes and receiving financial support from the government is mandatory to create a sustainable biochar market.” Finally, the meeting highlighted that developing biochar standards will require multistakeholder participation from the government, private industries, academic institutes, biochar producers, raw material suppliers, and the primary consumers of biochar. To this end, MAFRA emphasized that they will collaborate with international governments, academic institutions, and industries to produce scientific research on biochar applications, develop breakthrough technologies for biochar production with minimum environmental damage, and receive continuous feedback on new and ongoing biochar projects for creating a sustainable biochar market across Korea.
September 13, 2023
2023 Global ESG Forum in Singapore Underscores Biodiversity and ESG Reporting as Key Drivers to Sustainable Development
This is a press release prepared by the National University of Singapore and the organizing committee of the 2023 Global ESG Forum in Singapore.  The 2023 Global ESG Forum in Singapore, co-organised by the APRU (Association of Pacific Rim Universities) Sustainable Waste management Program, International ESG Association (IESGA), Korea University ESG Research Institute, the Centre for Governance and Sustainability (CGS) of NUS Business School and E2S2, National University of Singapore concluded successfully in Singapore. The event was attended by over 200 participants from the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Poland, India, Indonesia, Korea and Malaysia. The forum saw fruitful discussions on important sustainability topics, including sustainable plastic management, consumer-centric ESG practices, circular economy, voluntary carbon markets (VCMs), net-zero initiatives, and renewable energy. Biodiversity and Nature Positive Reporting as the New ESG Commitment The forum noted a two-fold increase, from 16 in 2019 to 37 in 2021, in the number of companies reporting biodiversity and nature-positive practices, according to the “Biodiversity and Nature Positive Ranking of the Top 200 Korean Companies. In addition, 15 companies in 2021, compared to only 6 in 2019, considered biodiversity as a material issue. This reflected a significant shift in focus on biodiversity as a key indicator of sustainability reporting in Korea. It also reinforced the growing importance of biodiversity in sustainable development.    As such, IESGA and CGS of NUS Business School will be establishing an ESG advisory team dedicated to biodiversity assessment at a global level. This initiative aims to provide comprehensive insights into the global ranking of companies in terms of biodiversity. The report is aimed for release in November 2023. Study Reveals the Critical Gaps Remain in ESG Reporting According to the latest joint study by CGS of NUS Business School and PwC which analysed the sustainability reports of top 50 listed companies in 14 Asia Pacific jurisdictions, there are crucial reporting and disclosure gaps prevalent in business practices. Although the majority of companies (92%) in the examined jurisdictions excel in disclosing ESG targets, only 51% disclosed net zero targets, and a mere 42% aligned their net zero targets with the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi) framework. The study also emphasized the need for heightened efforts in measuring Scope 3 emissions, as less than 50% of companies disclose these indirect emissions originating from their value chain. This is amid an encouraging sign showing 80% of companies disclosing their Scope 1 (direct emissions from a company) and Scope 2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (indirect emissions from purchased and used electricity). Prof. Lawrence Loh, Director of CGS at NUS Business School said, “The 2023 Global ESG Forum endorses the criticality of considering nature and biodiversity by businesses. Going forward, stakeholders should realize that climate change actions, in themselves, are only the means – the end outcomes are really to perpetuate nature and biodiversity. Enhancing human lives should be the core emphasis of sustainability.” The 2023 Global ESG Forum marks the implementation of the MOU signed in 2022 between CGS, NUS Business School, and IESGA. This agreement demonstrates the joint commitment to promoting knowledge on incorporating ESG considerations in business operations. Prof. Jay Hyuk Rhee, the President of the IESGA, mentioned, “Singapore is demonstrating excellent leadership through collaboration with international organizations in various fields related to sustainable management.” He explained the reason for hosting this year’s ESG Forum in Singapore. Prof. Yong Sik Ok, the President of the IESGA, and the Chair and Program Director of the APRU Sustainable Waste Management Program, emphasized that the Singaporean government is encouraging companies to focus on ESG management through various forms of support and incentives. There will be a follow-up ESG event on 28-30 November 2023 in Seoul, where top ESG scholars and experts from the Stanford University, National University of Singapore Business School and the University of Oxford as well as the Secretary General of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), will be present to discuss about nature positive business.   Front from left: Prof. Lawrence Loh (Business School, NUS), Dr. Amy Khor (Senior Minister of State for Transport and Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment, Singapore), Prof. Jay Hyuk Rhee (President IESGA). Back from left: Prof. Yong Sik Ok (President IESGA), Prof. Shawn Cole (Harvard Business School, USA), Prof. Sungyeon Hwang (Director IESGA), and Prof. Yen Wah Tong (Director CREATE, NUS).   About APRU SWM Program The APRU Sustainable Waste Management Program hosted by Korea University offers a timely opportunity for knowledge exchange among professionals from all over the world to assist in the formulation of an efficient sustainable management agenda for biological waste and remediation of soil, water and air in the local context, which satisfies the environmental compatibility, financial feasibility and social needs. It will deliberate on state-of-the-art treatment technologies, advanced management strategies, and political issues pertaining to the recycling and recovery of organic waste. Moreover, local and overseas experts from different sectors including academic researchers, industrial practitioners, green groups, and government departments will be gathered in this program to solicit scientific and technical inputs as well as political feedback, facilitating the development of integrated solutions. Experienced industrial practitioners, professional organizations, green groups, as well as government officers are invited to the conference. Find out more about the 2023 Global ESG Forum in Singapore. About International ESG Association (IESGA) The IESGA aims to improve information creation and sharing about ESG management through linking businesses with academics, from different fields of expertise, whose research findings can help predict future directions for ESG practices. These predictions aim to give corporations a head-start to incorporate the latest and most relevant ESG practices into their business structures. This not only helps to protect the environment and improve business sustainability, but also encourages ethically conscious investors to take notice. The IESGA presently mainly advises corporations in South Korea, but will soon expand its consultancy services worldwide, especially to companies in developing economies. In addition to its consultancy services, the IESGA launched the Global ESG Lecture Series in collaboration with major South Korean academic societies and industries. Monthly events have been held on topics such as the relevance of ESG scores for attracting investors, and how companies can integrate ESG performance measurement to develop sustainable supply chains. The IESGA collaborated with Nature Conferences and LG Energy Solutions to hold a hybrid event on waste management and valorisation, attracting more than 2,000 attendees from 97 countries. In August 2022, the association held its first Global ESG Forum in South Korea with a focus on sustainability through ESG. More than 1,000 participants from 55 countries attended. President Jay Hyuk Rhee and Yong Sik Ok also offer two MBA courses in South Korea and internationally, in conjunction with the IESGA, on business and environment, and sustainability in ESG management. These courses target students eager to find business opportunities associated with ESG practices.  About Centre for Governance and Sustainability (CGS) The Centre for Governance and Sustainability (CGS) was established by the National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School in 2010. It aims to spearhead relevant and high-impact research on corporate governance and corporate sustainability issues that are pertinent to institutions, government bodies and businesses in Singapore and the Asia-Pacific. Spearheading thought leadership, CGS conducts public lectures, industry roundtables, and academic conferences on topics related to governance and sustainability. CGS is the national assessor for the corporate sustainability and corporate governance performance of listed companies in Singapore. In tandem with growing demands from consumers and investors that financial returns are achieved with integrity, backed with environmental and social considerations, CGS has a slew of research focusing on sustainability reporting in Asia Pacific, sustainable banking, nature reporting, and climate reporting in ASEAN. More information about CGS can be accessed at https://bschool.nus.edu.sg/cgs/ NUS Business School is known for providing management thought leadership from an Asian perspective, enabling its students and corporate partners to leverage global knowledge and Asian insights. The School is one of the 16 faculties and schools at NUS. A leading global university centred in Asia, NUS is Singapore’s flagship university which offers a global approach to education, research and entrepreneurship, with a focus on Asian perspectives and expertise. Its transformative education includes a broad-based curriculum underscored by multi-disciplinary courses and cross-faculty enrichment. Over 40,000 students from 100 countries enrich the community with their diverse social and cultural perspectives.
July 27, 2023