Developing An ESG Ecosystem in T&T

AMCHAM T&T's Inaugural ESG Conference 

Leadership Panel at AMCHAM T&T's ESG Conference (l-r) Bill Shireman - President - Future 500; Gregory Hill - Managing Director - ANSA Merchant Bank;  John Hadad - Group co-Chief Executive Officer - HADCO Group; Moderator: Indu Sharma - Co-Founder & Consultant, Q.E.D. Consulting Limited & Chairperson of AMCHAM T&T ESG Committee; Mark Loquan - President - The National Gas Company of Trinidad & Tobago Limited (NGC) 


E SG can provide organisations and regional economies with a lens to look at priorities, strategies, and risks to establish a pathway for long-term growth and sustainability. It also affords the opportunity for collaboration between the public, private and NGO sectors to establish strong values in businesses and organisations in and for a changing world. At AMCHAM T&T's inaugural ESG Conference, hosted at the Hilton Trinidad and Conference Center on May 2nd and 3rd, a panel of local and international experts discussed how leaders can support and drive the development of an ESG agenda within their organisations and the national economy at the leadership session entitled: “Developing an ESG ecosystem in Trinidad & Tobago”. They explored the scope and challenges of leading in an environment where leaders are expected to look beyond profits and consider the measurable impact on people and the planet when setting strategies for their organisations. Below are a few notable quotes from the session.  

Bill Shireman

President - Future 500

"The role of government is mainly to create frameworks and incentives within which businesses and people will create healthy, financial, social and natural capital. Governments set the rules within which individuals and companies compete and cooperate with one another. 

Let me give you an example. In California, one of my first successful forays into bringing folks together was around the waste issue. We wanted recycling to happen. I was the head of an environmental lobby and we were battling the beverage companies, and eventually we got tired of quarrelling and sat down at a table and said, “Well, how do we work this out?” 

It's amazing in how many different ways you can design a recycling or deposit system, but we developed the simplest, easiest, lowest-cost system, involving incentives for depositing recyclables in special containers, minimal imposition of rules on companies, and maximum ability for anyone who was in a position to recycle to make money by recycling. The consequence of that was that California now has recycled more than a trillion containers. Had this not happened, this would have ended up as waste in the ocean, in landfills or on the streets. 

But it only happened because instead of battling each other, the stakeholders— environmentalists, labour, beverage companies, packaging companies—all sat down. There was some leverage that the government could always come in with a hammer later on if they wanted to, but we designed the system ourselves. The system worked and everybody associated with it has thrived since."

Gregory Hill

Managing Director - ANSA Merchant Bank

"When we assess financing and investment opportunities, we have to ponder: Are we reducing the bad? Are we investing in and promoting the good? With every decision that we make at the board level, we have to stop and evaluate what the footprint of our contribution will be. ESG is an ongoing journey, which will take a long time for us to see a major transformation in economies and in the way we operate. Even though we started 10 years ago, we have a long way ahead, and if we can inspire others to come along on that journey with us, every day will be more meaningful.

If we can bank customers and businesses that see sustainability as their priority, at the end of the day is going to be less risk, because the customer’s business is going to be around for a longer time. They are not going to break environmental law, get fined, or shut down. They're going to be investing in future technology, have a more inclusive board, and make better decisions—therefore their proposal represents lower risks. In turn, we will be able to finance over a longer period with a better risk profile. Those are the businesses that will benefit from lower funding costs and better access to capital. So, we've embedded ESG in our entire business model now.

John Hadad

Group co-Chief Executive Officer - HADCO Group

"When you talk about diversity and inclusion, you talk about productivity and psychological safety. We looked at our organisation knowing very well that there are members of the LGBTQ community within our company. We asked, how we can preach inclusion without extending insurance coverage for them, including medical insurance coverage for the employees and their partners. We discovered that the law states that an insurance company that offers coverage cannot include a partner of the same sex. So, what do we do? We came out of the normal system and hired a self-management company to help us self-manage the insurance, which we then offered to our LGBTQ members.

We are so accustomed in Trinidad to always bringing the government role into every single thing that we do. We transfer power to government all the time, and we don't realise the power we hold as individuals and as companies in the private sector. Let's face it, research shows that the control of capital is actually in the private sector and not with the governments of the world. That’s clear now. So, the question is, is government regulation or government involvement in ESG necessary? I say no. We say it's needed, but it's not necessary. Government is a part of the ecosystem, and they have to be there because they allow things to happen easier and can facilitate, but is not a necessary component."

Mark Loquan

President - The National Gas Company of Trinidad & Tobago Limited (NGC) 

"We see a shift looking ahead to the future, and what is needed in a sort of a strategic pipeline. This is where we need to incorporate the vision, the values, the inclusivity. So, rather than just responding to a vacancy now, I think we are getting into a whole system of succession planning, higher potential, diversity and inclusion. We haven’t reached where that should take us yet, but I think we are starting that journey. Our HR department has now been changed to “People Leadership and Culture (PLC)”, and has a very deliberate focus on these areas and even reports in our sustainability report.

I would like to see us reach a stage where the waste of energy becomes conscious in everyone's mind, where the synergies and partnerships, technical collaborations that we are beginning to see emerging now, will accelerate. The role that government plays in all of that can easily make that happen by having strong targets, clear directions, and a roadmap into which everyone buys. Otherwise, we end up with a lot of silos with the same information over and over. I hope we can get away from that."