Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) is a system for evaluating a firm’s collective conscientiousness for social and environmental factors. It provides a ranking by compiling data collected surrounding specific metrics related to intangible assets within the enterprise. The Israel Innovation Authority has now launched its own ESG Index for Israel’s high tech industry.
The index will gradually be assimilated into all of the Authority’s funding mechanisms and will serve as a risk management tool for high-tech companies. Over the coming years, in the world of investments, ESG will be an inseparable part of managing risks, and investors’ consciousness of the relevance of environmental, society and corporate governance will factor into their investments.
Today the responsible investments market (as defined by the UN) is estimated at around $103 trillion, with these investments becoming a significant tool that helps in determining the composition of investment portfolios for leading banks and institutions around the world. The demand for responsible investments comes from two channels – investors looking for more transparency on where and how their money is invested, and regulators who see the assimilation of ESG elements as the companies’ legal and/or ethical obligation towards their investors. In addition, the ESG index contributes to long-term strategic thinking, and having the companies use the index can lead to a reduction in risk and an improvement on the returns on investment, and therefore it is important to the development and growth of the companies. The obligation of an ESG report already exists in some of the countries for some of the issues, for example: corporate governance, modern slavery, employment diversification, carbon reduction and more.
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The Israel Innovation Authority has begun the process of assimilating ESG into its funding channels, as part of a worldview that promotes sustainable industry in Israel and in order to create an index for reduced-risk responsible investments among Israeli technology companies. The implementation process will begin as a pilot on a number of the Authority’s funding programs, and will be accompanied by meetups, workshops and trainings for companies, in order to guide them on how to make use of these parameters.
Anya Eldan, Vice President of the Innovation Authority and Head of Startup Division & Business Development: “The ESG index and “green” investments are gaining steam in the world as the climate crisis and the issue of sustainability become more critical; this trend isn’t currently significant in Israel, because there is no regulatory urgency yet, and therefore Israeli technology companies haven’t yet adopted the index on their own initiative.”
“The Israeli high-tech industry can’t allow itself to remain behind,” he added, “and therefore we want to start making a change right now and make high-tech companies take note, investigate, analyses and report, and help them learn how they can make use of these parameters – the goal is to motivate them to adopt this thinking as part of their business strategy and as a risk management tool in their companies, since this is important for the success and the advancement of their businesses in Israeli and in international markets, and this is how investors, clients and other interested parties will view them.”
During the first stage, the Authority will assimilate a number of questions that are related to different aspects of the index: environmental, social, and governance. These questions will be included in the online section of grant applications for the following Authority funding programs: R&D fund, Seed Fund, Technological Incubators, Entrepreneurial Incubators in the periphery, and Innovation Labs. At this stage the goal is to assess the companies’ responsiveness to these questions and how these subjects are expressed in the submitted project. There will also be workshops to explain and train for the companies accordingly. During the following stages, the Authority plans to gather this data and use it as a basis for defining the index that will be part of final professional review they undergo.