Photo of Alexander W. Burdulia

Alexander W. Burdulia is a Registered Foreign Lawyer in the Corporate & Securities practice in Mayer Brown's Hong Kong office. He advises asset managers and other investors, corporations and financial institutions in a variety of corporate and commercial matters including private equity and venture capital investments and financings, investment fund matters and cross-border mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures.

Alex is a key contact point for the ESG Initiative within the Mayer Brown network and a founding member of the Firm’s ESG Steering Committee. He has advised impact investors in investment transactions and is experienced in ESG reporting, policies and governance structures. He was responsible for sustainable finance regulatory and advocacy matters while serving as the Head of APAC Public Policy on secondment at a leading international bank and is both a GRI Certified Sustainability Professional and SASB FSA Credential Holder. Alex is a frequent author on ESG-related topics and co-editor of Mayer Brown’s global ESG blog, www.eyeonesg.com.

Read full bio.

The sustainable investing market is witnessing remarkable growth: since 2018, annual cash flows into sustainable funds have increased tenfold. Now, more than ever, investors and asset managers alike seek sustainable products and strategies offering robust financial returns. The field, however, has been haunted by greenwashing claims and a lack of consistency in identifying what, exactly, makes an investment “sustainable”.

Sustainability or “green” taxonomies developed by governments, international bodies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can help resolve these challenges and inconsistencies by identifying specific assets, activities or projects that meet defined thresholds and metrics that quantify sustainability. These systems can cover the full spectrum of sustainability topics, from achieving acceptable levels of greenhouse gas emissions to compliance with certain human rights standards. Among other benefits, sustainability taxonomies can:

  • assist investors, asset managers and asset owners in identifying sustainable investment opportunities and constructing sustainable portfolios that align with taxonomy criteria;
  • drive capital more efficiently toward priority sustainability projects;
  • help protect asset managers against claims of greenwashing by providing an independent benchmark for the sustainability performance of investments; and
  • guide future public policies and regulations targeting specific economic activities based on taxonomy criteria.

In this series of Blog Posts, we first provide a brief overview of some of the key existing and developing taxonomies around the world. We then set out our analysis of the ways asset managers are already leveraging taxonomies in their businesses based on a review of publicly available responsible investment reports.  Finally, we highlight certain challenges that asset managers may encounter as these systems develop and interest in sustainable investing continues to grow.

Continue reading this Part III to understand some of the taxonomy-related challenges that asset managers may encounter. You can find Parts I and II here and here.


Continue Reading Leveraging Taxonomies: How Asset Managers Are Using New Sustainability Classification Systems – Part III

The sustainable investing market is witnessing remarkable growth: since 2018, annual cash flows into sustainable funds have increased tenfold. Now, more than ever, investors and asset managers alike seek sustainable products and strategies offering robust financial returns. The field, however, has been haunted by greenwashing claims and a lack of consistency in identifying what, exactly, makes an investment “sustainable”.

Sustainability or “green” taxonomies developed by governments, international bodies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can help resolve these challenges and inconsistencies by identifying specific assets, activities or projects that meet defined thresholds and metrics that quantify sustainability. These systems can cover the full spectrum of sustainability topics, from achieving acceptable levels of greenhouse gas emissions to compliance with certain human rights standards. Among other benefits, sustainability taxonomies can:

  • assist investors, asset managers and asset owners in identifying sustainable investment opportunities and constructing sustainable portfolios that align with taxonomy criteria;
  • drive capital more efficiently toward priority sustainability projects;
  • help protect asset managers against claims of greenwashing by providing an independent benchmark for the sustainability performance of investments; and
  • guide future public policies and regulations targeting specific economic activities based on taxonomy criteria.

In this series of Blog Posts, we first provide a brief overview of some of the key existing and developing taxonomies around the world. We then set out our analysis of the ways asset managers are already leveraging taxonomies in their businesses based on a review of publicly available responsible investment reports.  Finally, we highlight certain challenges that asset managers may encounter as these systems develop and interest in sustainable investing continues to grow.

Continue reading this Part II for our analysis of how asset managers are already leveraging taxonomies. You can find Parts I and III here and here.


Continue Reading Leveraging Taxonomies: How Asset Managers Are Using New Sustainability Classification Systems – Part II

The sustainable investing market is witnessing remarkable growth: since 2018, annual cash flows into sustainable funds have increased tenfold. Now, more than ever, investors and asset managers alike seek sustainable products and strategies offering robust financial returns. The field, however, has been haunted by greenwashing claims and a lack of consistency in identifying what, exactly, makes an investment “sustainable”.

Sustainability or “green” taxonomies developed by governments, international bodies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can help resolve these challenges and inconsistencies by identifying specific assets, activities or projects that meet defined thresholds and metrics that quantify sustainability. These systems can cover the full spectrum of sustainability topics, from achieving acceptable levels of greenhouse gas emissions to compliance with certain human rights standards. Among other benefits, sustainability taxonomies can:

  • assist investors, asset managers and asset owners in identifying sustainable investment opportunities and constructing sustainable portfolios that align with taxonomy criteria;
  • drive capital more efficiently toward priority sustainability projects;
  • help protect asset managers against claims of greenwashing by providing an independent benchmark for the sustainability performance of investments; and
  • guide future public policies and regulations targeting specific economic activities based on taxonomy criteria.

In this series of Blog Posts, we first provide a brief overview of some of the key existing and developing taxonomies around the world. We then set out our analysis of the ways asset managers are already leveraging taxonomies in their businesses based on a review of publicly available responsible investment reports.  Finally, we highlight certain challenges that asset managers may encounter as these systems develop and interest in sustainable investing continues to grow.

Continue reading this Part I for a better understanding of existing and developing taxonomies around the world. You can find Parts II and III here and here.


Continue Reading Leveraging Taxonomies: How Asset Managers Are Using New Sustainability Classification Systems – Part I

In order to implement the “Plan for the Reform of the Legal Disclosure System of Environmental Information” issued by China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) in May 2021, the MEE has issued new disclosure rules (Rules) that will require domestic entities to disclose a range of environmental information

On December 15, 2021, the Singapore Exchange (SGX) responded to two consultations addressing a range of ESG-related topics that could significantly change the ESG reporting landscape for listed companies in Singapore. The consultations address the implementation of (i) mandatory climate-related disclosures for certain sectors aligned with the Recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), (ii) mandatory diversity-related disclosures for all issuers and (iii) a list of 27 “Core ESG Metrics” to help listed companies align their ESG disclosures with international standards and best practices on a voluntary basis.

As SGX otherwise requires ESG reporting on a comply-or-explain basis only, these proposals represent a shift toward an increased focus on mandatory climate and diversity disclosures that, in particular, has taken hold among Asian regulators. Just this month, the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong implemented mandatory gender diversity requirements and Hong Kong’s Cross-Agency Steering Group reported “progress towards mandating climate-related disclosures aligned with the TCFD framework by 2025 across relevant sectors”, while a group of Malaysian regulators announced their intention to implement mandatory TCFD disclosures by the end of 2024.

In this Blog Post, we highlight key aspects of the recent SGX announcements and provide guidance on how companies are already implementing ESG frameworks incorporating TCFD and more.


Continue Reading Singapore Regulator Prioritizes TCFD, Diversity and ESG Metrics in New Disclosure Rules and Guidance

“Delivering effective corporate governance practices and ESG measures is more than a box-ticking exercise. The change needs to begin with a shift of mindset at the top of the organisations.” – SEHK, December 2021

On December 10, 2021, the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited (SEHK) published the conclusions from its April 2021 consultation on amendments to the SEHK’s Corporate Governance Code (the Code) and Listing Rules intended to promote good corporate governance practices among listed companies and IPO applicants. The final amendments address a range of topics that could significantly change the way that the boards of covered entities operate, including with respect to gender diversity, ESG reporting timelines and the role that ESG plays in corporate governance structures and processes.

In this Blog Post, we highlight final amendments to the Code and the Listing Rules addressing the link between ESG and good corporate governance, ESG reporting and gender diversity at both the board and workforce levels.


Continue Reading ESG and Gender Diversity Requirements Finalized for Listed Companies and IPO Applicants in Hong Kong

On November 26, 2021, Hong Kong’s Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority (MPFA) advanced the Special Administrative Region’s sustainable finance strategy with new Principles for Adopting Sustainable Investing in the Investment and Risk Management Processes of MPF Funds (the Principles). The Principles lay out a high-level ESG integration framework for trustees of Mandatory Provident Funds (MPF), the investment vehicles for the Hong Kong’s mandatory retirement protection scheme, across four key elements: governance, strategy, risk management and disclosure.

In this Blog Post, we provide a brief overview of the Principles and highlight each element, as well as important next steps for MPF trustees. We also provide guidance on how companies are already implementing ESG frameworks similar to the Principles.


Continue Reading Hong Kong Regulator Issues Sustainable Investing Principles for Pension Fund Trustees

On November 10, 2021, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) released Version 1 of the ASEAN Taxonomy for Sustainable Finance (the “ASEAN Taxonomy“). First announced in March 2021, the ASEAN Taxonomy will provide a common language for sustainable finance among the ten ASEAN Member States (AMS) that, together, comprise the fifth largest economy in the world. This is a necessary and timely development as ASEAN remains highly vulnerable to climate change, which has had a significant impact on the people, businesses and governments of ASEAN.

Version 1 is a significant step in ASEAN’s sustainability journey, as this initial document will provide the framework for continuing discussions among AMS as the ASEAN Taxonomy develops. In this Blog Post, we highlight key aspects of Version 1 of the ASEAN Taxonomy and compare this new framework against the world’s most prominent sustainability taxonomy, the EU’s Taxonomy Regulation (the “EU Taxonomy“).


Continue Reading ASEAN Releases Sustainability Taxonomy for Southeast Asia

Many factors are putting pressure on corporates and financial institutions to address climate change. The UK is currently rolling out mandatory economy-wide disclosure in accordance with the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) Recommendations. Beyond this lies immense investor and stakeholder pressure, including by way of shareholder resolutions, and increased media, NGO

‘With the most significant change since the GRI Standards launched in 2016, the revised Universal Standards set a new global benchmark for corporate transparency. Fully addressing gaps between the available disclosure frameworks and intergovernmental expectations for responsible business, including human rights reporting, they will enable more effective and comprehensive reporting than ever before.’

Judy Kuszewski, Chair of GRI’s Independent Global Sustainability Standard’s Board

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) have revised their Universal Standards to emphasize and require more transparency in reporting on human rights impacts and due diligence obligations. This is a significant update because all entities reporting in accordance with the GRI standards are required to report on the Universal Standards (now GRI 1, 2 and 3). Previously, human rights-related disclosures were addressed largely in the GRI 400 series on Social topics, on which an organization is required to report only if it determines those topics to be material. Under the revised Universal Standards, all companies reporting in accordance with the GRI Standards will need to be able to identify (and disclose) how they identify severe risks to the economy, environment and people—this now clearly includes impacts on human rights connected with their business, and what they are doing to address these risks.

This development is part of a multi-phase project to update the GRI’s human rights-related disclosures, and the emphasis on “double materiality” brings the GRI standards in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and emerging mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence legislation (see our Previous Blogs here and here).  For companies that already adhere to the UNGPs, these revisions may not present a significant new challenge in practice; however, for companies that have not to date sought to explicitly adhere to the UNGPs, this will present a new challenge in terms of meeting the revised GRI standards.


Continue Reading Business and Human Rights: Revised GRI Standards Integrate UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and Foreshadow Emerging Mandatory Human Rights and Environmental Due Diligence Legislation