Catherine Chen, Founder and CEO of AvantFaire Investment Management Limited, was invited to speak in a panel discussion on “Green Recovery, Co-creation and Sharing” in the China Social Enterprise and Impact Investing Forum 2021 on 2nd December 2021. More than 1.1 million viewers tuned in to this panel discussion online. The panel was moderated by Mr Lei Yongsheng from Lao Niu Foundation. The panelists hail from various backgrounds, including entrepreneurs, business leaders, asset managers, foundations and media, including but not limited to Mr Chen Dongsheng from Taikang Insurance, Mr Chen Ke from Anda Sports and Qing Gu from Ford Foundation.

First Panel – Entrepreneurs and industry leaders – Business for Good

Mr Chen Dongsheng shared his original vision when he set up Taikang insurance to be the top-ranking insurance company in China – Business for Good. He gave an example of his pioneer insurance product catering to the elderly segment, which requires a heavy initial investment with a long payback period. While this product was not favoured by most investors in the market at that point in time, the product eventually became very successful in the market.

Mr Dingyong from iZhaohu, a technology-based company which is specialized in addressing the many pain points of the high cost of elderly care, including the lack of qualified caretakers. One of the solutions is to provide a “Hospital at Home” solution utilizing IoT, AI, big data and telemedicine services. By enabling the family member to take on the role of the primary caretaker with the aid of professionals in telemedicine, effectively reduces the burden on public healthcare services and enhance the quality of life for the elderly.

Mr Wu Fa from China International Marine Containers (Group) Ltd (“CIMC”)aims to align the company direction with the secular trends of society, which includes sustainability, biodiversity, low carbon emission. CIMC has shared their experience in early 2011 to start replacing tropical hardwood with bamboo during the production of containers, and this served to enhance the livelihood of the village that assisted in bamboo harvesting. At the same time, the secondary objective of being more eco-friendly is also achieved.

Mr Chen Ke said Anda Sports has been focusing on ESG reporting since 2016 and has reduced the revenue per emission significantly by ~40% in recent years. Anda focuses on producing competitively priced products as well as using more environmental-friendly raw materials to help reduce overall energy use and carbon emission.

Zhang Yu, the founder of AGan Guokui, aims at providing customers best quality bread by providing quality bread products from a careful selection of starch, meat, logistics and factory. AGan Guokui also focuses on employee development by enabling shop managers to become shareholders. It also provides funds for elderly people, retired soldiers and university graduates to join the franchise at no cost.

Second Panel – Asset Manager – Capital to drive for sustainability

Catherine emphasized that the Covid-19 pandemic has made a systematic and irreversible change to society. She saw this rather as a good opportunity for enterprises to adapt their business model in response to the pandemic to be more sustainable. AvantFaire has a stringent and standardized investment process to identify the impact angle for every investment to ensure all the investee follows the ESG framework, including green production, employee rights protection and management transparency. She also sees companies with better ESG having better performance and profitability in the long run.

Mr Tang Ronghan commented that the recent government’s policy of achieving carbon neutrality by 2060 as opening doors for asset managers in terms of fundraising and finding investment opportunities on both sides of the market. He also encourages investors to be patient in capital deployment and to invest in long term sustainability rather than seek short term profits.

Third Panel – Media – Partnership to do good with enterprises

Mr Lu Zhenya, the president of iNewsWeek, added that he is glad to witness many enterprises adopting sustainability and carbon neutrality in their corporate strategies. He sees the media as not only a channel for communication but also as a useful source of sustainability information and governance best practices to those enterprises.

Mr Zhang Yuhao, the founder of FOFWeekly, commented that he sees a tremendous growth of assets under management for green and carbon neutrality funds to reach over CNY 200 billion this year. He believes that sustainability could be promoted by having an annual award ceremony for top-performing funds with the inclusion of judging criteria such as corporate responsibility and carbon neutrality among other factors.

Fourth Panel – Enterprise & Foundation – Opportunities in Social enterprises/Green bond

Ms Guo Meiling, the chairman of Shiji Changhe Tech Co Ltd, observed that the Covid-19 pandemic has had an inevitable impact on many businesses. As a healthcare technology company, the firm sees an opportunity in the disease prevention business as people gradually become more health-conscious after the pandemic.

Ms Gu Qing from Ford Foundation highlights the difference between the concepts of philanthropy and charity donation.  She also shared that the US-based foundations utilize financial instruments to generate investment returns for charity donations. She sees the enormous potential of financial instruments such as green bonds as suitable for impact investment.

Mr Liu Wenkui from China Foundation for poverty alleviation reckons that investing in a social enterprise can lead to the multiplier effect for capital. He gave an example of investing in a platform that allows farmers to sell their harvest, achieving the twin benefits of alleviating poverty issues and providing investment returns for the Foundation to fund other social enterprises.