Eco-Business’s ‘Decoding Sustainable Finance’ series wins SOPA award for excellence in explanatory reporting

Curated by finance correspondent Gabrielle See, the explainer series was commended by judges for ‘bringing clarity to Asia’s sustainable investing space’. A documentary short on Asia’s mounting waste crisis earned an honourable mention nod.

The Decoding Sustainable Finance explainer series was launched by Eco-Business last year. Image: Ng Wai Mun / Eco-Business

An explainer series that seeks to break down emerging concepts such as “transition credits” and sustainability-linked bonds in Asia’s rapidly growing sustainable finance space won Eco-Business the top accolade for explanatory reporting at this year’s Society of Publishers Asia (SOPA) awards. 

Decoding Sustainable Finance, a series launched in 2023 by editors Jessica Cheam and Ng Wai Mun, and curated by finance correspondent Gabrielle See, won the regional award for Excellence in Explanatory Reporting at the annual journalism awards held last Thursday.

SOPA is a Hong Kong-based non-profit organisation dedicated to pursuing excellence in news reporting. Its awards, open to entry nominations from global and regional outlets, recognise outstanding works of journalism over the past year in Asia-Pacific. In their comments, judges said that through the series, See tackles an ever-changing and increasingly complex subject in a clear and concise manner, bringing much-needed clarity to the Asian sustainable investing space. 

“The urgent needs around delivering on climate and transition-related targets in the region is precisely why explanatory pieces like these are so important. [They] neatly break down the stakes and challenges involved, who the various actions are, and the potential solutions, in a way that can be easily understood by the public.” 

An ongoing series, Decoding Sustainable Finance also looks into topics such as blended finance and renewable energy REITs, to inform important discussions for Asia’s businesses, financiers and sustainability practitioners. Its latest explainer looks at whether debt-for-nature swaps and other innovative financing instruments promising private money flows into biodiversity causes are effective.

See is currently working with Philippines chief correspondent Hannah Alcoseba Fernandez on a special report that takes a deep dive into how transition credits are used for early retirement of coal-fired power in the region. 

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Finance correspondent Gabrielle See (right) and regional correspondent Liang Lei (centre) briefing speakers at an event on unleashing technology for sustainable financial systems. See leads the curation of the award-winning Decoding Sustainable Finance series. Image: Roy Ng / Eco-Business

On the win, See said: “Every few months, a new sustainable finance instrument gets pushed out with much fanfare in the name of mobilising more private investments into climate action, the energy transition or nature conservation. At first blush, it seems like financial institutions, historically driven by short-term profits and speculative trading of all kinds of innovative derivatives that led to the 2007-2008 financial crisis, are starting to take the climate and biodiversity crisis seriously. But the jargon and sustainable finance terms that are being thrown around add another layer of complexity for those trying to follow the money and hold these institutions accountable.” 

See said that she hopes to improve sustainable finance literacy for the average reader “who otherwise might care nothing for finance”, so that they too can better track how the decisions that financial institutions make are impacting their lifes and livelihoods, for better or for worse. 

A total of 104 awards were given out in this year’s awards. Weekly news magazine Nikkei Asia won the global award for explanatory reporting for its report on how the issue of water and the presence of Chinese dams affect geopolitics in Asia. 

This year, Eco-Business also got an honourable mention for its 360-degree documentary short Wasted: 360 which investigates the waste landscapes in Asia, under the Excellence in Video Reporting category for regional media outlets at the SOPA awards. 

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Assistant Roy Ng filming in a landfill in India for the Wasted documentary. Image: Eco-Business

The film was co-produced by Cheam, founder and managing director of Eco-Business, and filmmaker Fraser Morton, and supported by assistant producer Roy Ng. Leveraging the interactive capabilities of the 360-degree video format, it allows viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the waste sector, and can be watched either with virtual reality (VR) glasses or on a 360-degree screen. 

SOPA judges said that this form of immersive storytelling “enables a sense of presence and [gives viewers] the ability to explore and understand the global waste problem”. The production team filmed in four key Asian countries – Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam and India – and spoke to different stakeholders in the waste sector. The full documentary premiered in Singapore in November last year and will be shown in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on 22 July. 

Cheam said that both the video format as well as explanatory reporting are avenues for media publishers to capture audience interest and keep people engaged. “Eco-Business wants to be a platform to bring together high-level decision makers in finance, business, government and civic society to discuss and commit to actionable initiatives that mobilise the capital markets for sustainable development.”

“By tracking key issues in the sustainable finance space and bringing clarity to new concepts, we want to help our readers develop well-informed opinions, as well as convey nuance and context in an easily digestible way,” she said.

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Wasted producers Fraser Morton (left) and Jessica Cheam (centre) filming at a recycling facility in Singapore. Image: Eco-Business

On Wasted, Cheam said that waste is a huge contributor to global carbon emissions, and the film provokes questions around why the world is still squandering the opportunities to fix the obvious systemic problems surrounding the issue. “We need Asia’s regulators to enact extended producer laws immediately to solve this crisis.” 

The regional winner for excellence in video reporting at this year’s SOPA awards is an investigative short that is also environmentally-focused. The film, produced by Narasi Newsroom, tracks greenwashing and anti-deforestation claims by big companies. 

Other environmental pieces that won recognition at the SOPA 2024 Awards include Beneath the sands, an investigative news series produced by the Environmental Reporting Collective with newsrooms and journalists across 12 countries and two continents, to look into the global sand mining business, and a New York Times’ data story How to cool down a city

Eco-Business’s special report that explores and scrutinises whether Asia’s shipowners are doing enough to cut greenhouse gas emissions landed a finalist spot in the Excellence in Infographics category this year. 

Last year, the media publication was the winner in the Excellence in Audio Reporting category for its podcast on secrecy surrounding sand extraction in Singapore. 

Eco-Business is dedicated to reporting on Asia’s most important sustainable development issues. Support our independent journalism by signing up as a subscriber.

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