On September 16, ESG Global Advisors Principal Michelle de Cordova attended the International Cannabis Business Conference in Vancouver and has shared some of her key takeaways from the conference.

There were no ESG sessions on the agenda. Session topics ranged across regulatory models, investment themes, international markets and the future of Canadian craft cannabis post-prohibition. However, financially-material environmental and social risks and opportunities were touched on throughout the day, and there was a strong sustainability thread in questions from the floor.

On the environmental side, concerns were expressed about excessive packaging and waste. Social factors discussed included product quality standards, lack of attention in regulation for the needs of medical cannabis users, and cyber security and data protection. Governance topics included participation in policy and regulatory processes and documentation and assurance for regulatory compliance. Finance speakers highlighted the importance of quality of management, including for early stage companies – and there was a warning that the majority of cannabis listings could be “paper companies”.

Off the main conference floor, Michelle had interesting conversations on gender issues with several of the women attendees and trade show stall holders, touching on increasing the participation of women in the industry (echoes of the natural resource sector), the human capital risks associated with “bro” culture in cannabis (echoes of the IT sector), and presenting cannabis in new ways to women (think cannabis edibles for the book club meeting).

Michelle’s post-conference reading resolution: look into the science of the bio-remediation properties of hemp planted on contaminated land.

ESG Global Advisors is looking forward to participating in further discussion on ESG risks and opportunities in the cannabis sector at the upcoming breakfast panel session that we are hosting with the CCGG and CPA Canada. The panel will explore institutional investor and company perspectives on how to advance governance in the cannabis industry and address the material environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks and opportunities facing the sector.