ESG 2023 Comparisons

Last Updated November 09, 2023

Contributed By AB & David Africa

Law and Practice


AB & David Africa is a pan-African business law firm with a network of firms in 30 African countries, serving private and public organisations across the world, including businesses, public sector agencies, financial institutions, and international organisations. The firm’s aim is simple: to help our clients succeed in Africa with their business and projects by guiding, developing strategy and working with them to implement their strategic mission and objectives. As a full-service law firm, AB & David Africa’s ESG cross-practice team is at the forefront of providing advice on the legal aspects of business and policy regarding green transition and sustainability in the region. The team regularly assists clients within the broader range of legal services in the energy, infrastructure, and natural resources sectors, including advice on project development, licensing and permitting, M&A, financing, regulatory compliance, dispute resolution, and taxation.


ESG is an initialism, standing for “Environmental, Social and Governance”, as well as an umbrella term that describes the framework used by stakeholders to assess how environmental, social and governance factors affect the sustainability of the operations of companies and states. ESG-related matters have achieved top-of-mind awareness for stakeholders in all sectors and are increasingly being integrated in every aspect of business, social and political life globally. States have taken a key interest in promoting ESG, which has led to the adoption of policies and ‒ in some cases ‒ the enactment of legislation towards the achievement of these goals.

Ghana is no exception to these developments. In line with global trends, especially considering the overlay with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the country has taken some bold policy and regulatory initiatives to achieve its sustainability goals. This article examines some of the recent developments around ESG, including key trending initiatives that support Ghana’s path to a sustainable future.

Overview of ESG in Ghana

In the environmental area, along with legislation regulating environmental matters, many policies that focus on energy transition, security, and efficiency have been adopted in the past two years. By way of example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Act 1994 (Act 490) is currently undergoing review in order to provide adequate legal backing for the national system for greenhouse gas inventory. The proposed bill sets out the functions of the EPA and the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, which is responsible for the environment, in leading the implementation and enforcement of climate-change-related policies. The bill also provides for the establishment of the Ghana Carbon Registry and a Greenhouse Emission Mitigation Ambition Fund. Other policies, such as the National Energy Transition Framework and the Energy Transition Investment Plan, are also here discussed in subsequent sections.

In respect of the social pillar, fundamental human rights are enshrined in the 1992 Constitution and enforced through various legislation ‒ many of which reflect ratified International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions. The existing laws provide adequate protections against violations of fundamental human rights and freedoms, injustice and corruption, abuse of power and unfair treatment of persons by public officers. Employees have protections from discrimination, unfair labour practices, and unhealthy and unsafe environments. There are also statutory safeguards against the engagement of children in exploitative labour and human trafficking. As regards community engagement, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has become mandatory in some regulated sectors (eg, oil and gas and mining), considering the impact of operations on the community. Some mining companies have community development agreements with host communities to fund and implement projects that support the development and well-being of people in mining-affected communities.

In respect of the governance pillar, the Companies Act 2019 (Act 992) prescribes the structure for corporate governance, which is centred mainly on the shareholders, the board, management, and auditors of the company. Act 992 allocates the role, powers and limitations of each stakeholder, thereby imposing checks and balances on the exercise of power. For regulated sectors such as finance, insurance, pensions and listed companies, the appointment of directors is subject to the approval of the regulator based on the qualifications and defined suitability criteria. In addition, regulators in the financial sector have issued guidelines and directives on corporate governance for regulated organisations. These include the Corporate Governance Code for Listed Companies (2020) and the Securities Industry (Conduct of Business) Guidelines (2020) issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), as well as the Corporate Governance Disclosure Directives (2022) issued by the Bank of Ghana.

The past two years have seen significant growth in Ghana’s ESG efforts concerning environmental matters, which has advanced green growth and green recovery post-pandemic. The subsequent sections delve deeper into the following trends in this area:

  • achieving a carbon-free Ghanaian economy through just energy transition;
  • monetising carbon emissions reduction through carbon markets; and
  • sustainable financing through ESG practices in Ghana’s capital market.

Towards a Carbon-Free Ghanaian Economy Through Just Energy Transition

Just energy transition is the fulcrum of Ghana’s National Energy Transition Framework (NETF) and the Energy Transition and Investment Plan (ETIP), which comprise the policy framework that set out the roadmap for attaining net zero.

National Energy Transition Framework (2022‒70)

The NETF was first unveiled by Ghana’s President during the Sharm el-Sheikh Climate Change Conference (COP 27) in November 2022. This comprehensive blueprint charts Ghana’s path towards decarbonising its energy sector by striving for net-zero emissions by 2070 while fostering socioeconomic growth and responsible natural resource utilisation. Key areas of focus encompass:

  • decarbonisation through increasing renewable energy’s share in the power mix by 10% by 2030, incorporating nuclear energy, implementing carbon capture and storage technology, and employing natural gas as a transitional fuel;
  • improving energy access and security by accelerating oil and gas exploration to fund clean energy development, expanding gas infrastructure, harnessing critical minerals such as lithium, and strengthening power transmission and distribution systems to accommodate renewables;
  • strengthening energy efficiency by boosting energy efficiency programmes, advocating for high-quality energy appliances and clean stoves, promoting energy-efficient building construction, and integrating efficient technology in SMEs; and
  • cross-cutting initiatives such as decentralising energy transition efforts, establishing an energy transition fund, integrating energy transition education into academic curricula, and encouraging local participation and content in implementation.

Energy Transition and Investment Plan

The ETIP was made public during the Global Africa Business Initiative in New York on 21 September 2023, coinciding with the 78th session of the UN General Assembly. This significant event followed the President’s participation in the Africa Climate Summit on 6 September 2023, where the Nairobi Declaration on Climate Change and Call to Action was adopted by Ghana alongside other African heads of state and government.

The ETIP offers a comprehensive and practical roadmap that revolutionises the NETF. Notably, the ETIP takes the 2070 net-zero ambition a step further by advancing Ghana’s net-zero target by a decade, now aiming to reach this milestone by 2060. It seeks to implement an orderly transition characterised by prioritising the decarbonisation measures with the most cost-effective emission reduction potential. Confirming the NETF estimation of the financing requirements for the transition, the ETIP states that about USD500 billion would be required for Ghana’s energy transition to net zero and this would be sourced mainly from the capital markets.

The plan revolves around the following six core considerations:

  • attracting investments in clean energy infrastructure totalling USD24 billion in the near term and rising to USD500 billion by 2060;
  • creating new domestic industries in solar photovoltaics (PV), electric vehicles, lithium-ion batteries and clean cookstoves in anticipation that the global market for clean technologies will reach USD650 billion by 2030;
  • ensuring energy security and a favourable trade balance by reducing oil and gas consumption by 90% by 2060 and releasing these commodities for export;
  • generating 400,000 employment opportunities, 80% of which is directly stimulated by net zero investments in solar PV, and electric vehicle (EV)-charging/hydrogen-fuelling stations;
  • promoting environmental sustainability with a one gigaton carbon dioxide (1 GtCO2) total carbon budget and two gigaton carbon dioxide (2 GtCO2) emission reduction by 2060; and
  • enhancing energy affordability by minimising energy costs to the Ghanaian population and energy-dependent domestic sectors.

The ETIP directs its efforts toward five energy-intensive sectors within the Ghanaian economy ‒ namely, oil and gas, industry, transportation, cooking/building, and power, which are discussed here.

Oil and gas

The ETIP targets emission reduction in the oil and gas sector through measures such as pipeline gas exports in order to minimise flaring and venting. Domestic oil and gas demand is expected to peak in 2035, with gas remaining crucial for industrial processes. However, the plan does not detail post-2035 upstream oil and gas extraction, despite many petroleum agreements expiring. Nonetheless, the goal is a favourable trade balance through exports, likely maintaining upstream activities with a focus on gas production. This implies that businesses operating in Ghana’s upstream sector should embrace cost-efficient and technically viable methods to diminish their greenhouse gas emissions.

Feasible strategies range from straightforward enhancements in energy efficiency and the integration of renewable energy sources to more intricate measures such as the adoption of emission control and carbon capture and storage technologies. To ensure adherence, the enactment of regulations mandating emission reduction measures might become essential.

According to the National Energy Policy 2021, Ghana has an ambition to expand the total petroleum refinery capacity of the country. In the downstream sector, the ETIP provides that refining processes will shift to gas and adopt carbon capture and storage technologies to reduce emissions from oil refining by 2035.


The ETIP prioritises key industrial sectors, including iron and steel production, chemical manufacturing, and cement production. By 2040, a significant shift away from fossil fuels is expected, with clean electricity and hydrogen growing substantially from 2040 to 2060, while natural gas dwindles and becomes negligible by 2060. The adoption of Bioenergy Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) from 2040 will further help to reduce carbon emissions. To thrive during this transition, businesses in these sectors should conduct energy audits, collaborate on research, and invest in workforce upskilling to adapt to evolving technologies and meet Ghana’s energy transition goals effectively.


The ETIP covers various transportation modes, including railways, aviation, shipping, and land-based vehicles such as cars, buses, and trucks. Fossil fuel will remain dominant until 2035 but is expected to decline thereafter. By 2035, EVs will become cost-competitive, with a shift toward electric buses and motorcycles. Hydrogen is envisioned for long-distance buses and trucks. Aviation and shipping will still rely on fossil fuels but will transition to biofuels by 2060. Ghana is also finalising an EV policy, building on the Drive Electric Initiative (DEI) launched in 2019. The Ghana Electric Vehicle Baseline Survey Report (GEVBSR) proposes measures such as charging infrastructure, financial incentives, training, and local mineral resources utilisation for battery production to support EV adoption.


The ETIP identifies cooking and water heating as major CO2 emission sources in buildings, primarily owing to biomass and oil use. By 2025, a shift towards greener practices is expected as cleaner electricity becomes the dominant energy source for water heating and cooking in Ghanaian buildings. The country is increasingly aware of the benefits of green buildings and there are government initiatives promoting their adoption. Ghana is actively developing green building guidelines and standards with support from partners such as GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) and the United Nations Climate Technology Centre and Network (UNCTCN).


In Ghana’s power sector, there’s a positive trend towards a low-carbon energy mix, as projections indicate a significant shift. By 2030, low-carbon technologies are expected to make up 57% of the generation mix, growing to 81% in 2040, 84% in 2050, and 86% in 2060. Solar PV will be a major contributor from 2035 to 2060, alongside gas, wind, hydropower, and nuclear.

However, challenges exist for utility-scale renewable investments owing to legacy debts, thereby posing financial risks to power producers and utilities. A turning point is expected around 2035, when retiring thermal plants open opportunities for renewable capacity. To drive investor appetite, the Energy Commission of Ghana has recently lifted a three-year moratorium on the issuance of licences for wholesale electricity supply. This is a positive step ‒ although success will mainly depend on macroeconomic stability and creating demand for clean energy in key sectors.

Ghana’s commitment to nuclear power in its energy transition is evident by the country’s three-phase Nuclear Energy Programme, which is set to introduce its first nuclear power plant. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) assessments in 2017 and 2019 affirmed Ghana’s readiness for nuclear power.

Monetising Emission Reduction Through Carbon Markets

In December 2022, Ghana introduced the Framework on International Carbon Markets and Non-Market Approaches (ICM/NMA) as part of its voluntary commitment to the revised 2021 Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). This framework, anchored in the EPA Act 1994 (Act 490), aims to unlock 24 MtCO2eq of conditional absolute emission reductions for trade under Article 6.2 of the Paris Agreement.

Ghana is diligently establishing the necessary institutional frameworks for the effective implementation of the carbon market. This includes the establishment of a dedicated Carbon Market Office within the EPA’s Climate Change Unit, tasked with executing policies and guidelines for mitigation activities. Simultaneously, the Ghana Carbon Registry (GCR) has been launched to collect, verify and monitor emissions data from various sources. In May 2022, Ghana produced its Fifth Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report, demonstrating its commitment to carbon market management and environmental accountability.

Ghana has successfully engaged in nature-based solutions for carbon dioxide removal, reaping both national and local benefits. In July 2019, Ghana entered into a five-year Emission Reduction Payment Agreement (ERPA) with the World Bank to reduce carbon emissions in forestry and land use sectors in exchange for USD50 million in performance-based payments. The World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) disbursed around USD4.8 million in January 2023 as part of this agreement, recognising Ghana’s remarkable reduction of 972,456 tons of carbon emissions. About 69% of these payments are earmarked to support local communities and farmer groups in cultivating shaded cocoa systems, aiding in forest preservation, and combatting illegal activities. Ghana’s collaboration with the World Bank’s PROGREEN initiative also aims to integrate 210,000 hectares of cocoa forest landscapes into Community Resource Management Areas (CREMAs), thereby empowering local communities in conservation. This effort enhances farmer well-being, with thousands transitioning to sustainable agriculture practices.

Furthermore, Ghana’s collaborative effort with Switzerland on International Transferable Mitigation Outcomes (ITMOs) ‒ launched at COP27 ‒ aims to train thousands of rice farmers, covering nearly 80% of the country’s rice production. This initiative promotes sustainable agricultural practices, leading to substantial reductions in methane emissions. Additionally, it offers farmers extra income through carbon revenue, enhancing resilience and optimising water usage. Ghana also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Sweden at COP26 in Glasgow to work together to achieve emission reductions; this is currently awaiting ratification by Parliament. The Ghana‒Singapore Carbon Credits Co-operation is another ITMO that is yet to be signed but has already attracted investments in emission reduction projects in Ghana from companies from Singapore.

Sustainable Financing Through ESG Reporting in Ghana’s Capital Markets

In Ghana’s capital markets, several policies and regulatory measures have emerged to facilitate investments in environmentally friendly initiatives, as shall be discussed. These initiatives offer avenues for businesses to secure financing for projects aimed at reducing emissions, while also enabling capital market institutions to actively promote sustainability goals.

SEC Capital Markets Master Plan 2020‒29

The SEC plays a pivotal role in Ghana’s capital markets. In collaboration with the Ministry of Finance, the SEC has devised a Capital Markets Master Plan (CMMP) to foster sustainable growth. An essential aspect of this plan is to diversify investment products and enhance market liquidity. The CMMP advocates for green bonds to address environmental and social concerns while broadening market offerings. The SEC, recognising the importance of a legal framework for green bonds, partnered with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) in 2021 to develop the green bond market.

In 2021, the National Pension Regulatory Authority (NPRA) incorporated responsible investing principles under its Guidelines on Investment of Tier 2 and Tier 3 Pension Scheme Funds. These guidelines require pension schemes to incorporate ESG factors in investment decision making. Also, pension schemes are allowed to invest up to 5% of the asset under their management in government green bonds and an additional 5% in corporate green bonds.

Additionally, in 2022, the government introduced the Green Exchange. This is dedicated to trading sustainability instruments ‒ in particular, green bonds and stocks.

Ghana Stock Exchange launches ESG manual for listed companies

In November 2022, the Ghana Stock Exchange (GSE) unveiled the ESG Disclosures Guidance Manual in order to assist listed companies in Ghana in gathering, analysing and publicly presenting ESG data in accordance with international sustainability reporting standards. This guide was developed in collaboration with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the African Securities Exchanges Association (ASEA), and the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).

The manual adheres to GRI Reporting Principles, which emphasise accuracy, balance, clarity, comparability, completeness, sustainability context, timelines and verifiability. It provides a comprehensive, step-by-step process for ESG reporting by listed firms. Additionally, the manual outlines how these companies can demonstrate their commitment to the SDGs by aligning their ESG topics with SDG targets in their reports.

Introduction of sustainability bonds under the Ghana Fixed Income Market

In April 2022, the Ghana Fixed Income Market (GFIM) Listing Rules were updated to incorporate criteria and guidelines for issuing sustainability bonds, thereby facilitating their listing and trading within the GFIM framework. These sustainability bonds encompass various categories, including social bonds, gender bonds, green bonds, sustainability bonds, sustainability-linked bonds, and other sustainability-themed bonds. These bonds are accessible to all investors and the funds generated can support a range of projects in areas such as education, renewable energy, water resources, healthcare, gender equality, and women’s empowerment. This flexibility empowers issuers to fine-tune their strategies for sustainability, tapping into the growing demand for such instruments among investors.


Ghana’s above-mentioned commitments showcase the country’s dedication to sustainability and a holistic approach to ESG. As global interests around ESG continue to escalate, it is expected that the implementation of these initiatives ‒ along with the necessary support from global and domestic stakeholders ‒ will bring the country closer to net zero and other sustainability goals.

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Law and Practice in Ghana


AB & David Africa is a pan-African business law firm with a network of firms in 30 African countries, serving private and public organisations across the world, including businesses, public sector agencies, financial institutions, and international organisations. The firm’s aim is simple: to help our clients succeed in Africa with their business and projects by guiding, developing strategy and working with them to implement their strategic mission and objectives. As a full-service law firm, AB & David Africa’s ESG cross-practice team is at the forefront of providing advice on the legal aspects of business and policy regarding green transition and sustainability in the region. The team regularly assists clients within the broader range of legal services in the energy, infrastructure, and natural resources sectors, including advice on project development, licensing and permitting, M&A, financing, regulatory compliance, dispute resolution, and taxation.