ESG Reporting 101: Your Comprehensive Guide

ESG Reporting 101_ Your Comprehensive Guide

ESG Reporting 101: Your Comprehensive Guide

ESG reporting stands as a critical pillar for businesses in Hong Kong that aim to align with global standards of sustainability and ethical practices. This guide delves into the essentials of ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) by learning what it is and its difference from sustainability, and further covers the crucial role of ESG reporting and the best practices for it, ensuring your business not only meets regulatory expectations but also capitalises on the opportunities presented by sustainable business practices.

What Is ESG?

ESG refers to environmental, social, and governance. These three critical aspects examine the sustainability and societal impact of an investment in a company or enterprise. It is important to know that growing sustainability and green finance laws provide up new opportunities for Hong Kong enterprises. Regulatory organisations, such as the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEX) and Securities and Futures Commission (SFC), are actively trying to promote standardisation in ESG and grow the market for ESG products.

What Is ESG Reporting?

ESG reporting is a company’s open disclosure of its environmental, social, and governance performance and practices in the form of a report. Its goal is to give stakeholders information about the company’s sustainability efforts and ethical operations, emphasising its commitment to risk management and sustainable development. Transparency is highly required to demonstrate a company’s commitment to ethical procedures, as it improves its reputation, and ensures its long-term financial stability. Businesses in Hong Kong and throughout the world may use such reporting along with to demonstrate a proactive approach to tackling relevant ESG risks and opportunities while also meeting regulatory criteria and stakeholder expectations for sustainable business practices.

What Is the Difference Between ESG and Sustainability?

While both sustainability and ESG are regularly interpreted as entailing the same meanings, they differ significantly. Sustainability is a universal term that, in general, can refer to a business’s relationship with the environment; ESG, on the other hand, expands that relationship to encompass social responsibility and measures to combat corruption.

ESG acts as a framework or yardstick for external investments, allowing businesses to share their activities and investors to evaluate the risk and performance of the business. In contrast, sustainability is thought of as an internal structure that directs a business’s capital expenditures. While the organisation’s actions are motivated by sustainability, and their reported results are reflected in ESG.

Given that ESG is primarily a reporting framework, it holds greater relevance for publicly traded companies that seek to attract investors, as well as any business looking to secure financing opportunities. It provides a means for companies to demonstrate their commitment to ESG principles and helps investors make informed decisions.

ESG & Sustainability

Why Is ESG Reporting Important for Companies?

ESG reporting is important for companies and businesses alike in Hong Kong for various reasons, which mainly include:

Investors’ Expectations
Both global and local Investors are paying more attention to businesses that incorporate ESG considerations into their operations nowadays. These investors evaluate a company’s environmental and social impact to make more informed investment decisions. With the transparency that ESG reporting offers, you can maintain their trust at all times.
Regulatory Compliance
The HKEX, SFC and other regulatory bodies are emphasising the importance of ESG with the introduction of several requirements for companies to disclose information and pushing for standardisation in ESG reporting. As a result, leveraging ESG reporting to ensure compliance with regulations becomes a critical aspect of operating your business in Hong Kong.
Operational Sustainability
Long-term operational sustainability depends on a company’s capacity to show its dedication to sustainable practices, which is made possible by ESG reporting. It shows how well a business can handle social and environmental issues.
Stakeholder Satisfaction
Through ESG reporting, companies can communicate their ESG efforts and achievements, satisfying the growing demands of customers, employees, and the wider community for ethical and sustainable business practices.
Enhanced Reputation and Risk Management
A strong ESG proposition, as demonstrated through effective reporting, enhances a company’s reputation. It signals to stakeholders that the company is not only committed to operating ethically but also actively manages risks related to environmental and social issues, leading to better long-term financial performance.
Market Positioning
In a market that increasingly values ethical, sustainable, and transparent business practices, ESG reporting positions companies favourably among competitors and can open up new opportunities in green finance and sustainable investments, which are heavily facilitated through the initiatives and efforts by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA).
Hong Kong ESG

What Are the ESG Reporting Frameworks to Follow in Hong Kong?

ESG reporting frameworks provide guidelines for structuring and disclosing ESG information.

The following are some of the relevant frameworks in Hong Kong:

Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEX)

The HKEX has published the “ESG Reporting Guide“, which defines the requirements for listed businesses to file annual ESG reports, including specified obligatory disclosures and extra compliance or explanation disclosures.

The Securities and Futures Commission (SFC)

SFC regularly promotes sustainable finance and enhances ESG reporting in Hong Kong. It has been involved in consultations to help Hong Kong comply with global climate-related reporting standards and enhance the regulatory environment for corporate sustainability disclosures.

Green and Sustainable Finance Cross-Agency Steering Group

This group, co-led by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) and the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC), aims to promote ESG reporting and sustainable finance in Hong Kong by enhancing the regulatory environment and enabling policy direction and cooperation.

Regulatory Compliance

What Are the Best Practices for ESG Reporting in Hong Kong?

Upon understanding the framework for ESG reporting, it’s vital to ensure the best practices are put in place for effectiveness.

Here are some of the best practices that can be utilised for ESG reporting in Hong Kong:

    Regulatory Compliance
    Ensure the reporting accurately complies with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange’s ESG Reporting Guide, which requires annual ESG reports with specified obligatory and “comply or explain” disclosures from listed companies.
    Board Supervision
    Enhance the board’s involvement in ESG monitoring by identifying possible risks and incorporating ESG issues into the company’s strategic strategy.
    ESG Leadership Structure
    Consolidate a clear governance structure within the board to ensure effective ESG monitoring, including effectively addressing and integrating ESG problems into the day-to-day decision-making.
    Materiality Assessment
    Conduct materiality assessments to identify and prioritise significant ESG risks and opportunities, focusing reporting efforts on the most pressing issues.
    Transparency and Accountability
    Increase stakeholder engagement and confidence by making comprehensive ESG reports available and employing specific communication techniques to convey ESG performance and initiatives effectively.

    Consider enlisting help from an ESG reporting service provider to ensure that you are taking advantage of these best practices to streamline and simplify your ESG efforts for success.

    Contact us to get a free 7-day trial on our ESG Access reporting software now.

    Is ESG Reporting Mandatory?

    Although ESG is currently not mandatory in Hong Kong, the HKEX has proposed mandatory disclosure rules for climate-related risks in ESG reports of listed companies, with a potential effective date of January 1, 2024. The aforementioned ESG Reporting Guide already requires a mandatory statement on the board’s oversight of ESG issues and its management approach. Without specific ESG laws in Hong Kong, there are still regulatory requirements for ESG reporting that include both mandatory and “comply or explain” components that companies in Hong Kong should be aware of.

    Hong Kong Law

    How Can BoardRoom Help You with ESG Reporting?

    BoardRoom supports companies in Hong Kong with comprehensive ESG reporting services, leveraging cutting-edge, blockchain-powered ESG Access platform to simplify data management and enhance operational sustainability. Our tailored approach ensures your compliance with evolving regulations and stakeholder satisfaction, while our extensive experience in APAC jurisdictions offers invaluable insights into local ESG standards. BoardRoom’s full-suite services, from materiality assessments to corporate governance, aim to integrate ESG into every facet of business operations, promoting long-term profitability and sustainability.

    Talk to BoardRoom today to find out how we can further help you with our ESG solutions.

    Contact BoardRoom for more information:

    Tina Thomas Profile Pic

    Tina Thomas

    Head of Environmental, Social and Governance

    E: [email protected]

    T: +852-2598 5234

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    Navigating the Importance of ESG Due Diligence in Hong Kong

    Navigating the Importance of ESG Due Diligence in Hong Kong

    Navigating the Importance of ESG Due Diligence in Hong Kong

    In Hong Kong, the importance of conducting due diligence in Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) matters cannot be understated. The integration of ESG factors into financial decision-making has become a key focus for regulators, investors, businesses and clients in Hong Kong and globally. Neglecting to implement proper ESG policies and procedures might create substantial risks. This guide aims to navigate through the comprehensive due diligence process, addressing the multi-faceted challenges and implementing sustainable practices crucial for businesses aiming for long-term success.

    What Is ESG?

    ESG stands for Environmental, Social, and Governance. It includes these three key elements that are used to evaluate an investment’s sustainability and social impact on a corporation or business. The constantly changing landscape of sustainability and green finance legislation presents a range of opportunities for Hong Kong businesses, as regulatory agencies like the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) vigorously endeavour to promote standardisation, and grow the market for ESG items.

    What Is Due Diligence in ESG?

    In the world of ESG, due diligence entails a thorough evaluation and investigation of an organisation’s environmental, social, and governance aspects. Due diligence assessments can come in a variety of forms, such as market analysis, operational due diligence, legal and tax assessments, organisational, technological, and economic evaluations. These procedures serve to detect and manage risks, guarantee regulatory compliance, ensure businesses operate ethically and have better long-term financial performance.

    Investors, who are planning to undertake activities such as company mergers, acquiring stakes in other entities, or engaging in substantial business transactions, are likely to turn to prior due diligence assessment results for making investment decisions. Therefore, to get well-equipped for ESG compliance and build trust with stakeholders and investors, companies and corporations often enlist tailored ESG due diligence services to ensure that they are implementing sustainable practices for lasting success.

    What Are the Steps involved in Due Diligence?

    The due diligence process in ESG solutions typically involves several essential steps to ensure a thorough assessment of a company:


    The process begins by gathering pertinent information directly from the prospective partner or through a third party. This includes details about the company, its shareholders, and other relevant information. Trained staff or external advisors often conduct this initial check to ensure the accuracy and completeness of data.

    Assessment of Legal, Financial, and Operational Matters

    To delve into all aspects of the company’s business and affairs, this step includes a thorough review of crucial documents and information, assessing compliance with applicable laws, examining intellectual property rights, evaluating employment matters, scrutinising key contracts, and analysing regulatory and litigation issues.

    Company Verification

    This step focuses on verifying various aspects of the company, such as its business name, registration details, activity field, financial transactions, financial records, list of creditors and business partners, owned assets, number and status of employees, and evidence of tax compliance and legal obligations.

    Additional Research

    In certain cases, conducting in-depth research beyond the main issues mentioned above may be necessary to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the company.

    Setting Targets and Developing Further Action Plans

    After the assessment, it’s vital to set targets and strategise based on the findings. This involves pinpointing areas needing improvement, defining measurable objectives for ESG compliance, and crafting a plan to reach these goals. The focus is on mitigating risks and seizing opportunities for sustainable development, ensuring the company meets ESG standards while preparing for future advancements.

    Due diligence

    What Is the Importance of Due Diligence in ESG?

    The importance of due diligence can be explained by its functions in the following 5 aspects:

    Risk Mitigation
    Adopting due diligence services helps identify potential ESG risks that can affect your company’s sustainability and stability and provides insights that can encourage proactive management strategies. By aligning the company’s operations with sustainable practices, this risk mitigation ensures the double benefits of environmental sustainability and business continuity.
    Regulatory Compliance
    Ensuring compliance with local ESG regulations, such as those outlined by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) and Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) in Hong Kong, through due diligence not only prevents legal complications and hefty fines for the company but also builds its reputation as a responsible business.
    Attracting Investors
    A thorough ESG due diligence assessment highlights the company’s dedication to sustainable and ethical standards, which can attract investor interest. Gaining more investor confidence through openness in your company’s financial health, governance structure, and physical and human resource management will help you draw in more funding.
    Building Trust with Stakeholders
    By carefully aligning your corporate governance based on ESG due diligence assessment, you build and maintain trust with your stakeholders, investors, and communities through demonstrating the sustainability of your business practice.
    Brand Awareness and Retention
    It allows you to show your company’s dedication to ethical business practices and establish a positive brand image to raise brand awareness among potential customers. Additionally, it helps retain clients by bolstering their faith in your business ethics and guaranteeing that they are consistent with their own beliefs or brand image.
    Hong Kong due diligence process

    Are There Any Organisations That Help with the Due Diligence Process?

    In Hong Kong, businesses seeking assistance with the ESG due diligence process, especially for green and sustainable products, can turn to resources provided by authoritative bodies. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) has been instrumental in guiding companies through thematic examinations that focus on the development and management of such products. They have laid out specific “Due Diligence Processes for Green and Sustainable Products“, offering a valuable framework for companies to follow.

    Moreover, for legal due diligence, companies can access publicly available information through various government authorities. This includes conducting searches at the Companies Registry for corporate governance information, the Land Registry for property-related details, and the Intellectual Property Department for intellectual property rights and protections.

    Challenges faced in ESG due diligence

    What Are the Common Challenges That Companies Face in ESG Due Diligence?

    Many companies, enterprises and business entities face challenges when it comes to performing due diligence processes, and they include the following:

    Complexities of Regulatory Compliance
    Hong Kong’s regulatory environment poses a significant challenge, particularly with regard to anti-money laundering (AML) laws and ESG requirements. Compliance is a continuously changing issue for businesses as they must traverse the regulations set by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) and conform to international standards such as those from the Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG) and the Financial Action Issue Force (FATF).
    Data Collection and Reporting
    Initially setting up and maintaining accurate data collection processes can be challenging due to the detailed nature of the information required and the need for ongoing updates.
    Managing Stakeholder Expectations
    A comprehensive strategy is necessary to balance the demands of different stakeholders, such as communities, investors, executives, and employees. In order to preserve and improve a company’s reputation, it is essential to guarantee compliance and exhibit a sincere dedication to ESG principles.
    Implementing Sustainable Practices
    Finding ESG opportunities and threats is just one stage in the process; it can be difficult to handle these issues by successfully integrating sustainable practices into corporate operations. It demands major adjustments to operational procedures, modifications to culture, and frequent financial expenditure.
    Adapting to Technological Advancements
    The use of technology, such as blockchain for ESG data management as recommended by the HKMA, introduces challenges in keeping up with technological advancements and ensuring staff are well-trained to leverage these tools for effective risk management and future planning.
    Risk Management
    Adhering to regulations in Hong Kong makes it more difficult to manage ESG-related risks. To effectively analyse and manage risks in accordance with both ESG and AML standards, businesses must get a thorough awareness of their influence on the environment, societal interactions, governance processes, and financial activities.

    How Can BoardRoom Help You with ESG Due Diligence?

    BoardRoom can assist companies with ESG due diligence by providing comprehensive support in identifying, assessing, and managing ESG factors. This may include services related to regulatory compliance with the ever-changing legal landscape of ESG, risk management, and the implementation of sustainable business practices in Hong Kong. With BoardRoom’s innovative ESG Access software, which is backed by blockchain technology for transparency, companies can streamline their due diligence process with simple data management and collection, enabling data-driven decision-making and enhancing operational sustainability and stakeholder satisfaction easily.

    Looking for an expert to help guide you through the complex due diligence process for your ESG initiatives? Talk to today to learn how our solutions can leverage technology to ensure a sustainable future for your business.

    Contact BoardRoom for more information:

    Tina Thomas Profile Pic

    Tina Thomas

    Head of Environmental, Social and Governance

    E: [email protected]

    T: +852-2598 5234

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    Business transformation: revolutionising finance and payroll functions

    Business transformation revolutionising finance and payroll functions Banner

    Business transformation: revolutionising finance and payroll functions

    Adapting to change is vital for the survival of any business, and if you’re exploring how to respond to the changing landscape in your market, you will have heard the term business transformation.

    Business transformation describes the fundamental and significant changes that an organisation undergoes to improve its operational and financial performance, competitiveness and strategic position. It can involve transforming technology and digital applications, people, culture, organisational structure, processes and strategy.

    Successful business transformation requires strong leadership, effective communication and the commitment of the entire organisation to embrace change; in short, it requires an effective change management strategy and execution.

    A subset of business transformation is another industry buzz phrase; digital transformation. It is common knowledge that the effective use of technology improves business efficiency, reduces costs and ensures compliance. However, adjusting to the expectations of digital-savvy consumers can be a major challenge for businesses in Hong Kong.

    This article discusses the imperatives of digital transformation in relation to payroll and finance functions for Hong Kong businesses and the challenges this entails. It also explores solutions, with advice for business leaders and entrepreneurs on how they can successfully embrace the transformation of these key functions for the future health of their businesses.

    How digital transformation is revolutionising finance and payroll

    Digital transformation in finance and payroll has become critical in the modern business world, where AI and automation are improving efficiency and transforming these functions into strategic decision-making departments.

    Advanced data analytics in finance allows for more precise forecasting and informed decision-making. Machine learning, for example, can analyse market trends and customer data and reduce or prevent fraudulent activities. Forward-thinking industry leaders are also looking to digitalise processes using automation to transform manual finance functions in order to boost productivity.

    In payroll, automation and cloud-based systems are reshaping employee compensation. Real-time processing ensures accuracy in payroll calculations and can adapt to various tax laws. Additionally, self-service payroll portals increase transparency and employee satisfaction by allowing individuals to manage their payroll information.

    Payroll and digital transformation
    Ken Wong, Managing Director Asia, Payroll at BoardRoom, shares his views on this digital transformation in relation to payroll.

    “In the past, the process of paying employees has meant you’re calculating working hours, adding in the allowances, subtracting deductions, calculating the statutory contributions and then paying the employees at the end of the month. Often, a simple spreadsheet or off-the-shelf software has been used to manage all these calculations.”

    But this process is time-consuming and prone to human error, says Ken. Payroll issues have become more complex, and staff and organisations want and need more convenient ways to manage payroll that comply with ever-changing regulations and offer real-time data. The complexity of managing payroll is also heightened for corporations operating across multiple countries with differing local regulations and cultural norms.

    Among other forms of digital transformation, cloud computing and data analytics are becoming increasingly popular tools that Hong Kong businesses use. Cloud technology and automation are transforming payroll systems, leading to more integration and transparency and reducing the risk of human error.

    “In short, the need for real-time data for instantaneous responses and requirements to stay abreast with regulations and changes means your simple spreadsheet or your off-the-shelf software does not cut it anymore,” Ken concludes.
    Finance and digital transformation
    Finance functions such as accounting are also rapidly evolving, says Yang Shuzhen, Accounting Director at BoardRoom. “Accounting generally is very paper-based, which creates a range of problems.”

    Documents can get lost or misfiled over time, which may result in audit issues. Hard-copy documents and files are accessible only from one location, which makes them time-consuming and cumbersome to manage. “That has triggered the digitisation of accounting documents through technology such as OCR (Optical Character Recognition). Maintaining soft copies is so much easier and it means supporting documents are all saved with the transaction itself. It simplifies and consolidates files, which is also much more convenient for reviews and audit checks.” says Shuzhen.

    The increased need for greater transparency, efficiency, productivity and accuracy is driving the digital transformation of processes, especially in accounting and payroll, functions that are traditionally resistant to digitisation, digitalisation and automation. The digital literacy of staff, external stakeholders and customers has also added to expectations that organisations and businesses will have cloud-based processes that make interactions instant, accurate and accessible.
    Digital transformation

    Overcoming legacy system challenges

    There’s no doubt that digital transformation is key for businesses to succeed in the future, but there are barriers to success. The key challenges businesses face when attempting to update legacy systems and processes include:

    Resistance to change
    • One of the most significant barriers to digital transformation in finance and payroll is overcoming the fear of change, particularly concerns about increased errors and a lack of control if processes are changed or automated.
    • There's also a tendency to stick to 'the way things have always been done’ without understanding why.
    • Educating staff about the benefits and rationale for change, including legal requirements and regulations changes, can help. For example, the belief that to be compliant, all employees must receive a physical payslip when, in fact, soft-copy payslips are perfectly acceptable.
    Skills gaps and resource constraints
    • The skill gap presents a significant challenge in implementing digital strategies. Many companies struggle to find skilled personnel for digital transformation, especially when resources are already tied up in legacy systems.
    • Skills shortages are preventing many companies from realising their ambitions too. A 2022 survey on technology adoption found that while 73 per cent of respondents in Hong Kong said their organisation had a digital transformation strategy, 35 per cent could not find the staff to implement it.
    • Prioritising training and strategic investment in new technologies is key to overcoming skills gaps and short-term resource limitations.
    Integrating automation into existing technology
  • Businesses often attempt to integrate new technology with old systems, which can be counterproductive.
  • A complete overhaul, rather than mere integration, is sometimes necessary and a simpler solution to truly harness the advantages of modern technology.
  • Despite these challenges, the benefits of embracing technology in finance and payroll are undeniable, with automation simplifying operations and enhancing accuracy and compliance. Reinforcing this is the fact that more than 90 per cent of survey respondents reported that their organisations would be adopting more technology by upgrading existing technology and increasing investment.

    Overcoming legacy system challenges

    Strategies for navigating digital transformation

    Organisations can overcome legacy pitfalls and enact meaningful change that leads to digital and business transformation by implementing appropriate strategies. Organisations can adopt a number of strategic changes.

    • Start to shape a growth mindset by incorporating small changes such as transitioning from paper-based to digital record keeping. Small, successful changes lead to bigger mindset shifts among team members over time.
    • Rethink the allocation of budget and invest in future-focused systems rather than trying to maintain or update expensive legacy systems.
    • Empower leaders with clear visions and goals who can communicate those goals to their teams and provide regular updates on progress, challenges and successes in team meetings via staff newsletters or internal web portals.
    • Engage with professional service providers such as BoardRoom, who can assist organisations to adopt and administer more efficient payroll and accounting systems and accelerate their digital transformation journey.

    Advanced analytics and business intelligence in action

    Adopting advanced analytics and reporting tools through a business transformation process is a fundamental shift towards strategic decision-making. Digital technologies enable organisations to unearth actionable insights, leading to better planning for future needs as well as cost savings.

    Shuzhen advises businesses that if they can upgrade their systems, even gradually, they can start creating comprehensive data sets. Advanced analytics and reporting tools will then transform their accounting and payroll functions.

    For companies entrenched in legacy systems, the journey towards digital transformation doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Small yet impactful steps can be taken by transforming a single process or function with advanced analytics.

    Aligning business transformation goals with core business functions ensures that digital transformations are cohesive and effective. When businesses are capturing data, they need to understand why they are capturing it, what they want to analyse and why. This is where external advice is crucial for businesses as they navigate the digital transformation process.

    Advanced analytics and business intelligence

    The future of digital transformation starts here

    As the Hong Kong business environment continues to evolve, leaders and entrepreneurs will need to embrace digital transformation in their payroll and accounting functions to stay competitive and compliant. Such transformations can be challenging, but the rewards of increased productivity, transparency, cost savings and compliance are well worth the investment.

    BoardRoom has partnered with businesses of all sizes in Hong Kong to help guide them through their digital transformations, ensuring a smooth and efficient transition in line with their broader business transformation goals. Offering well-planned strategies that overcome legacy issues and drive business success, the BoardRoom team of payroll and accounting experts are ready to talk to you today to help you achieve your business goals.

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    Hong Kong Budget 2024-25 : Attracting Enterprises, Capital and Talent

    Hong Kong Budget 2024-25 Attracting Enterprises, Capital and Talent Banner

    Hong Kong Budget 2024-25 : Attracting Enterprises, Capital and Talent

    On 28 February 2024, Hong Kong’s Financial Secretary, Mr. Paul Chan presented the 2024-25 Budget, themed ‘Advance with Confidence, Seize Opportunities, Strive for High-quality Development’.

    Hong Kong faced unexpected challenges during the fiscal year 2023-24, resulting in slower economic growth and a larger fiscal deficit than anticipated. To address these issues, the 2024-25 Budget adopted a fiscal consolidation strategy and outlined a comprehensive plan aimed at stimulating economic growth and enhancing competitiveness.

    Our exclusive commentary on the Hong Kong Budget 2024-25 offers insights into the key tax proposals announced, which will impact businesses and individuals.

    • Global Tax Initiative
    • Profits Tax Relief
    • Tax Incentives
    • Other Key Measures and Proposals
    • Other Duties and Charges

    Download our commentary now to understand how you can navigate these changes with confidence.

    Our tax team will be conducting a webinar at 11am-12pm on 14 March, guiding you through some of these key changes. Click here to register for your complimentary seat.

    If you have any questions about maximising your tax position with this latest announcement, please email our tax team at [email protected].

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