It’s ESG Survey & Query Time — Public Companies Are In Response Mode

by Hank Boerner & Louis Coppola

Barrage… Avalanche… Tidal wave… Tsunami“Survey Fatigue…
These are terms we hear all year ‘round but especially in the spring of the year as corporate managers describe for us what they often feel as the inevitable flow of third party ESG / Sustainability surveys, forms and various types of questionnaires come pouring their offices. It’s spring – survey time!  Some large-cap companies may receive 200 or more such queries during a year.  What to do!

Effective Response and Engagements Will Be Key to Success
in Communicating Corporate Sustainability Strategies and
Demonstrating Leadership for Investors

The challenges posed to company managers are:

  1. First to decide which queries will matter most to the company and to investors and select those out of the large flow for response;
  2. decide what to do with the rest of the third party queries;
  3. decide what information to be disclosed is material, of relevance and of importance to the third party and beyond to that organization’s user base;
  4. internally source and organize the data and narrative needed in responding to put the best story forward to maximize the positive perceptions of the stakeholders using the data in some way;
  5. and as we hear, [typically] debate internally what can and should be disclosed and why — beyond the mandated financial and related disclosures.

These challenges grow in importance each year as many more asset owners and managers either directly pose the questions to companies — or do so through an army of third-party ESG analytics firms.

The stakes are high and getting higher; the most efficient and effective of the corporate responders could enjoy inclusion in the sustainable investing indexes and benchmarks, and investor products; win high rankings, scores, ratings and other honors bestowed by the third party organizations; and in turn, be recognized by still more third-party organizations for their high scores and rankings.

Questions Often Heard in the Corporate Office: 
How come we are not in the DJSI?
How come “competitor X” is ranked higher than we are?
What should we be doing to improve our scores?
Who are the most important providers to engage with and respond to?

THE MORE TRANSPARENT COMPANY – THE PUBLIC COMPANY ESG PROFILE
Beyond the challenges to responding to the many third party organizations that crank the response and other information into their models and into investor-facing products, there is an ever-widening transparency of the company profile that may be of importance say, to major customers or business partners: for example, the Bloomberg professional services ESG dashboard will put the company’s ESG data and profile in front of more than 300,000 subscribers.   Similarly, the Thomson Reuters’ Eikon dashboards reach 200,000 and more subscribers with the same kinds of information.

We can hear the call from the corporate offices this month — Help!  The spring round of queries is at hand. For example, RobecoSAM’s “Corporate Sustainability Assessment” (the CSA) opened for company response last week; companies have only until the end of May to respond.  (We recently conducted a workshop in NYC for first time reporters in collaboration with RobecoSAM’s Robert Dornau and Gretchen Norwood.)

The information provided by companies in responding to the CSA will be an important determinant in RobecoSAM deciding which companies will be in the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes and featured in the prized Yearbook roster. The information is used in S&P Dow Jones Company’s various products as well.

HOW TO ADDRESS THE CHALLENGES IN RESPONDING
 The good news is that there are efficient, thorough, comprehensive and organized ways to meet the challenges described above that are faced by many managers at publicly-traded and even privately-owned enterprises.

Here at G&A Institute, we call this our matrix approach that results in a more comprehensive “mosaic” (multi-dimensional) corporate ESG profile with significant benefits for the issuer.

It is important to keep in mind: the public company already has a sustainability profile shaped by its own publicly-disclosed information, by the dissemination of information by third parties distributing ESG analysis and data sets and by such stakeholders as government agencies, media, NGOs, activists, competitors, and others.

This mosaic corporate profile may be incomplete, inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise have information that is detrimental to the company and its stakeholders that can be corrected with more timely and/or accurate information. The “wrong information” can lead to negative perceptions that can affect corporate reputation and valuation, and perhaps even societal freedom to operate.

THE G&A INSTITUTE APPROACH TO ESG DATA REVIEW
We usually start with an examination of the existing public ESG profile of the corporation.  This is the information typically provided to investors and key stakeholders by a ever-expanding universe of the ESG rankers and raters.  This phase of the work this helps us and the internal team in developing an understanding of how investors and stakeholders may be viewing the company, what issues are most material in their view — and from this analysis we can provide strategic guidance for how the company can work to better position itself to take advantage of any advances in corporate sustainability over the months and years ahead.

The comprehensive sweep of first-round examinations can be for a key set of the most important data providers (around 4-to-6) or more comprehensive and up to 15 or more of the ESG data providers, index managers, asset managers and public information platforms (such as the data on the Bloomberg and on Eikon).

The specific third party service providers to be examined may depend on peer group, geography of operations, the company’s sector and industry classifications (and keep in mind there are variations of these), the nature of products and services, and other factors.

IMPORTANCE OF THE GAP ANALYSIS
Once the key third party organizations are selected for close examination, an internal gap analysis against the information being made available to investors by the third party provider can be determined – and addressed by the internal team.

Key areas of strength, weakness and the peers’ standings will emerge for internal managers to address. Low hanging fruit such as correcting inaccurate data, or improving reporting by better organizing important ESG disclosure data, may make it easy for short-term improvement.  Longer term the results of this type of analysis and engagement will inform strategy setting, and resource allocations to most efficiently and effectively improve the ROI of the Sustainability program.

G&A’s Co-Founder Louis Coppola was recently interviewed at Skytop Strategies ESG4 Summit on the “Value Companies Can Obtain by Engaging with ESG Investor Data Providers.”  You can watch the interview here and email Lou at lcoppola@ga-institute.com if you have questions or would like to discuss the ESG review process.

KEEP IN MIND:
Improving the ratings, rankings, scores etc is a journey, not a sprint.

It’s important here to stress that whether or not a company chooses to answer queries, respond to data provider inquiries or attempts to correct some public information that service providers are sharing with investors, there is a public sustainability profile out there and it is making an impression on investors.

As the flow of this year’s queries reaches corporate managers, it is important to understand who some of the key third party ESG players are — and what their work is about – and how they can impact the corporation.  We provide some recent news updates about leading players below for your information.

FOR YOUR FURTHER INFORMATION: NEWS ABOUT KEY ESG / SUSTAINABILITY DATA PROVIDERS

The Universe of ESG Rankers Serving Institutional Investor Clients Expands…
Source:G&A Institute’s To the Point! Management Briefs (January 2018)
ISS’ Traditional Corporate Governance Focus Expanding to Encompass Environmental & Social QualityScores for Roughly 1,500 Public Companies Coming in January…And Expanding to 5,000 Issuers in Q2…

ISS Unveils New Corporate “E” and “S” QualityScores for 1,500 Companies
Source:G&A Institute’s To the Point! (February 2018)

Oekom Research to Join Institutional Shareholder Services
Source: oekom research news (March 2018)
oekom research, a leader in the provision of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) ratings and data, as well as sustainable investment research, today announced it will join Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. (“ISS”). Reflecting the strength of both brands, oekom research will be renamed ISS-oekom…

Sustainalytics’ New Research Report Offers Insight into ESG Risks Facing 10 Sectors
Source: Sustainalytics (February 15, 2018)
Sustainalytics, a leading global provider of ESG and corporate governance research, ratings and analytics, today released a new thematic research report – “10 for 2018: ESG Risks on the Horizon”.  The report examines critical ESG risks facing 10 sectors, which are classified under four broad themes, including: Water Management / Stakeholder Governance / Consumer Protection / Climate Change..

Morningstar & Sustainalytics Expand Sustainability Collaboration
Source: Sustainalytics (July 2017)
In a continuing and growing commitment to helping investors integrate sustainability considerations into portfolio decisions, Morningstar, Inc. (NASDAQ: MORN), a leading provider of independent investment research, and Sustainalytics, a leading global provider of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) research and ratings, today announced that Morningstar has acquired a 40 percent ownership stake in Sustainalytics. The direct investment represents an important milestone in Morningstar’s long-term sustainability strategy and intends to support Sustainalytics’ ability to deliver high-quality, innovative ESG products and services to the global investment community…

Bloomberg ESG Function for Sustainability Investors Adds RobecoSAM Data
Source: Bloomberg (September 2016)
Bloomberg recently expanded its offering of ESG (environmental, social, governance) data by incorporating information from RobecoSAM’s percentile rankings on the Bloomberg Professional service at ESG<GO> —  a Bloomberg Terminal function that provides sustainability investors with data about a company’s environmental, social and governance metrics…

RobecoSAM Publishes “The Sustainability Yearbook 2018”
Source: RobecoSAM (February 2018)
RobecoSAM, the investment specialist that has focused exclusively on Sustainability Investing (SI) for over 22 years, today announced the publication of “The Sustainability Yearbook 2018”.    The Yearbook showcases the sustainability performance of the world’s largest companies and includes the top 15% per industry, which are awarded Gold, Silver or Bronze Class medals. RobecoSAM has analyzed the corporate sustainability performance of the world’s largest listed companies every year since 1999…

Results Announced for 2017 DJSI Review
Source: RobecoSAM (September 7, 2017)
S&P Dow Jones Indices (S&P DJI), one of the world’s leading index providers, and RobecoSAM, an investment specialist focused exclusively on Sustainability Investing (SI), today announced the results of the annual Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI) review. The three largest additions and deletions…

MSCI:  2018 ESG Trends to Watch
Source: Commentary by Linda Eling-Lee, Global Head of ESG Research, MSCI  (January 2018)
Bigger, faster, more.  Whether due to policy, technological or climatic changes, companies face an onslaught of challenges that are happening sooner and more dramatically than many could have anticipated.  Investors, in turn, are looking for ways to position their portfolios to best navigate the uncertainty. In 2018, these are the major trends that we think will shape how investors approach the risks and opportunities on the horizon. In 2018, investors will…

Has ESG Affected Stock Performance?
Source: Commentary by Guido Giese – ED, Applied Equity Research, MSCI
Are ESG characteristics tied to stock performance? Many researchers have studied the relationship between companies with strong environmental, social and governance (ESG) characteristics and corporate financial performance. A major challenge has been to show that positive correlations — when produced — explain the behavior. As the classic phrase used by statisticians says, “correlation does not imply causation.”Instead of conducting a pure correlation-based analysis, we focused on understanding how ESG characteristics have led to financially significant effects…

CDP:  The Disruptors:  Paul Simpson, the Atypical Activist Who Awoke C-Suites to Climate Risk
Source: Ethical Corporation (November 2017)
The founder of CDP tells Oliver Balch how the organization he started 17 years ago has helped transform corporate and investor attitudes to climate change  The phrase “task force” is hardly one to get the heart racing. Expand it to the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures, and you’re into catatonic territory. So it’s little wonder that when the TCFD (as insiders call it) issued a suite of recommendations over the summer, it didn’t trouble the headline writers much. Not so Paul Simpson, who met the news with huge excitement…

Our Governments Have Committed to Keeping Global Temperature Rises to Well Below 2-Degrees – What Can Companies and Cities Do…
Source: CDP Campaigns
The Paris Agreement sends a clear signal that the shift to a low-carbon economy is inevitable, and everyone must play their part. To facilitate this transition, CDP and its partners have developed campaigns that seek to highlight and spur meaningful action on tackling climate change from the private sector and sub-national governments…campaign information…. committed to keeping global temperature rises to well…

Feeding 9 Billion People in 2050? Challenging!  – A Leading U.S. CEO in the Food & Agriculture Business Has Important Perspectives to Share

by Hank Boerner -Chair, G&A Institute

The CEO of one of the nation’s leading food and agriculture companies has important messages for us:  “To move the planet forward, farmers must lead the charge. But they cannot do it alone. Coordinated action on sustainability across the food supply chains is the only way to achieve lasting progress.”  He tells us how and why in his commentary in a Top Story in our Sustainability Highlights newsletter.

BackgroundThe Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat in the 2017 revision of the World Population Prospects (the 25th version of this report) says: the current world population of 7.6 billion is expected to reach 8.6 billion in 2030, 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100.

More than 80 million people are added to the world’s population each year. One of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (the SDGs) is to end poverty and hunger – how do we achieve this will depend in large measure on the success of growers in the USA and many other lands.

Looking at global agriculture moving towards 2050, there are serious challenges posed; the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 2009 described some of these:  much more food and fiber must be produced; there will be a smaller rural labor force to help do this; there will be increased demand for more feedstocks for a potentially huge bioenergy market; adapting to climate is  necessary; and, ag producers must be more efficient and sustainable.

Demand for cereals, as example, could almost double from today’s production (for animal feed and human food). Almost all of the land expansion for ag could be in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America.

The CEO of Land O’Lakes, Chris Policinski writing in Agri-Pulse explains that while the discussion about climate change and other challenges seems to be focused on developments being a generation away, American farmers are dealing right now with such things as harsh drought, severe weather and more pests…the challenges to the food supply are happening right now.

And it is time to start talking about sustainability differently…to include (for example) the reality of what farmers face, acre-by-acre/field-by-field. And then, “farm-to-fork” issues.

Bringing together big-picture, company-level sustainability commitments and acre-by-acre conservation efforts makes both more effective. The great example used by the CEO is Wal-Mart’s Project Gigaton, which aims to remove one billion metric tons of GhGs from the company’s supply chain by 2030.  (Land O’Lakes was one of the first supply partners to sign on.)

There’s much more for you in the Land O’Lakes CEO’s message in one of our Top Stories this week.  There are related items “up top” for you – this week we have ag and food in focus in the Highlights.

Note:  Land O’Lakes, Inc. is a member-owned cooperative agribusiness and food production company based in Minnesota, with $13.7 billion revenues in 2017. The cooperative is almost 100 years in operation and ranks #215 on the Fortune 500® roster.

Top Stories – Ag & Food In Focus

Opinion: To Move Our Planet Forward, Food and Agriculture Must Think about Sustainability Differently
(Friday – April 06, 2018) Source: Agri-Pulse – In many ways, the sustainability story of the American farmer mirrors that of every other American. Farmers genuinely care about doing their part to protect our planet, for all the same reasons as anyone else. They want to leave…

Smallholder farmers are key to making the palm oil industry sustainable
(Monday – April 02, 2018) Source: Eco-Business – Smallholder farmers play an increasingly prominent role in Indonesia’s growing palm oil industry and could be the vanguard of sustainability, say WRI researchers.

A few surprising industries affecting the concept of sustainability in a positive way
(Tuesday – April 03, 2018) Source: Augusta Free Press – In the last ten years, sustainability has become a very important element in the business processes in many industries. For instance, all-natural and organic have become trendy terms in the food industry. Companies which are part…

Opinion: To Move Our Planet Forward, Food and Agriculture Must Think about Sustainability Differently
(Friday – April 06, 2018) Source: Agri-Pulse – In many ways, the sustainability story of the American farmer mirrors that of every other American. Farmers genuinely care about doing their part to protect our planet, for all the same reasons as anyone else. They want to leave…

Don’t Believe In Global Warming? Just Ask A Tuscan Winemaker
(Wednesday – April 04, 2018) Source: Forbes – “Have you seen the effects of climate change and global warming in your region?”

Hershey is investing in more sustainable cocoa for its chocolate treats
(Wednesday – April 04, 2018) Source: LA Times

The DJSI Corporate Sustainability Assessment Will Soon Be “Open” for US Companies to Begin Their Response Effort – a Workshop for Corporate Staff is Scheduled for April 6th in New York City, Presented by G&A Institute in collaboration with RobecoSAM

The Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes are some of the most important and widely-used benchmarks for global investors – the suppliers of capital to the corporate sector.  The “DJSI” benchmarks include the well-known “World” and “North America” indexes.

The DJSI are managed by RobecoSAM which described them as a family of best-in-class indices (launched in 1999) that evaluate the sustainability performance of thousands of publicly-traded companies. The indices track the stock performance of the world’s leading companies across 60 industries in terms of economic, environmental and social criteria.

RobecoSAM is a strategic partner of the S&P Dow Jones Indices and the RobecoSAM “Smart ESG Methodology” is used to generate ESG factor scores to construct a family of indices; the methodology is used for example in constructing the S&P ESG Factor Weighted Index family.

RobecoSAM has been driving innovation of the fields of ESG investing…the indices are built on the strength of rigorous internal analytics and research.  An important input to the process is the annual Corporate Sustainability Assessment (the “CSA”) that RobecoSAM explains in this way:

“The quality of a company’s strategy and management and its performance in dealing with opportunities and risks deriving from economic, environmental and social development can be quantified and used to identify and select leading companies for investment purposes. For this reason, RobecoSAM developed the CSA to help identify those companies that are best equipped to recognize and respond to emerging opportunities and risks resulting from global sustainability trends.”

Very soon, the CSA questionnaire will be landing in the offices of leading US companies for internal managements to complete and return to RobecoSAM as the process for adjusting the family of funds is underway (the results will be known in early fall).  One day after the Skytop Strategies “ESG Summit 4” conference, G&A Institute in collaboration with RobecoSAM is presenting a workshop to help American corporate managements in the response process in New York City on April 6th.

Special Note
Lindsey Kauffman, Environmental Lead at Owens Corning will be at the workshop and will share her insight on leading the CSA/DJSI response for her company. Owens Corning is the Industry Leader in overall score/ranking as well as the Industry Leader in all three dimensions.

Skytop’s CEO Chris Skroupa interviewed RobecoSAM’s Robert Dornau and G&A’s Louis Coppola on the workshop and the importance of the DJSI CSA questionnaire to corporate managements.  There’s lots of important details for you in the Top Story this week from the Forbesinterviews.

If you’d like to learn more about G&A’s advisory services for responding to the RobecoSAM CSA please contact Louis Coppola at lcoppola@ga-institute.com.

Top Story

The Corporate Sustainability Assessment; Important ESG Events In Early April
(Thursday – March 29, 2018) Source: Forbes – interviews by Christopher P. Skroupa – The RobecoSAM Corporate  Sustainability Assessment is about to hit the desks in many publicly traded companies. Are executives aware and what are they doing to prepare?  The CSA is a “living document” – what were they key changes in 2018?

G&A Institute Research Results: 85% of the S&P 500® Index Companies Published Sustainability / Responsibility / CR / Citizenship Reports in 2017

By Hank Boerner – Chair and Chief Strategist, G&A Institute

One of the world’s most important benchmarks for equity investors is the S&P 500 Index®, a proprietary market-value weighted “basket” of the top stocks that represent about 80% of the U.S. equity markets according to the index owner, S&P Dow Jones Indices/McGraw Hill Financial.

Market Clout:  There are about US$8 trillion in Assets Under Management benchmarked to the index  – companies included in the index have a market-cap of US$6 billion or more (ticker:SPX).

More than six years ago the G&A Institute team decided to focus on the companies in the index to determine their level of (or lack of) ESG / Sustainability / CR / Citizenship disclosure and reporting.

Our first look-see was for year 2011 corporate reporting activities and after scouring the known sources  — each of the corporate websites, IR reports, printed reports, search engines results, connecting with companies and more —  we found just about 20% or about 100 of the large-cap index 500 companies were doing “something” along the lines of what we can describe today as structured reporting.  There were numerous brochure-type publications that did not qualify as a structured report of value to investors and stakeholders.

The GRI Was a Favored Framework – Then and Now
A good number of the early reporting companies were following the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) framework for reporting guidance (that was for G3 and G3.1 at the time), and some perhaps had some other form of reporting (such as publishing key ESG performance indicators on their website or in print format for stakeholders); GRI’s G4 was later embraced by the 500.  And now we move on to the GRI Standards, which we are tracking for 2018 reporting by the 500.

This initial research effort was a good bit of work for our analyst team because many of the companies simply did not announce or publicize the availability of their sustainability et al report. (Some still do not announce, even in 2017 and 2018!)

The response to our first survey (we announced the results in spring 2012) was very encouraging and other organizations began to refer to and to help publicize the results for stakeholders.

We were pleased that among the organizations recognizing the importance of the work was the GRI; we were invited to be the data partner for the United States, and then the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.  That comprehensive work continues and is complementary to the examination of the 500.

The 2011 Research Effort – Looking Back, The Tipping Point for Sustainability Reporting

Looking back, we can see that the research results were early indications of what was going on in the corporate and investment communities, as more asset owners and managers were adopting ESG / sustainability approaches, investment policies, engagement programs — and urging more public company managements to get going on expanded disclosure beyond the usual mandated financials (the “tangibles” of that day).

Turns out that we were at an important tipping point in corporate disclosure.

Investor expectations were important considerations for C-suite and board, and there was peer pressure as well within industries and sectors, as the big bold names in Corporate America looked left and right and saw other firms moving ahead with their enhanced disclosure practices.

And there was pressure from the purchasing side – key customers were asking their corporate supply chain partners for information about their ESG policies and practices, and for reports on same.  There was an exponential effect; companies within the 500 were, in fact, asking each other for such reports on their progress!

We created a number of unique resources and tools to help guide the annual research effort.  Seeing the characteristics and best practices of sustainability reporting by America’s largest and for the most part best-known companies we constantly expanded our “Sustainability Big Data” resources and made the decision to closely track S&P 500 companies’ public reporting — and feed the rich resulting data yield into our databases and widely share top-line results (our “Flash Report”).

The following year (2013) we tracked the 500 companies’ year 2012 reporting activities – and found a very encouraging trend that rang a bell with our sustainable investing colleagues:  a bit more than half of the 500 were now publishing sustainability et al reports.  Then in 2013, the numbers increased again to 72%…then 75%…then 81%…and now for 2017, we reached the 85% level.  The dramatic rise is clearly evident in this chart:

Note that there are minor annual adjustments in the composition of the S&P 500 Index by the owners, and we account for this in our research, moving companies in and out of the research effort as needed.

Louis Coppola, EVP of G&A Institute who designs and manages the analysis, notes:  “Entering 2018, just 15% of the S&P 500 declined to publish sustainability reports. The practice of sustainability reporting by the super-majority of the 500 companies is holding steady with minor increases year after year. One of the most powerful driving forces behind the rise in reporting is an increasing demand from all categories of investors for material, relevant, comparable, accurate and actionable ESG disclosure from companies they invest in, or might consider for their portfolio.

“Mainstream investors are constantly searching for larger returns and have come to the conclusion that a company that considers their material Environmental, Social, and Governance opportunities and risks in their long-term strategies will outperform and outcompete those firms that do not. It’s just a matter now of following the money.”

Does embracing corporate sustainability in any way impact negatively on the market performance of these large companies?  Well, we should point out that the annual return for the SPX was 22% through 12-13-18.   You can read more in our Flash Report here.

Thank you to our wonderful analyst team members who over the years have participated in this exhaustive search and databasing effort.   We begin our thank you’s to Dr. Michelle Thompson, D.Env, now a postdoc fellow supporting the U.S. Department of Energy in the Office of Energy Policy Systems Analysis; and her colleague, Natalia Valencia, who is now Senior Research Analyst at LAVCA (Latin American Venture Capital Association).  Their early work was a foundational firming up of the years of research to follow.

Kudos to our G&A Research Team for their significant contributions to this year’s research report:  Team Leader Elizabeth Peterson; analyst-interns Amanda Hoster, Matthew Novak, Yangshengling “UB” Qui, Sara Rossner, Shraddha Sawant, Alan Stautz, Laura Malo Yague, and Qier “Cher” Zue.

We include here a hearty shout out to the outstanding analyst-interns who have made great contributions to these research efforts in each year since the start of the first project back in 2011-2012.  It’s wonderful working with all of these future leaders!

The reports from prior years are posted on the G&A Institute website: https://www.ga-institute.com/research-reports/research-reports-list.html

Check out our Honor Roll there for the full roster of all of the talented analysts who have worked on these reports and numerous other G&A Institute research that we broadly share with you when the results are in.  Their profiles (which we work with our valued colleagues to keep up to date as they move on to great success in their careers) are on the G&A website: https://www.ga-institute.com/about-the-institute/the-honor-roll.html

Footnote:  As we examine 1,500 corporate and institutional reports each year we see a variety of titles applied:  Corporate Sustainability; Corporate Social Responsibility; Corporate Responsibility; Corporate Citizenship (one of the older titles still used by GE and other firms); Corporate Stewardship; Environmental Sustainability…and more!

If you would like to have information about G&A Institute research efforts, please connect with us via our website.

Ceres on Corporate Sustainability: “Turning Point” Research Effort Results

We can view this as very encouraging news:  Ceres released a report – “Turning Point” — that shows almost two-thirds of 600 companies examined intend to reduce GHG emission; half have water management policies; and just under half of the companies are formally committed to “workers’ rights”. The current research effort is the third assessment of corporate progress against key expectations of the framework, “The Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability,” and is a follow up to Ceres’ “Gaining Ground: Corporate Progress” report in 2014.

The report used data from the ESG research organization Vigeo Eiris that examined 600-plus of the largest publicly-traded companies in the USA.

Says the Ceres researchers:  In looking at the 600+ companies for the best examples on sustainability leadership, a key finding is that “sustainability” is now overseen by senior executives in more companies (65% today, vs. 42% in 2014), and high-level corporate officers manage GHG reductions in 98% of the companies surveyed.

That’s the good news.  The “bad news,” as provided with examples by Brian Collett in our Top Story (commentary from TriplePundit), is that while corporate responders said they were committed to reducing GHG emissions (64% said “yes”), only 36% set clear goals.

The Ceres survey results at times sound like the familiar “I have good news for you/and bad news” jokes.  While 69% of companies say they are concerned about their supply chain environmental and societal impacts, only 34% have “the means to take action”.

While about one-third of companies conduct materiality assessments, only 6% can describe the results guiding their planning and decision-making. On “water control,” more than half of companies are “committed,” but only 15% have priority targets focused on high risk.

Author Collett tells readers that using data from Vigeo Eiris the good news is that a select number of leading brand marketers in the USA are indeed meeting Ceres’ research recommendations to the corporate sector (“intensify your sustainability actions”).

These companies include Citi, Coca-Cola, CVS Health, Gap, General Mills, Intel, Kellogg, Nike, and PepsiCo.  The CSOs at General Mills and Citi Group add their perspectives to the TriplePundit piece.

Commenting on the research effort, Betty T. Yee (Controller of the State of California) noted:  Turning Point is a critical tool for smart business decisions, providing investors and shareholders with helpful insights to better understand key sustainability trends and leading industry practices.”

Watch next week for G&A Institute’s update on in our annual Flash Report on the CSR/Sustainability reporting trends of the S&P 500® Index companies.

To read the Ceres’ “Turning Point” report:  https://www.ceres.org/resources/roadmap-for-sustainability

To learn more about the framework — Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability:  https://www.ceres.org/ceres-roadmap

This Week’s Top Story

600 Companies, More Senior Executives Commit to Sustainability Policies
(Monday – March 05, 2018) Source: Triple Pundit – Record numbers of the largest and most influential companies in the US have been found in new research to be committing themselves to ambitious sustainability policies.

“Does the RobecoSAM CSA Deliver Quantifiable Business Returns?” – Find out April 6th in NYC at DJSI How INSIGHTS Inspire Action

As the opening of RobecoSAM’s Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA) draws nearer we wanted to remind you about our upcoming workshop on April 6th at Baruch College/CUNY in New York City. The workshop will be a very intimate discussion with 30 or fewer people with an opportunity to engage with representatives from RobecoSAM, G&A Institute, and your peers.

Participants will also have access to RobecoSAM’s benchmarking & leading practices database for the day. (Access to these databases normally cost 4’990 EUR and 2’500 EUR respectively.)

Click Here to Register & Find Out More Details! 

We’d also like to share with you a collection of video interviews which outline the value of the RobecoSAM CSA for leading companies. These topics and more will be discussed at our workshop.

RobecoSAM interviewed a number of leading companies that are long time CSA participants. Please enjoy… and let us know if you have any questions about the CSA or the upcoming event.

Does the CSA deliver quantifiable business returns?
The CSA results are often used by companies to refine their sustainability strategy, add credibility to sustainability focused RfPs, attract investors, and to motivate employees and increase engagement. Learn first-hand about all the benefits these companies realize. Watch this 2min video with statements from Siemens, AstraZeneca, Deutsche Telekom, Samsung, ABN Amro, and Shinhan Financial Group.

How do you use the results of RobecoSAM’s CSA?
Companies that lead in sustainability use the CSA results in their communication with investors and B2B clients and to motivate employees to name just a few examples. To learn more, watch this 2min video with statements from Deutsche Telekom, AstraZeneca, Samsung, Siemens, ABN Amro, and Shinhan Financial Group.

Please join us on April 6th at Baruch College in NYC!
Click Here to For More Details & To Register! 
We look forward to seeing you there!

Where does RobecoSAM’s CSA fit your overall reporting approach? 
The discussions and outcomes that develop internally at Sustainability leaders from the process of completing the CSA are used as key input for their sustainability reporting strategy. Hear about it from the leaders in this 2min video with statements from AstraZeneca, Deutsche Telekom, Samsung, Siemens, ABN Amro, and Shinhan Financial Group.

Advice for peers: what are the pitfalls first time participants should avoid? 
Watch this short video to learn about the benefits companies realize from their CSA participation and receive expert advice on how to best manage the CSA questionnaire process. Experts from ABN Amro, AstraZeneca, Deutsche Telekom, Samsung, Siemens, and Shinhan Financial Group.

“It’s not rocket science” – Advice for 1st time CSA participants
RobecoSAM asked a number of long time participants in our Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA) what kind of advice they have for first time participants. Watch this 4min video to learn first hand from Axa Group, Philips, Grupo Nutresa, Cementos Argos and UPM Kymene.

Please join us on April 6th at Baruch College in NYC!
Click Here to For More Details & To Register! 
We look forward to seeing you there!

FOR QUESTIONS, contact Louis D. Coppola, Executive Vice President & Co-Founder, Governance & Accountability Institute, Inc. at Tel 646.430.8230 ext 14 or email lcoppola@ga-institute.com.

ING Surveyed Corporate Finance Execs: The Results are Encouraging, as the Respondents Commented on Positive Results of Corporate Sustainability

Take our Top Story today and get it in front of your firm’s finance leaders

So often we hear that “investors don’t ask” or “no one inside seems to care” or “our finance folks don’t believe in” when we talk with corporate connections about corporate sustainability at their firm.  And, inside the company, skepticism can typically be found in the finance offices.

We have some good news “findings” for you today from the ING folks to add to the growing number of research studies demonstrating the sustainability business case.  ING is a leading global financial institution (banking, financial service) of Dutch origin, with a strong European base, serving clients in 40+ countries; it is selected to be among the leaders in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index’s Bank Industry category.

The firm just issued a report — “From Sustainability to Business Value – Finance as a Catalyst” — based on survey results (analyzing the views of 200-plus US-based finance executives in financial services, manufacturing, tech, consumer goods, real estate, industrial engineering, telecom, media, agriculture, infrastructure, chemical, transport, and logistics).

The survey respondents included CFOs, financial controllers, finance directors and senior treasury professionals, with revenues in their firms of from $500MM to $20+ billion.  The survey was intended to help to improve understanding of how financing and lending can support the goal of building a low-carbon, sustainability society.

The findings are encouraging for the most part, and resonated with us.  In our discussion with many corporate managers, the conversation usually includes “encouraging greater Corporate Sustainability is important for me internally, especially with our tough-minded and often skeptical finance folks. So being able to make the strong business case is a critical task…”.

Here’s some help for you from ING: 
The important role played by corporate finance and the benefits that these professionals identified were described in these ways:

“Almost half of the firms responding said that sustainability concerns have some level of influence on their business’s growth strategy…and 40%+ of firms with a mature sustainability framework in place said revenue growth is a main driver for acting.”

Supporting that portion of the business case?

  • 87% of survey respondents in firms with sustainability frameworks (the “mature” firms) said they experienced better revenue,
  • and 65% improved their credit rating.

ING states that it believes that financial institutions have a duty to explore how their financing can help to support energy transition and combat climate change. CEO Ralph Hamer is a “champion”  in the Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders.

An important takeway is the ING CEO’s perspective:

“We are witnessing an important shift in how companies in the United States view sustainability. Our research shows that it is no longer just about cutting costs or creating positive brand awareness ­— sustainability strategies are being deployed as true revenue drivers,” said Gerald Walker, CEO, ING Americas. “The finance function holds the key to unlocking the business value of these strategies, and are crucial to pushing the sustainable agenda in the U.S. as the industry continues to mature.”

There’s more for you in the Top Story, which also has a link to the ING Report:

Research: U.S. Companies Implement Sustainability Strategies To Drive Revenues
(Friday – February 16, 2018) Source: Chem Info News – ING’s sustainability report, ‘From Sustainability to Business Value — Finance as a Catalyst’, published today, finds that revenue growth is the most important factor when deciding to implement sustainability strategies, as 39…

Access RobecoSAM’s Leading Practice & Benchmarking Database For The Day @ DJSI – How Insights Inspire Action

Each attendee will have free access to RobecoSAM’s Benchmarking & Leading Practices Database for the day.Access to these databases normally cost 4’990 EUR and 2’500 EUR respectively.

The aim of this workshop is to increase the participants’ knowledge about the importance of and methodology behind the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI) and the RobecoSAM Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA).

Representatives from RobecoSAM will lead a workshop session on how to utilize these important resources which are summarized below.

RobecoSAM Benchmarking Database (BDB)
A searchable database to benchmark your company against your peers on the criteria level of questions in the RobecoSAM CSA. Includes the ability to filter region, competitors, and do trend analysis including graphical representation of your company score against your competitors. You’ll be able to see the rankings of other companies assessed in your industry as well. With this tool you’ll have the ability to conduct detailed benchmarking analysis to answer internal or external queries about your sustainability performance.More details on the RobecoSAM Benchmarking Database (BDB) can be found here. RobecoSAM

Leading Practice Database (LPD) 
A searchable database of leading companies’ practices in relation to the questions asked in RobecoSAM’s Corporate Sustainability Assessment. The Leading Practice Database puts hundreds of real industry examples and quantitative analyses at your fingertips. Company examples are sourced from over 50 different industries and cover most of the questions included in RobecoSAM’s Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA). The database also includes thousands of industry-specific statistical analysis of individual RobecoSAM CSA results for your particular industry. These examples will inform you about the conditions required in a certain CSA question to score 90 or above, and the percentage of companies in your industry meeting those conditions in a given assessment year. This analysis is provided on a global level.
More details on the Leading Practice Database (LDP) can be found here.

Join us on April 6, 2018 from 8:30AM – 2:00 PM EST  @ Baruch College/CUNY NYC:
DJSI – HOW INSIGHTS INSPIRE ACTION
Leveraging the Value of the Corporate Sustainability Assessment 
Presented by Governance & Accountability Institute in collaboration with RobecoSAM

EARLY BIRD RATE: $599 (Available until February 23rd. Full Price: $749)
Registrations will be open until April 5, 2018.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW AGENDA!

For information and to register, click here.

FOR QUESTIONS, contact Louis D. Coppola, Executive Vice President & Co-Founder, Governance & Accountability Institute, Inc. at Tel 646.430.8230 ext 14 or email lcoppola@ga-institute.com.

About Governance & Accountability Institute, Inc. (www.ga-institute.com
Governance & Accountability Institute is a New York City-based sustainability research, consulting and educational services company working with corporate sector and investment community clients. Typical engagements include preparation of sustainability, CSR and citizenship reports; peer benchmarking on ESG issues and reporting; customized ESG research (environmental, social and governance performance); strategic materiality analysis; sustainable investor relations; corporate communications around sustainability; and assistance with stakeholder engagements. The company is the Data Partner for the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) for the USA, UK and the Republic of Ireland.

About RobecoSAM (www.robecosam.com
Founded in 1995, RobecoSAM is an investment specialist focused exclusively on Sustainability Investing. It offers asset management, indices, impact analysis and investment, sustainability assessments, and benchmarking services. Together with S&P Dow Jones Indices, RobecoSAM publishes the globally recognized Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI) as well as the S&P ESG Factor Weighted Index Series, the first index family to treat ESG as a standalone performance factor using the RobecoSAM Smart ESG methodology. As of June 30, 2017, RobecoSAM had client assets under management, advice and/or license of approximately USD 20 billion.

Important legal information: The details given on these pages do not constitute an offer. They are given for information purposes only. No liability is assumed for the correctness and accuracy of the details given. The securities identified and described may or may not be purchased, sold or recommended for advisory clients. It should not be assumed that an investment in these securities was or will be profitable. Copyright© 2018 RobecoSAM – all rights reserved.

Proof of Concept for Sustainable Investing: The Influential Barron’s Names the Inaugural “The Top 100 Sustainable Companies — Big Corporations With The Best ESG Policies Have Been Beating the Stock Market.”

By Hank Boerner – Chairman and Chief Strategist, G&A Institute

Barron’s 100 Most Sustainable Companies

Barron’s is one of the most influential of investor-focused publications (in print and digital format) and a few months ago (in October), the editors published the first of an ongoing series of articles that will focus on ESG performance and sustainable investing, initially making these points:

  • Barron’s plans to cover this burgeoning style of investing on a more regular basis. A lot of possible content that was developed was left on the cutting room floor, the editors note.
  • Says Barron’s: “We are only in Version 1.0 of sustainable investing. 2.0 is where ESG is not a separate category but a natural part of active management.”
  • And:  “Given the corporate scandals of recent days (Wells Fargo, Equifax, Chipotle, Volkswagen, Valeant Pharmaceuticals), it is clear that focus on companies with good ESG policies is the pathway to greater returns for investors!”

The current issue of Barron’s (Feb 5, 2018) has a feature article and comprehensive charting with this cover description:

The Top 100 Sustainable Companies – Big Corporations With the Best ESG Policies Have Been Beating the Market.”

Think of this as proof of concept: The S&P 500® Index Companies returned 22% for the year 2017 and the Barron’s Top 100 Sustainable Companies average return was 29%.

The 100 U.S. companies were ranked in five categories considering 300 performance indicators.  Barron’s asked Calvert Research and Management, a unit of Eaton Vance, to develop the list of the Top 100 from the universe of 1,000 largest publicly-held companies by market value, all headquartered in the United States.

Calvert looked at the 300 performance indicators that were provided by three key data and analytic providers that serve a broad base of institutional investors:

  • Sustainalytics,
  • Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS)
  • and Thomson Reuters ASSET4 unit.

Five umbrella categories were considered:

  • Shareholders
  • Employees
  • Customers
  • Planet
  • Community

There were items considered in the “shareholders” category, like accounting policies and board structure; employee workplace diversity and labor relations; customer, business ethics and product safety; planet; community; GHG emissions; human rights and supply chain.

We can say here that “good governance” (the “G” in ESG) is now much more broadly defined by shareholders and includes the “S” and “E” performance indicators (and management thereof), not the formerly-narrow definitions of governance. Senior managers and board, take notice.

Every company was ranked from 1-to-100, including even those firms manufacturing weapons (these firms are usually excluded from other indexes and best-of lists, and a number of third party recognitions).

Materiality is key: the analysts adjusted the weighting of each category for how material it was for each industry. (Example: “planet” is more material for chip makers using water in manufacturing, vs. water for banking institutions – each company is weighted this way.)

The Top 100 list has each company’s weighted score and other information and is organized by sector and categories; the complete list and information about the methodology is found at Barron’s.com.

The Top 5 Companies overall were:

  • Cisco Systems (CSCO)
  • salesforce.com (CRM)
  • Best Buy (BBY)
  • Intuit (INTU)
  • HP (HPQ)

The 100 roster is organized in categories:

  • The Most Sustainable Consumer Discretionary Companies (Best Buy is at #1)
  • The Most Sustainable Financials (Northern Trust is #1) – Barron’s notes that there are few banks in the Top 100. Exceptions: PNC Financial Services Group and State Street.
  • The Most Sustainable Industrials (Oshkosh is ranked #1)
  • The Most Sustainable Tech Outfits (Cisco is at the top)

Familiar companies names in the roster include Adobe Systems, Colgate-Palmolive, PepsiCo, Deer, UPS, Target, Kellogg, Apple, and Henry Schein.

Singled out for their perspectives to be shared in the Barron’s feature commenting on the ESG trends: John Wilson, Cornerstone Capital; John Streur, Calvert; Calvet Analyst Chris Madden; Paul Smith, CEO of CFA Institute; Jon Hale, Head of Sustainability Research at Morningstar.

Calvert CEO John Streur noted: “This list gives people insight into companies addressing future risks and into the quality of management.”

Top-ranked Cisco is an example of quality of management and management of risk: The company reduced Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions by 41% since 2007 and gets 80% of its electricity from renewable sources.

This is a feature article by Leslie P. Norton, along with a chart of the Top 100 Companies.

She writes: “…Barron’s offers our first ranking of the most sustainable companies in the U.S. We have always aimed to provide information about what keenly interests investors – and what affects investment risk and performance…” And…”what began as an expression of values (“SRI”) is finding wider currency as good corporate practices…”

The complete list of the top companies is at Barron’s com. (The issue is dated February 5th, 2018)  You will need a password (for subscribers) to access the text and accompanying chart.

For in-depth information: We prepared a comprehensive management brief in October 2017 on Barron’s sustainable coverage for our “G&A Institute’s To the Point!” web platform: https://ga-institute.com/to-the-point/proof-of-concept-for-sustainable-investing-barrons-weighs-in-with-inaugural-list-of-top-100-sustainable-companies/

ANNOUNCING: DJSI – HOW INSIGHTS INSPIRE ACTION

 

ANNOUNCING: DJSI – HOW INSIGHTS INSPIRE ACTION
Leveraging the Value of the Corporate Sustainability Assessment
April 6, 2018

Presented by Governance & Accountability Institute
in collaboration with RobecoSAM
Hosted at Baruch College/CUNY in New York City

The aim of this workshop is to increase the participants’ knowledge about the importance of and methodology behind the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI) and the RobecoSAM Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA).

A workshop session will also be included on how to utilize important resources offered by RobecoSAM such as the benchmarking and leading practices databases. G&A will also present best practices for organizing a gap analysis, project management, and internal subject matter expert identification for first time responders, or those working to improve their CSA responses.

RobecoSAM and Governance & Accountability Institute expert representatives will contribute to the Meeting overall and in particular present content (including analysis and slide decks). Participants can expect to take away a deeper understanding of:

Participants can expect to take away a deeper understanding of:

The DJSI 2018 – methodology and important takeaways.

  • Effective approaches in assessing established and emerging sustainability topics in the CSA.
  • Rationale, the business case, performance, and results from last year’s assessment, and learn more about major challenges for companies.
  • Best practices, valuable tools and resources available for first time responders as well as those looking to improve their response in 2018.
  • Each attendee will have free access to RobecoSAM’s benchmarking & leading practices database for the day. (Access to these databases normally cost 4’990 EUR and 2’500 EUR respectively.)

REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN

EARLY BIRD RATE: $599
(Available until February 23rd. Full Price: $749)

Registrations will be open until April 5, 2018.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW AGENDA!

For information and to register, click here.

FOR QUESTIONS, contact Louis D. Coppola, Executive Vice President & Co-Founder, Governance & Accountability Institute, Inc. at Tel 646.430.8230 ext 14 or email lcoppola@ga-institute.com.

About Governance & Accountability Institute, Inc. (www.ga-institute.com)
Governance & Accountability Institute is a New York City-based sustainability research, consulting and educational services company working with corporate sector and investment community clients. Typical engagements include preparation of sustainability, CSR and citizenship reports; peer benchmarking on ESG issues and reporting; customized ESG research (environmental, social and governance performance); strategic materiality analysis; sustainable investor relations; corporate communications around sustainability; and assistance with stakeholder engagements. The company is the exclusive Data Partner for the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) for the USA, UK and the Republic of Ireland.

About RobecoSAM (www.robecosam.com)
Founded in 1995, RobecoSAM is an investment specialist focused exclusively on Sustainability Investing. It offers asset management, indices, impact analysis and investing, sustainability assessments, and benchmarking services. The company’s asset management capabilities cater to institutional asset owners and financial intermediaries and cover a range of ESG-integrated investments, featuring a strong track record in resource efficiency-themed strategies. Together with S&P Dow Jones Indices, RobecoSAM publishes the globally recognized Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI) as well as the S&P ESG Index series, the first index family to treat ESG as a standalone performance factor using the RobecoSAM Smart ESG methodology. Based on its Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA), an annual ESG analysis of over 3,900 listed companies, RobecoSAM has compiled one of the world’s most comprehensive databases of financially material sustainability information. The CSA data is also included in USD 86.5 billion of assets under management by the subsidiaries of the Robeco Group.

RobecoSAM is a sister company of Robeco, the Dutch investment management firm founded in 1929. Both entities are subsidiaries of the Robeco Group, whose shareholder is ORIX Corporation. As a reflection of its own commitment to advancing sustainable investment practices, RobecoSAM is a signatory of the PRI and UN Global Compact, a member of Eurosif, Swiss Sustainable Finance, Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), Ceres and Portfolio Decarbonization Coalition (PDC). As of December 31, 2016, RobecoSAM had client assets under management, advice and/or license of approximately USD 16.1 billion.