The S&P 500® Universe — Setting the Pace for Corporate Sustainability Reporting: 90% Mark Reached!

by Hank Boerner – Chair & Chief Strategist – G&A Institute

The popular corporate equity “baskets” including the Dow Jones Industrial Index, Nasdaq 100, S&P 500, the Russell 1,000 – 2,000 – and 3,000– in essence consist of the underlying value of the corporate shares in each basket (or benchmark for investors).

Today, there is an ocean of stock indexes for asset managers to license from the creators and then apply process and approaches for keeping track of the companies in the fiduciary portfolio, or to analyze and pick from the underlying issues for their portfolio.

Alternative benchmarks and indexes may be dependent on market cap size and have variations in the index family to fine tune the analysis (think of the varieties of Wilshire, Russell, S&P Dow Jones, etc.).

There has been a steady move by many asset managers from “active management” to passive investment instruments, with this transition key benchmarks become an important tool for the analyst and portfolio manager.

One large-cap index really dominates the capital markets:  The S&P 500.

G&A Institute’s Annual S&P 500® Research
Almost a decade ago, the team at G&A Institute began gathering corporate reports to build our models and methodology for guiding client’s corporate disclosure and reporting — and focusing especially on the structured reports of U.S. publicly-traded companies, we selected the universe of companies that the index creators include in the S&P 500 Index®.

Here’s why:  The S&P 500 Index is the most-widely-quoted index measuring the stock performance of the 500 largest investable companies listed on American stock exchanges.  Asset managers licensees like State Street, MCSI, Invesco Capital and London Stock Exchange Group use this index for their constructing ETFs and other investable products.

This universe of public companies provided for our team a solid foundation for tracking and analyzing the activities of these 500 companies as they began or expanded their sustainability reporting. In 2011, that first year. we found just about 20% of the 500 were publishing sustainability reports.

And here’s the dramatic news:
G&A’s just-completed report shows 90% of the S&P 500 companies produced a sustainability report in year 2019!

Tracking the Trends
Over the decade of close tracking and analysis of the 500 companies in the index, the good news is we saw the number of reports steadily grow.

We charted the broad impact of these market-leading enterprises on such reporting frameworks and standards as the GRI and SASB as those standards evolved and matured and were adopted by the companies in the 500.  We saw…

CDP disclosure steadily expanded in structured reports and (stand alone) corporate responses to CDP on carbon emissions, water, supply chain, forestry products.

The adoption of UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by companies as they were in some way conceptually a part of a company’s sustainability strategy (and subsequent reporting).

And more recently, there was the adoption of TCFD recommendations by corporate issuers in the U.S. – that began to show up in reports recently.

Starting with 2010 reporting, the first G&A analysis, we’ve shared the highlights of the research efforts.

Teams of talented, passionate and bright analyst-interns developed each year’s report (you can see who they are/were in G&A’s Honor Roll on our web site).  Most of the team members have moved on to career positions in the corporate, investment, public sector and NGO communities.

Download this year’s report, examining 2019 corporate sustainability reporting by the S&P 500 companies.

We’ve organized the deliverable for both quick scanning and concentrated reviewing.  Let us know if you have questions about the research results.

Stay tuned to G&A’s upcoming Russell 1000 Index® analysis of 2019 reporting.

This second important index/benchmark was created several decades ago by the Frank Russell Company and is now maintained by FTSE Russell (subsidiary of the London Stock Exchange Group)

The largest companies by market cap companies are available as benchmarks for investors in the S&P 500 (largest cap) and for the next 500 in the Russell 1000.

The ripple effects of the S&P 500 companies and more recently some of the Russell 1000 companies on corporate sustainability disclosure and reporting is fascinating for us to track.

Many mid-cap and small-cap companies are now adopting similar reporting policies and practices.  Privately-owned companies are publishing similar reports.  All of this means volumes of ESG data and narrative flowing out to investors – and fueling the growth of sustainable investing.  We find this all very encouraging in our tracking of corporate reporting.

Here are the details for you:

Top Stories

90% of S&P 500 Index Companies
Publish Sustainability Reports in 2019,
G&A Announces in its Latest Annual
2020 Flash Report

Source: Governance & Accountability Institute, Inc. – G&A Institute announces the results of its annual S&P 500 sustainability reporting analysis. 90% of the S&P 500 published corporate sustainability reports, an all-time high!


Adding Important Perspectives to G&A’s S&P 500 Research Results

What is Greenwashing? The Importance of Maintaining Perspective in ESG Communications
Source: AlphaSense, Pamela Styles principal of Next Level Investor Relations LLC – “Greenwashing” can generally be described as ‘the practice of only paying lip service to environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors with token gestures.’ In practice, greenwashing occurs when an organization presents…

New report measures boardroom diversity at top S&P 500 companies
Source: CNBC – There’s a renewed focus on diversity in the boardroom, but a new report shows not much is changing. CNBC’s Seema Mody reports.

Colleges and Universities and Global Sustainability – Many Higher Ed Institutions Are Addressing the 21st Century’s Great Societal Challenges in Many Ways in North America, Asia-Pacific and Europe

by Hank Boerner – Chair and Chief Strategist – G&A Institute

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon thinks that institutions of higher learning are “…the leading torch bearers for global sustainability.”  The world’s universities, adds the Study International organization team: “…Universities play a vital role in helping us understand climate change…”

The Study International Staff looks at the roles of universities in addressing climate change challenges in the U.S.A., Asia-Pacific and in Europe in a very informative wrap-up that is one of our Top Stories this issue.

Under the Climate Leadership Network, they explain, more than 600 colleges and universities in every U.S. state and the District of Columbia have committed to take action on climate change, preparing students through research and education to solve 21st Century challenges.

The institutions profiled today:  the University of Utah’s College of Mines and Earth Sciences; the University of Queensland in Australia; College of Science and Technology, Temple University (USA); Asian School of Environment, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore.

Our other two related Top Stories for you are (1) a feature from Florida by Bakari M. McClendon at the Florida A&M University’s Sustainability Institute (go Rattlers!), about the great work being done at the school to work toward “climate (impact) neutrality”, collaborate with the community and prepare students for the sustainability challenges of the 21st Century. (The school is a public, historically  African-American institution).

It’s a fascinating wrap up and FAMU faculty, staff and students are justifiably proud of telling.

And (2) on the other American coastline, far to the west, at the University of California’s Santa Barbara campus, there’s news about the school being named among the top-performing institutions in the 2019 Sustainable Campus Index (did you know there was such an index?).

The index is from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (“AASHE”) and it annually ranks the nation’s most sustainable colleges and universities in 17 impact areas related to academics, engagement, operations and administration based on it “STARS” methodology.  UCSB is part of the “sustainability revolution” in California that is helping to set the pace for the U.S.A. in addressing climate change challenges.

Here at G&A Institute we have a program for select intern-analysts to assist with ESG / sustainability / corporate disclosure and reporting research projects — which we then share results [of] with you on our G&A web platforms.

We are proud of the men and women who have participated in our rigorous programs over the years since 2010 – they are now influential in helping to advance corporate sustainability and sustainable investing out “in the real world” – you can find their profiles on our Honor Roll at:  https://www.ga-institute.com/about-the-institute/the-honor-roll.html

And the results of their research over the recent years that these outstanding professionals have helped to conduct is found at: https://www.ga-institute.com/research-reports/research-reports-list.html

If you are a college/university student, particularly a grad student, and you would like to be considered for an internship with G&A Institute, please examine this: INTERNSHIP OPPORTUNITIES: SUSTAINABILITY REPORTS DATA ANALYST

P.S.  If you don’t know about the Study International organization, which operates from the UK, Australia and Malaysia, and helps students find educational institutions and graduate employers connect, you can tune in to their web platform: www.studyinternational.com

Perhaps you will find an institution that your organization can collaborate with, or a graduate to fill that sustainability position at your organization.

This Week’s Top Stories

Resilient research hubs that strive for global sustainability
(Thursday – August 30, 2018)
From heads of states to businesses, civil society to Silicon Valley, leaders are not immune to the forces of change before us. Developmental, environmental and other social challenges…

Education is a launch pad for sustainability problem-solvers
(Tuesday – August 28, 2018) Source: Tallahassee Democrat – Colleges and universities are uniquely positioned to build pathways to interdisciplinary, solutions-oriented sustainability education for the thought leaders of tomorrow

Sustainability Strides
(Tuesday – August 28, 2018) Source: The Current – UC Santa Barbara named among top-performing institutions in three key categories in the 2018 Sustainable Campus Index

Calling Your Attention To

The JAMA Network (Journal of the American Medical Association) published an analysis of Health Care Organizations’ sustainability and CSR reporting. We share with you this week a very informative commentary from the JAMA Network (Journal of the American of the American Medical Association -AMA) that should be interesting reading for managers of healthcare facilities. This is an assessment of the sustainability reporting by large health care delivery organizations (HCOs) performed by two medical professional, Emily Senay, M.D., MPH; and, Philip J. Landrigan, M.D. MSC2:

Assessment of Environmental Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility Reporting by Large Health Care Organizations
(Thursday – August 30, 2018) Source: Jame Network, Emily Senay, MD, MPH1; Philip J. Landrigan, MD, MSc2 – Do large health care organizations participate in the business trend to report on sustainability activities?