February 7 2020
By Hank Boerner – Chair & Chief Strategist – G&A Institute
Mirror, mirror on the wall – who is the most sustainable company of them all? (Paraphrasing that most memorable line from the Queen in the Walt Disney Studios’ 1930s big screen classic, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,)
“Best Of” is being regularly applied now by a ever-widening range of third party players in examining the performance and achievements of U.S., North American and global companies’ sustainability efforts (and applying their methodologies to focus on an ever-widening list of ESG criteria for users of the lists, rankings and so on).
The results are published for many or all to see – such as this week’s Corporate Knights’ “2020 Global 100” unveiling at the World Economic Forum in Davos — which we are sharing in our Top Stories of the week.
Looking at (or for) the “fairest” of them all, or the best-in-class, or most sustainable, or leading in corporate citizenship rankings, et al — there are now many more ESG ratings organizations, publishers, NGOs, investor coalitions, trade / professional associations, and others in the “ratings, rankings, scores and other recognitions” arena.
And these ratings, rankings, scores, best-of lists are published in many more forms and value-added variations. Keeping current and in the ESG ratings & rankings game is a full-time job at many companies today.
The third party evaluation approach can be better understood in how they apply their research to arrive at rankings and ratings, and assigning scores, with shared (privately or publicly) rationale to explain the selections of the individual company for benchmark, or the rankings assigned.
Therein, important stories are being told about companies on the list or assigned a high ranking or in an index. Investors can better understand the why and how of the selection.
(And, we should say, stories are told in the ratings & rankings et al processes about those companies that are omitted or not selected or having a lower rating compared to peers).
For example, look at investable products. S&P Global recently launched an index based on the widely-used benchmark, the S&P 500(R), focused on ESG performance. The bottom 25% — 100 companies! — were not included in the first go-round. Story subtly told – company is in or out.
Besides the welcomed opportunity for corporate leaders to bask in the sunshine of the valued third party recognitions (“look, we got in this year’s best companies list focused on…”), and to admire the reflection in the “best of mirror mirror” on the board room or C-Suite wall, there are very practical aspects to these things.
Such as: As explained, the inclusion of a corporation in a key ESG equity index / investing benchmark or investable product offering and more recently, reflections of the company in the mirror mirror of credit risk ratings and ratings opinions on fixed-income instruments.
The decision to issue a “green” bond to the market may or will be affected by third party views of the planned issue – green enough or not! That’s beginning to happen in the EU markets.
With the many in-depth third party examinations of companies’ ESG strategies and resulting outcomes (considering company’s actions, performance, achievements) now taking place, and with the results becoming more transparent, some of the scoring / ranking / etc results have the effect of enabling a more complete, accurate and comparable corporate ESG profile to be developed by the company.
With better understanding of the ranking & rating etc the issuer’s leadership can assign more resources to improve their public ESG profile, especially those developed by the key ESG rating agencies for their investor clients.
Important to understand in 2020: These close examinations of companies’ ESG performance are becoming more and more decision-useful for portfolio management for asset owners and managers.
And lenders, And bankers. And the company’s insurers. And business partners. And customers. And present and future employees wanting to work for a more sustainable, doing-the-right-thing company.
As board room top leaders better understand the importance of these ratings, rankings etc. exercises (and the importance of engaging with raters & rankers & list makers), with more internal resources allocated to the task of improving the profile — the company will tend to make more information publicly-available for the third party examinations.
The virtuous cycle continues — more information disclosed and explained, better ratings could result, year-after-year. As we always say, it is a sustainability journey.
More ESG information is now being made public by companies for delivery on critical ESG delivery platforms (such as on “the Bloomberg” and the Refinitiv Eikon platforms, in S&P Global platforms).
This in turn leads to better packaging of ESG data and narrative to inform and influence investors; and, leads to improved investment opportunity for being recognized as a leader in a particular space by key investor coalitions (ICCR, INCR, Investor Alliance on Human Rights, Climate Action 100+, and other).
The latter means a multiplier effect — quickly bringing the company’s sustainability news to more investors gathered in a community-of-interest on a topic.
(Think of the volumes of information now being made available by companies focused on GHG emissions, climate change risk, diversity & inclusion, labor rights, human rights, reducing ESG impacts on communities, greater supply chain accountability, use of renewable energy, water conservation, and more,)
Mirror, Mirror 2020: At the recent World Economic Forum meeting Davos, Switzerland, the “100 most sustainable companies of 2020” report was announced.
Publisher Corporate Knights’ much-anticipated annual ranking of “most sustainable companies in the world” was the basis of the announcement.
That annual survey looks at 7,400 companies having more than US$1 Billion in revenues, examining 21 KPIs. The stories of the companies from Fast Company and The Hill provide the details for you. (This is the 17th year of the survey.)
At the Davos gathering this year, participants learned that almost half of the most sustainable companies were based in Europe (49); 17 were HQ in the U.S.A; 12 in Canada; 3 in Latin America, 18 in Asia, and one company in Africa.
For the U.S.A., Cisco Systems is highest ranked (at #4, thanks to $25 billion generated for “clean revenues” from products with “environmental core attributes”). The #1 company is worldwide is Orsted of Denmark (renewable energy).
Our G&A Institute team closely monitors these and many other third party rankings, ratings, scores, corporate ESG profiles, and other critical evaluations of companies.
This is an example of the knowledge we gain in this [ratings/rankings] arena, which becomes a vital part of the various tools and resources we’ve created to help our corporate clients qualify for, get selected for, and lead in the various “best of lists”.
In sum, achieving better rankings, ratings, scores — so their mirror mirror on the wall question reflects back a very welcoming image!
In these newsletters, we work to regularly share with you the relevant news items and other content that helps to tell the story of the dramatic changes taking place in both the corporate community and in the capital markets as as the focus on corporate ESG sharpens. Like this week’s Top Stories.
Top Stories for This Week
The 100 most sustainable companies of 2020
Source: The Hill – A ranking of the most sustainable organizations was unveiled at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Tuesday.
These are the most sustainable corporations in the world
Source: Fast Company – Canadian research firm Corporate Knights releases its annual list of most sustainable corporations in the world, with some new entries in the top 10.
For a the complete list and important background, go to:
Corporate Kings’ 2020 Global Ranking
And also from Davos:
World Economic Forum calls on business chiefs to set net-zero targets
Source: Edie.com – In a letter from the Forum’s Founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab and the heads of Bank of America and Royal DSM Brian Moynihan and Feike Sijbesma, businesses have been urged to respond to climate science through the…