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Bahar Gidwani


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Sustainability at Our Alma Mater, Harvard Business School

[fa icon="calendar'] Feb 21, 2017 9:46:22 AM / by Bahar Gidwani

Two of CSRHub’s founders went to Harvard Business School.  (Cynthia and I were in the same study group!)  So we remain interested in the affairs of our alma mater—especially as they relate to sustainability.

Colleges and Universities are pretty interesting “entities” from a sustainability perspective.  Many of them are huge enterprises—as big or bigger than most major corporations.  For instance, Harvard University employs about 16,000 faculty and staff (more staff than the 11,000+ students they serve).  The University of Texas at Austin has about the same number of staff, 15,000, watching over its 50,000 students.  In contrast, US Steel employs only 21,000 people—not too different!

We have 11 sources of information and 158 elements of data available on Harvard University, but can only rate it on 8 of our twelve measures of sustainability.  This is a common situation for Colleges and Universities (we have 47 sources for US Steel).

Harvard University CSR Ranking.jpg

We currently offer full ratings on only 9 of the 88 education entities that we cover in CSRHub.  This situation should improve as we gather more crowd and government sources.  (For instance, the US Department of Education provides an interesting Scorecard that has more than 100 data items per college.  (E.g., did you know that Harvard University graduates earn an average of $87,200 ten years after graduation, compared to $52,800 for UT grads?)

Colleges and universities face many of the same sustainability-related issues that businesses do.  For instance, Harvard has tussled with its host communities (with both Cambridge and Allston), as it has expanded its facilities and grown its “footprint.”  The University recently went through a strike with its food workers, narrowly avoided a strike with its janitors, and faces a unionization effort among its graduate student workers.  It has also made public commitments to reduce its carbon footprint, waste production, etc.

While schools like Harvard may have a “sustainability report,” few educational institutions have generated a GRI report (10 in the past two years out of the 88 entities in this group) and none have done a CDP report.  This lack of formal reporting, coupled with public/private governance structures that diffuse responsibility, make it hard to hold educational institutions to the same standard of behavior that we do for business entities.  However, the core buyer for education is young and more socially aware than the average consumer of most business products.  We expect to see students (and faculty) increase pressure on universities and colleges to both disclose more of their social behavior and to press schools to improve their social performance.

 

Search a company on CSRHub and see their sustainability performance.

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Bahar Gidwani

Bahar Gidwani is CEO and Co-founder of CSRHub.  He has built and run large technology-based businesses for many years. Bahar holds a CFA, worked on Wall Street with Kidder, Peabody, and with McKinsey & Co. Bahar has consulted to a number of major companies and currently serves on the board of several software and Web companies. He has an MBA from Harvard Business School and an undergraduate degree in physics and astronomy. He plays bridge, races sailboats, and is based in New York City.

CSRHub provides access to the world’s largest corporate social responsibility and sustainability ratings and information.  It covers over 16,800 companies from 135 industries in 133 countries. By aggregating and normalizing the information from 500 data sources, CSRHub has created a broad, consistent rating system and a searchable database that links millions of rating elements back to their source. Managers, researchers and activists use CSRHub to benchmark company performance, learn how stakeholders evaluate company CSR practices, and seek ways to improve corporate sustainability performance.

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Three Drivers for Corporate Knights’ Global 100

[fa icon="calendar'] Feb 15, 2017 10:23:34 AM / by Bahar Gidwani

Each year our friends at Corporate Knights pull together a list of the 100 most sustainable corporations in the world.  They base their assessment on an extensive analysis of the companies they study that includes a review of numerous facts and figures. CSRHub’s aggregation engine strives to determine a consensus of the perceived sustainability performance for the 17,000 companies we track by combining input from 500 different sources.  It is satisfying to see that Corporate Knights’ more direct measurement and analysis approach aligns well with our methodology.  Every one of the 100 companies on the Global 100 list had above average CSRHub ratings and the average overall rank was just below the 90th percentile.

We’ve pointed out in the past that some of the other efforts to pick top companies have not been as successful.  A simple contrast of the average rating for Corporate Knight’s picks with those of several other popular lists and indexes illustrates the difference. 

Index Comparison.jpg

We found it interesting to dig down one more layer in the Global 100 scores and look at the averages for each of CSRHub’s twelve ratings subcategories.  As you can see below, the Global 100 companies are especially strong in three areas: Compensation & Benefits, Energy & Climate Change, and Transparency & Reporting.

CSRHub Rank for Global 100.jpg

These three areas have historically been the best understood and most watched aspects of sustainability.  However our field is developing and expanding to include many other areas of corporate social behavior.  It will be interesting to see if Corporate Knights assigns more weight to these other areas of sustainability behavior in the future.  If it does, we could see new players rise to the top of future Global 100 lists.

Search a company on CSRHub and see their sustainability performance.

  Search CSRHub Ratings & Rankings


Bahar Gidwani

Bahar Gidwani is CEO and Co-founder of CSRHub.  He has built and run large technology-based businesses for many years. Bahar holds a CFA, worked on Wall Street with Kidder, Peabody, and with McKinsey & Co. Bahar has consulted to a number of major companies and currently serves on the board of several software and Web companies. He has an MBA from Harvard Business School and an undergraduate degree in physics and astronomy. He plays bridge, races sailboats, and is based in New York City.

CSRHub provides access to the world’s largest corporate social responsibility and sustainability ratings and information.  It covers over 16,800 companies from 135 industries in 133 countries. By aggregating and normalizing the information from 500 data sources, CSRHub has created a broad, consistent rating system and a searchable database that links millions of rating elements back to their source. Managers, researchers and activists use CSRHub to benchmark company performance, learn how stakeholders evaluate company CSR practices, and seek ways to improve corporate sustainability performance.

 

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A Quick Look at Brand Finance’s 2017 Banking League Table

[fa icon="calendar'] Feb 7, 2017 10:14:04 AM / by Bahar Gidwani

Brand Finance has recently released its analysis of the brand strength for the world’s 500 top banks.  This annual review uses Brand Finance’s royalty relief methodology to estimate how much of a bank’s market value derives from its brand assets.

Over the past few years, we have studied the relationship between brand strength and sustainability.  With help from both Brand Finance and other partners and data sources in the brand measurement space, we’ve determined there is a stable and reasonably strong correlation (between 10% and 30% depending on the source, time, period and type of data) between our data and these gages of corporate success.

Therefore, we were not surprised to see that those banks who had big increases in brand strength also had big increases in sustainability performance and vice versa.  The chart below shows companies who had a two step change in brand strength (e.g., from A to AA- or from AAA to AA+) on the horizontal axis compared to those who had a multi-point change in their overall CSRHub rating.  The top right and bottom right corners show banks where brand and sustainability score changes agree.

Brand Finance - Improved Sustainability - Stronger Brand 2.jpgThere are always outliers in any analysis.  So the presence of one bank (Intesa Sanpaolo) in the top left box didn’t bother us too much.  However, there were four names in the bottom right box, that had brand strength increases but sustainability strength declines.

A quick analysis shows that the driver for the change in perceived sustainability performance for these banks was governance issues—an area we’d previously showed did not have much affect on brand.  These four banks showed relatively little change on the community, employee and environment issues that are most tied to brand.

Bank Governance Issues 2.jpg

We look forward to working with more data from Brand Finance as they populate the rest of this year’s league tables.  Our partnership with Brand Finance allows them to share details of our ratings with their clients.  I’m sure that there will be many banks—and other companies—who will be interested to see how improving their sustainability performance could affect their brand values.

Search a company on CSRHub and see their sustainability performance.

 


Bahar Gidwani

Bahar Gidwani is CEO and Co-founder of CSRHub.  He has built and run large technology-based businesses for many years. Bahar holds a CFA, worked on Wall Street with Kidder, Peabody, and with McKinsey & Co. Bahar has consulted to a number of major companies and currently serves on the board of several software and Web companies. He has an MBA from Harvard Business School and an undergraduate degree in physics and astronomy. He plays bridge, races sailboats, and is based in New York City.

CSRHub provides access to the world’s largest corporate social responsibility and sustainability ratings and information.  It covers over 16,800 companies from 135 industries in 133 countries. By aggregating and normalizing the information from 500 data sources, CSRHub has created a broad, consistent rating system and a searchable database that links millions of rating elements back to their source. Managers, researchers and activists use CSRHub to benchmark company performance, learn how stakeholders evaluate company CSR practices, and seek ways to improve corporate sustainability performance.

 

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Tears Don’t Mend Broken China

[fa icon="calendar'] Jan 12, 2017 11:32:16 AM / by Bahar Gidwani

renewal.jpgI’ve always been clumsy.  There were many broken dishes and glasses in my childhood.  My Mom was always kind about it.  She’d say, “Tears don’t mend broken China.”  She had other similar phrases I remember (e.g., “If you get a load of lemons, it is time to make lemonade!”), but the lesson was always Midwestern positivism.  Don’t sit around moaning about what can’t be fixed—keep moving forward and don’t let your own failures hold you back.

Our recent election broke dishes for those of us in sustainability.  Many of my friends in the field and a number of our clients have asked if US corporate sustainability programs will be put on hold for the next four years.

I’m not as good as my mother was, at mending dishes (or comforting someone who is crying!).  But I do see some reasons for hope:

  • Well-run corporations care about profit, reputation, and mission. If their sustainability programs generate a profit, reduce risk, or help them accomplish their longer-range goals, they should continue to pursue them.
  • Young folks soon take over. We get requests daily from students around the world who need data for a sustainability study or project.  For every student who majors in CSR there are ten other young people who care passionately about the world’s future.  Unless something dramatically changes how young people view the future, we will continue seeing a generation-driven rise in interest in sustainability.
  • US companies trade with the rest of the world—and the rest of the world won’t backtrack on sustainability. If a US company wants to be successful in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, etc. it must adhere to a high standard of ethics, respect indigenous peoples, avoid polluting local water supplies, combat climate change, etc.
  • US companies have the same stakeholders they did on November 7. Managers, employees, communities, suppliers, customers, and investors will continue to remind companies about the risks that companies will face if they do not behave responsibly. It will remain important to have a “social license to operate.”
  • Momentum matters. Corporations are big ships that turn slowly.  They have put money and time into corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs.  They won’t shift these resources into other things, without good reason and a lengthy analysis process.

 

What types of changes may occur?  Don’t expect stringent new guidelines from US regulators (e.g., the SEC, the EPA, OSHA, etc.).  Look for more boycotts and “buycotts.”  (Several groups are boycotting Trump-related brands and there seems to be a countervailing push to punish firms that won’t advertise on Breitbart.)  Some companies may offer less-sustainable alternatives in certain product areas.  (E.g., muscle cars, heavily-sugared cereals, and other “retro” products.)  Corporations may put on hold major new green investments until things “settle down.” None of this is long-term stuff.  We can mend these pieces and fix these holes.

We at CSRHub see our data and tools as a way to improve how a company communicates its progress and a means to reduce the cost of and improve the effectiveness of sustainability reporting. My mom once put the lid of a tea pot I’d smashed under my pillow and told me that it would give me sweet dreams.  Let’s remember what we’ve been through and all that we’ve accomplished so far.  Then, let’s move forward and dream again, about a better future.

Photo courtesy of  Ruth Edwards


Bahar Gidwani

Bahar Gidwani is CEO and Co-founder of CSRHub.  He has built and run large technology-based businesses for many years. Bahar holds a CFA, worked on Wall Street with Kidder, Peabody, and with McKinsey & Co. Bahar has consulted to a number of major companies and currently serves on the board of several software and Web companies. He has an MBA from Harvard Business School and an undergraduate degree in physics and astronomy. He plays bridge, races sailboats, and is based in New York City.

CSRHub provides access to the world’s largest corporate social responsibility and sustainability ratings and information.  It covers over 16,800 companies from 135 industries in 133 countries. By aggregating and normalizing the information from 500 data sources, CSRHub has created a broad, consistent rating system and a searchable database that links millions of rating elements back to their source. Managers, researchers and activists use CSRHub to benchmark company performance, learn how stakeholders evaluate company CSR practices, and seek ways to improve corporate sustainability performance.

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Understanding the Just 100

[fa icon="calendar'] Dec 15, 2016 9:40:43 AM / by Bahar Gidwani

Just Capital was established in 2015 by two successful and well-known investors: Paul Tudor Jones and Martin Whittaker.  Its mission is to use “the power of markets to drive positive change on the issues Americans care most about.”  After two years of research and reflection, Just Capital has now published a list of the 100 best “corporate citizens.”

We’ve been interested in this project from its inception and provided the Just Capital research team with access to our ratings and other data.  Unlike other ratings systems that attempt to decide what things are good behavior or bad behavior, Just Capital sought the opinion of ordinary citizens about what defines good corporate citizenship.  When they released the first readings from these surveys last year, it caused a stir within the sustainability community by showing that social and ethics issues were more important to most Americans than environment or other governance issues.

We suspected that Just Capital’s approach would generate ratings that differ from those of the other 491 ratings sources we integrate into CSRHub’s data set.  A simple comparison between the top 100 company ratings and CSRHub’s ratings shows there is about an 8% R Squared between Just Capital’s perspective on corporate social responsibility (CSR) and that of CSRHub’s aggregate of all other sustainability rating sources.

Just 100 and CSRHub Correlation.png

 

For this first review, Just Capital chose to focus on components of the Russell 1000 Index.  They pointed out that this group of companies has a large market capitalization and that most are headquartered in the US.  (Only around 40 of the current members of the Russell 1000 Index have non-US headquarters.)  One of the planned uses for the Just ratings is to encourage US investors and consumers to support “just” companies.  Investors may find this first list useful, but US consumers and businesses buy products and work with hundreds of large foreign companies that have not yet been evaluated.

Just Capital looked at about 90% of the companies in the Russell 1000 Index.  It sought to discover how these companies performed across 67 different metrics.  CSRHub covers 969 companies from this Index and has access to around 3,000 different metrics on these companies.  Just Capital had to make a number of assumptions and adjustments to account for missing data.  CSRHub’s system automatically adjusts for missing data issues through its normalization and weighting algorithms.  Despite these methodological differences, there is some agreement between our systems.  In particular, the 100 companies Just Capital picked did have better average performance using CSRHub’s rating system than the other 869 companies we rate in the Index.

CSRHub Rankings comparison.png

 

On the other hand, there were some major differences between our rating systems.  19 of Just’s top 100 companies had overall CSRHub ratings that were in the bottom quintile (lowest 20%) of the 16,500 companies we track.  69 of the 869 companies that didn’t get into the Just 100 were in the top quintile of CSRHub’s ratings system.  To put it another way—the five top-scoring companies in the Just 100 had an average CSRHub rating of 59.  More than 100 of the other 869 that didn’t make the list had CSRHub scores above 59.

In order to better understand the difference in our results, we looked at individual examples.  Companies like Accenture, Intel, Cisco, Johnson & Johnson, and Microsoft were both in the Just 100 and at or near the top of CSRHub’s ratings.  (The average overall CSRHub percentile rank for these five companies was 96%, which means they were perceived in our system to perform better than more than 15,000 other companies.)  As we would expect, these companies had especially strong average scores in the Employee area (average 90% performance) and somewhat lower average scores on Environment and Governance issues (83% and 76%).

CSRHub and Just Capital high scores.png

 

The other end of the spectrum was more puzzling.  Here are five examples of where CSRHub’s view diverged with those of Just Capital.

high and low csr scores.png

 

Both Just Capital and CSRHub attempt to remove the influence of issues such as company size.  The ratings we have been using from Just Capital are their “relative” ranking—the measure of a company’s performance compared to others in its industry.  CSRHub’s rankings are also relative (since most of CSRHub’s sources take an industry-centric view of performance) but span all entities rather than just those in one industry.  Many of our sources overlap (and Just Capital had access to CSRHub’s ratings during its research process).  So, why are these five companies included in the Just 100?

The Just Capital folks deserve huge credit for transparency.  There is a tear sheet report on each of the companies in the Just 100—so it is fairly easy to see what factors swayed them to feel that a company deserved to be included.  CSRHub has a similar level of transparency—our users can inspect which sources we used and most of the data details that underlie our scores.

For instance, CSRHub has 62 sources and more than 1,200 ratings indicators for Discovery Communications.  Our systems show below average performance for all aspects of sustainability performance when compared to all of the companies we track (top section), the 128 Broadcasting and Advertising industry companies in our system (middle section), and the 6,374 US companies we have ratings for (bottom section).

 

Discovery Communications CSRHub drilldown.png

 

In its drill down, Just Capital gives Discovery an above average score on Worker Pay & Benefits based on 7 subscores.

 

Just Capital performance.png

CSRHub’s rating for this labor/pay topic are informed by 20 sources.  There are many negative reports, including:

  • No same-sex benefits (IW Financial).
  • No tie of compensation to overall climate performance (CDP).
  • Poor career management and promotion policies (Vigeo).
  • Low pay relative to global standards (MSCI ESG Governance Metrics).
  • Lack of Employment Quality monitoring systems (Thomson/Asset4).

These reports are offset somewhat by a positive score from Glassdoor regarding employee satisfaction (this 3.7 score is about 70th percentile) and 2014 awards from Forbes (Best Workplace), Best Workplace for Commuters, and Working Mother Magazine.  (Note though that only Working Mother repeated its award for 2015.)  It is hard to prove that Discovery deserves a poor score on this topic—but it is easy to see why others might disagree with Just Capital’s assessment.

Just Capital is well supported, media savvy (its launch events have been well attended and its article in Forbes received an “editor’s choice” star), and has a mission that resonates well with the general public.  It has taken a fresh approach to the challenge of evaluating corporate social behavior and its staff spent months forming its opinions.  Just Capital also reached out to the companies it was evaluating and invited them to contribute information.  For instance, Just Capital indicates in its tear sheet that Discovery plans to add same sex benefits for its employees in 2017.  When this is confirmed (and incorporated into the research done by CSRHub’s partners), it may “flip” some of the negative indicators we mention above.

CSR managers for companies who appear on the Just 100 should celebrate their good fortune.  Companies who did not should ask Just Capital to share the details that drove its assessment of their performance.  The CSR managers in these companies may then find facts that could be updated or corrected or areas where new programs could respond to Just Capital’s concerns.  As Just Capital expands its coverage and continues publicizes its ratings, we hope we will see benefits from its work for both corporations and consumers.  CSRHub plans to start incorporating Just Capital ratings into its analysis with its November data set, so that CSRHub users will be able to integrate this new perspective into their broader CSR communications program.

 


Bahar Gidwani

Bahar Gidwani is CEO and Co-founder of CSRHub.  He has built and run large technology-based businesses for many years. Bahar holds a CFA, worked on Wall Street with Kidder, Peabody, and with McKinsey & Co. Bahar has consulted to a number of major companies and currently serves on the board of several software and Web companies. He has an MBA from Harvard Business School and an undergraduate degree in physics and astronomy. He plays bridge, races sailboats, and is based in New York City.

CSRHub provides access to the world’s largest corporate social responsibility and sustainability ratings and information.  It covers over 16,000 companies from 135 industries in 133 countries. By aggregating and normalizing the information from 491 data sources, CSRHub has created a broad, consistent rating system and a searchable database that links millions of rating elements back to their source. Managers, researchers and activists use CSRHub to benchmark company performance, learn how stakeholders evaluate company CSR practices, and seek ways to improve corporate sustainability performance.

 

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