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HBR’s Top Performing CEOs List - Financial Results and Sustainability—A Complex Relationship

[fa icon="calendar'] Oct 26, 2016 8:00:00 AM / by Bahar Gidwani

 

The Harvard Business Review (HBR) recently published its 2016 list of the world’s top 100 CEOs.  As in the past, HBR’s staff looked at the financial and ESG (environment, social, governance) performance of the CEOs of 1,200 large companies.  They used a measure of financial performance developed by a team of Harvard academics for 80% of their score.  The remaining 20% came from averaging two overall measures of corporate sustainability performance, including CSRHub.

HBR has been publishing this list since 2010 and CEOs apparently intently study their “rank” and any year-to-year changes.  The list originally included only measures of financial return.  In 2015, HBR started including ESG performance, such as those CSRHub gathers and reports.

Is there a connection between a CEO’s financial performance measure and the corporate social responsibility (CSR) or ESG performance of the CEO’s company?  Those of us who care about sustainability would expect (hope?) the answer is “Yes.”  Unfortunately, details we uncovered during this year’s rating process say that the answer is probably “Maybe” or “It depends.”

 

Are the Top 100 Different From The Rest?

CSRHub rates the perceived ESG performance of 16,550 companies in 133 countries.  We have full ratings on 1,180 of the 1,200 companies that HBR studied.  The table below compares the average performance for the top companies against the rest of the list, for community, employee, environment, and governance issues.  (HBR included 104 companies in its Top 100 list, due to a number of ties.)

 

Comparison of the CSRHub Corporate Social Responsibility Rankings for HBR Top 100 Companies and Those Not Chosen

Comparison of the CSRHub Corporate Social Responsibility Rankings for HBR Top 100 Companies and Those Not Chosen

 

As you can see, the top companies had only slightly better perceived sustainability performance than the rest of the companies.  When we adjust for the different number of companies in each of the two groups, there is a significant (P<0.02) difference only in the Community area.

This suggests that the best CEOs out of this sample of companies pay a bit more attention to issues associated with the sustainability of their Products, have good Philanthropy programs, and care about Human Rights and their Supply Chains.  But, they don’t seem to pay significantly more attention than other CEOs to issues relating to Employees, the Environment, or to their corporate Governance.  And, they still rank in their community efforts below the average of the other 15,000+ companies we track.

 

Are the Top 50 Financial Performers Better Than the Next 50?

What about the “best of the best?”  If we divide the HBR Top 100 into two groups by their HBR financial performance scores, would the top financial performers have better or worse social performance than the bottom group?

The table below shows the answer to this question.  It is probably an answer that many sustainability professionals will not want to hear.  The top financial performers had much worse perceived sustainability performance than those with somewhat worse financial performance.

Comparison of the CSRHub Corporate Social Responsibility Rankings for Top 50 Companies and the next 54 Companies as Ranked By Their HBR Financial Performance Score

 

Comparison of the CSRHub Corporate Social Responsibility Rankings for Top 50 Companies and the next 54 Companies as Ranked By Their HBR Financial Performance Score

 

These results are good evidence that some CEOs may emphasize good shareholder returns (high profit margins, high turnover of assets, strong stock performance, etc.) rather than good social performance (good community relations, happy employees, a clean environment, etc.).  Of course, the HBR study focuses only on very large, publicly-traded companies and there are only 104 companies where we have full data.  But, there is virtually no probability—P < 0.000001—that the top 50 do not trail the next 54 on both overall ratings and on all four categories of social responsibility.

 

Does It Make Sense to Combine Financial With Social?

The table above illustrates why HBR decided to integrate social issues into their ranking.  Using a single financial scale wasn’t teasing out the best CEO performance.  Using only social measures wasn’t doing it either.  Instead, HBR integrated the two measures in a balanced way that resulted in the surprising result shown below.

Comparison of the CSRHub Corporate Social Responsibility Rankings for Top 10 Companies and the next 94 Companies, as Ranked by their Overall HBR Score

 

Comparison of the CSRHub Corporate Social Responsibility Rankings for Top 10 Companies and the next 94 Companies, as Ranked by their Overall HBR Score

 

The financial scores within the Top 100 are pretty similar.  By using a social performance signal to differentiate among these financially similar performers and create an Overall HBR Score, HBR was able to pick a top group that had both good financial returns and strong sustainability performance.  This shows it is possible to both “do well” and “do good.”  Thanks to HBR, CEOs who manage this difficult balance have a shot at getting the recognition they deserve.

 


Bahar GidwaniBahar 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 132 countries. By aggregating and normalizing the information from 461 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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CSRHub's Bahar Gidwani to Speak at NAEM's 2016 Sustainability Management Conference

[fa icon="calendar'] Aug 1, 2016 9:00:04 AM / by Bahar Gidwani

CSRHub Co-Founder and CEO, Bahar Gidwani, will be speaking at NAEM’s 2016 Sustainability Management Conference, in Milwaukee WI, on August 2-3. Bahar will NAEM's Sustainability Management Conference 2016discuss The Next Generation of Sustainability Tools and Data Analysis. At NAEM’s annual conference, attendees will learn how to further integrate sustainability into their business operations from fellow corporate EHS and sustainability leaders. Through a mix of peer-led case studies and benchmark dialogues, NAEM’s annual sustainability conferences allow for participants to gain insights in order to  immediately improve performance, identify opportunities for their businesses and set better sustainability goals.

Wednesday, August 3rd 1:00pm-2:00pm CDT

The Next Generation of Sustainability Tools and Data Analysis

  • Bahar Gidwani, Co-Founder & CEO; CSRHub
  • Jeff Hintzke, Vice President, Deployment Services; Alta Energy Inc.

More powerful technology and ever-improving software are making it easier than ever to collect and report large amounts of data. So, what’s possible now, and what can we expect in the future? Hear from two experts about the new generation of tools at your disposal to sort and dissect data in ways that reveal valuable insights about your sustainability program and company as a whole.

NAEM

The National Association for Environmental Management (NAEM) empowers corporate leaders to advance environmental stewardship, create safe and healthy workplaces, and promote global sustainability. As the largest professional community for EHS and sustainability decision-makers, they provide peer-led educational conferences and an active network for sharing solutions to today’s corporate EHS and sustainability management challenges.

 

To register for this conference please click here.


Bahar GidwaniBahar 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 132 countries. By aggregating and normalizing the information from 461 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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Site Selection Magazine Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Analysis

[fa icon="calendar'] Jul 26, 2016 12:28:02 PM / by Bahar Gidwani

By: Bahar Gidwani

Do some states attract more progressive companies while others receive investment from companies who are thought to be less socially progressive?  If so, why might this occur?

A recent article in Site Selection Magazine used the CSRHub database as part of determining which of 50 US states and 132 non-US countries were most attractive for a new site from a sustainability perspective.  This article presents analysis which provides deeper understanding of the corporate social responsibility aspect. Our goal is to make it easier for companies to use sustainability as a site selection criteria and localities to screen siting companies for sustainability, thereby improving their desirability.

CSRHub’s Contribution to the Study

The CSRHub data set contains estimates of the perceived corporate social responsibility (CSR) performance of more than 16,000 entities.  It includes data on both public and private companies and on government entities and not for profits.  CSRHub collects information for its big data engine from more than 469 sources and its data set includes companies from 133 countries.  For more information on how CSRHub ratings are generated, please see the CSRHub site.

Because many Site Magazine entries were from subsidiaries, a total of 3,073 CSRHub companies connected to at least one site decision entry on the Site Selection list, and 2,217 of these matched companies had full CSRHub scores.  These companies were responsible for 5,549 of the site entries—About 55% of these site entries (3,052) were for U.S. sites and the other 45% were for sites in 106 other countries.

Using only scores from fully rated companies, CSRHub calculated two numbers for each US state and for each foreign country:

  • The average perceived CSR performance for the entities headquartered in that location. For example, CSRHub found that the 63 fully rated companies in Minnesota had an average percentile rank of 54.8%. Similarly, the 34 companies in Finland have 88% average ranks.  (CSRHub tracks a total of 137 companies in Minnesota and 72 companies in Finland.
  • The average perceived CSR performance of the entities who placed sites in a location. For example, entities with an average 58.5% rank placed 93 sites in Georgia.  (Another 23 sites were placed by entities who were headquartered in Georgia.)  Entities with an average 70.7% rank placed 75 sites in Brazil  (Another 5 sites were placed in Brazil by Brazilian companies.)

The difference between these numbers shows whether companies selecting sites in a given location are perceived to be more or less sustainable than that location’s current rating.  The following table shows the relevant data on both scores for the 39 US states that had at least 5 sites selected by companies outside of the state and at least five companies tracked by CSRHub.  The table is sorted in order by the difference between the two scores.

Comparison US State-part 1 Comparison US State-part 2

The preponderance of positive scores is probably due to several factors:

  • Many of the new entrants into these US states came from European companies. European companies have consistently higher sustainability ratings than US companies.
  • Idaho and South Dakota companies already have relatively high scores. They may be seeing lower scores for those siting in their state because they are attracting companies primarily interested in extracting their resources.
  • Connecticut has positioned itself as a business-friendly state and this may have encouraged some lower-ranked companies to enter.
  • Arkansas, Delaware, and Mississippi all have lower starting scores and are likely to see benefits from encouraging positive companies join their communities.

The table below shows the same information for non-US countries.  Note that we have narrowed the list to those countries with at least five sites from companies with headquarters outside the country and that have at least five entities that are fully rated by CSRHub.

Comparison Non-US state- part 1 Comparison Non-US state Part 2

The foreign table shows much bigger differences in the baseline performance of the companies in each country.  The three countries with the biggest negative differential are those who also have the highest average scores for their existing companies.  It is probably difficult for these countries to find many companies outside of their jurisdictions who can match this level of performance.

The three countries with the biggest positive score difference with new site contributors are:

  • Greece—which has very low scores from its current companies and who is getting huge support and attention from other higher-scoring parts of the EU.
  • Saudi Arabia—which is trying to build a base of sustainable, non-energy-reliant industries.
  • Egypt—which has such weak performance within its existing base of companies that outside companies must generally seem quite attractive.

We hope that studies such as the one done by Site Selection Magazine will encourage companies to include sustainability factors in their site research strategies.  Our data suggests that the localities who are accepting new sites will generally see candidate companies who are at least as socially positive as the companies who are already in their communities.  However, it may make sense for localities to screen each candidate carefully and seek to improve their reputation for being a socially positive and sustainable place to put a new site.

Appendix 1:  How CSRHub Generates a Score

How CSRHub generates a score

Appendix 2:

Appendix 2- part1 Appendix 2- part2

Appendix 3:

Appendix 3-part1 Appendix 3-part2 Appendix 3-part3



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 132 countries. By aggregating and normalizing the information from 461 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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Our Annual Look at Newsweek’s Green Rankings

[fa icon="calendar'] Jun 28, 2016 11:04:11 AM / by Bahar Gidwani

By Bahar Gidwani

The 2016 Newsweek Green Rankings were released last week.  Our friends at Corporate Knights Capital and HIP Investor again provided the underlying data behind the list.

We probably get more questions about Green Rankings and the radical changes in position that seem to occur each year, than for any of the 461 different rating systems we track.  The table below shows the changes in position on the list that five companies experienced over the past three years.  Some of this variation may be due to changes that Newsweek has made in the way its scores are calculated and for 2013 to 2014, changes in its data providers.  (Last year’s list was driven by the same providers but there were several changes made prior to this.)  Some variation may be due to actual changes in the performance of the companies on the list and the relatively narrow scope of the study.  (CSRHub currently tracks the sustainability performance of more than 16,000 companies.)  Finally, the Newsweek Green Rankings are meant to assess and measure environmental performance.  Most other ranking systems cover a broader set of sustainability metrics.

Newsweek Green Rankings

Newsweek’s scores correlate reasonably well with the aggregate score we generate from the views of the rest of the ESG ratings space.  (We use a small amount of Corporate Knights information and share a data provider with HIP.  But, we probably less than 3% of our data set with them.)  As you can see below, the Newsweek ratings have about a 50% correlation with CSRHub’s ratings for each set of companies.

Newsweek CSRHub Score Comparison

However, even with this degree of correlation, there is a relatively poor agreement between the companies CSRHub would choose on Newsweek’s list of 500 companies as the best or worst performers and the companies on the Newsweek lists.  (Note that the rest of the analysis in this post focuses on the Global Rankings.  However, we found similar results for the US Rankings.)

Newsweek Global 500 and CSRHub comparison

We dug in a bit more to see if we could explain what might be driving these variation at each extreme.  A correlation between the Newsweek rating and CSRHub’s four category ratings shows that Newsweek’s score as expected is most closely tied to CSRHub’s environment rating.  There is also a connection with CSRHub’s Employee and Governance ratings.  However, there is no statistically supported connection with CSRHub’s Community rating, which includes the three subcategories of Product, Community Development & Philanthropy, and Human Rights & Supply Chain.

CSRHub Regression Analysis

The coefficient for the Environment component of this regression is 2.5X bigger than that for Governance and 4.5X bigger than the effect of Employees.  Still, top Newsweek companies probably need to perform well on at least the “E” and “G” parts of ESG.  The Social “S” part though—Employee and Community issues—has only a weak effect.  This would lead us to predict that some of the difference in rank between Newsweek and CSRHub is driven by differences in these factors.

As you can see below, the top CSRHub companies have average Community and Employee ratings that are 14% and 11% respectively above the average for the top Newsweek companies.  The opposite is true for bottom-ranked companies.

CSRHub Newsweek Community and Employees comparison

The companies who moved up this year are likely to trumpet their success.  Those who moved downward may be able to argue that their overall performance didn’t really change—they only changed emphasis from E and G factors, into the S (Social) area.


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 132 countries. By aggregating and normalizing the information from 461 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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The Relationship Between Corporate Sustainability and Human Development

[fa icon="calendar'] Apr 12, 2016 10:24:32 AM / by Bahar Gidwani

By: Bahar Gidwani

A number of years ago, CSRHub showed that its measures of corporate sustainability correlate with the level of development of countries.  For that study, we used the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI).  We found a correlation of 28% for 27 developed countries, but poor correlation with human conditions in less developed countries.

Harvard Business School Professor Michael Porter and his colleagues at a group called The Social Progress Imperative have developed a new way of measuring country human development called the Social Progress Index.  The SPI Index is highly correlated with the UN HDI.

SPI_Development Index

The SPI contains more levels of detail than the HDI.  (For the SPI, 61 raw value indicators lead to 12 calculated scores that roll up to three dimensions and a final score.  The HDI is driven by five measures.)  The SPI covers 161 countries—the HDI tracks 199.  Both cover more countries than CSRHub (we have data on companies in 132 countries).  However, after we throw out the 70 countries where CSRHub does not yet have enough rated companies to generate solid average scores for all four of the categories CSRHub tracks, there is a 57 country overlap with the SPI.

At the most simple level, the SPI score for a country is well-correlated with the average CSRHub ratings for the companies in each country.  The r-square of 33% is paired with a F score of 6.5.  This suggests a greater than 0.9995 confidence that two data sets are related.

CSRHub and SPI scores

Digging down into the details shows that positive corporate behavior in the community area is negatively correlated with gains in SPI.  In contrast, positive corporate behavior in environment areas is positively correlated with gains in SPI.

SPI explained by CSRHub Category

We believe that companies in countries with weak SPI scores have built good community programs to offset their society’s weaknesses.  In contrast, companies in the countries with good SPI scores have built up their environment programs, to help improve trust in their activities.

The high “P-Values” and small tStat coefficients for the correlations with Employees and Governance ratings indicates that these company programs are not directly tied to the SPI.  This makes sense, as the SPI’s indicators are focused on societal issues such as health, literacy, and longevity, not on how well corporations pay their employees, train them, or how well they govern themselves.  Still, it is disappointing that there is not a connection between these elements and the SPI.  We would have liked to believe that paying one’s employees well and giving them good benefits would improve overall health and well-being.  We would also have liked to see a tie between a high standard of ethics within corporations and strong government programs that care for those who are disadvantaged or poor.

Note that our study is limited due to the fact that we tie a company solely to the country it is headquartered in.  Most of the larger companies we track have operations in multiple countries and often, multiple regions.  We are also working with a single year’s data on both companies and countries.  Longer term studies may reveal a richer level of detail.

With the wealth of data now available via the SPI, there should be many opportunities for further study on the tie between corporate behavior and societal performance.  We hope our readers will share any results they uncover so that we can make sure that responsible corporations get fair credit for the social benefits they create within their societies.


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 15,000 companies from 135 industries in 132 countries. By aggregating and normalizing the information from 435 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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