CSRHub Blog Research on ESG metrics and comments on sustainability best practice

A Big Data Approach to Gathering CSR Data

[fa icon="calendar'] Oct 28, 2014 9:19:20 AM / by Bahar Gidwani

The following is part 2 of a 3-part series on “Big Data.”

By Bahar Gidwani

We have previously defined “Big Data” and shown how we feel a Big Data system built by CSRHub could help address some problems that exist in collecting corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability data on companies.  We have also further described the problems with the currently dominant method of gathering this data—an analyst-based method.

CSRHub uses input from investor-driven sources (known as “ESG” for Environment, Social, and Governance or “SRI” for Socially Responsible Investment), non-governmental organizations, government organizations, and “crowd sources” to construct a 360 degree view of a company’s sustainability performance.

The illustration below shows the steps in our process.

CSRHub Ratings

The steps are:

  •  Convert measurement from each data source into a 0 (low) to 100 (high) scales.  This  requires understanding how each source evaluates company performance.
  •  We next connect each rating element with one or more of our twelve subcategory  ratings.  (Some elements may also map partially or exclusively to special issues such as  animal testing, fracking, or nuclear power.)
  •  We compare each source’s ratings with those for all other sources.  Each company we  study gives us more opportunities to compare one source’s ratings with another.  The  total number of comparisons possible is very large and growing, exponentially.  We  use the results of our comparison to adjust the distribution of scores for each rating  source so that they fall into a “beta” distribution that has a central peak around 50.
  •  Some sources match up well with all of our other data.  Some sources don’t line up.  We add weight to those who match well but continue to “count” those who don’t.

We then repeat steps A to D as many times until we have found a “best fit” for the available data.  Each time we add a new source, we go through an initial mapping, normalization, and weighting process.

An Example

It may help explain our data analysis process by using a specific example.  Hewlett Packard is a heavily tracked company.  We have 154 sources of data for this company that together provide 17,571 individual data elements.  Only 62 of these data sources provided data for our July 1, 2014 rating—the rest of the data sources provided data for previous periods (our data set goes back to 2008).  The 62 current data sources provided 575 different types of rating elements and a total of 610 different ratings values that do not affect/apply to special issues.

After their conversion to our 0 to 100 scale, we map the rating elements into our twelve subcategories.  We now have 1,403 ratings factors.  We selected our subcategories to allow an even spread of data across them. You can see that we have a reasonably even spread for Hewlett Packard:

CSRHub Category

Number of Data Elements

Board

95

Community Dev & Philanthropy

78

Compensation & Benefits

63

Diversity & Labor Rights

95

Energy & Climate Change

149

Environment Policy & Reporting

154

Human Rights & Supply Chain

77

Leadership Ethics

205

Product

93

Resource Management

156

Training, Health & Safety

48

Transparency & Reporting

190

Total

1,403

Before we can present a rating, we need to check first that we have enough sources and enough “weight” from the sources we have, to generate a good score.  In general, we require at least two sources that have good strength or three or four weaker ones, before we offer a rating.  As you can see, we have plenty of sources to rate a big company such as HP.

CSRHub subcategory sources

Even after normalization, the curve of ratings for any one subcategory may have a lot of irregularities.  However, we have enough data to provide a good estimate of the midpoint of the available data, for those ratings we report.  Below you can see that some sources have a high opinion of HP’s board while others have a less favorable view.  The result is a blended score that averages to less than the more uniform Leadership Ethics rating.

CSRHub subcategory rating variations


The overall effect of our process is to smooth out the ratings input and make them more consistent.  As you can see in the illustration below, the final ratings distribution is organized well around a central peak.  The average overall rating of 64 is below the peak, which is around 80.  The original average rating was 61.

analysis charts part 2

By making a few assumptions about how the errors in data are distributed, one can assess the accuracy of ratings.  In a previous post, we showed that CSRHub’s overall rating accurately represents the values that underlie it to within 1.8 points at a 95% confidence interval.

In our next post, we will discuss the benefits and drawback of using this complex and data intensive approach to measuring company CSR performance.

See part 1, Using “Big Data” to Rate Corporate Social Responsibility: One Company’s Approach.


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. Bahar is a member of the SASB Advisory Board.  He plays bridge, races sailboats, and is based in New York City.

CSRHub provides access to corporate social responsibility and sustainability ratings and information on 9,200+ companies from 135 industries in 106 countries. By aggregating and normalizing the information from 348 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 change the world.

 

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Big Oil Carbon Pricing Disclosure a Diversion?

[fa icon="calendar'] Dec 17, 2013 12:53:33 PM / by Carol Pierson Holding

By Carol Pierson Holding

One of the more solid tenets of Big Oil dogma has always been that carbon pricing, whetherCarbon pricing a simple tax or a market-based cap-and-trade system, is terrible and conservatives must stand in unison against it. Daily Caller reporter Michael Bastach, a former Koch Institute Intern, confirmed this recently: “This vote against a carbon tax in the (American Legislative Exchange Council) ALEC meeting in Chicago … comes after Republicans in both the House and the Senate voted unanimously against a carbon tax earlier this year.”

So it was a surprise to read the December 5 New York Times headline “Large Companies Prepared to Pay Price on Carbon.” Seemed a leap from what the real news was: according to the article, Carbon Disclosure Project, now CDP, released research findings that big companies have been figuring a carbon tax into their financial models for some time.

Well, of course they have, and we knew that.

CDP itself said as much. Its 2012 report predicts that companies will act ahead of regulation: “80% of the Carbon Disclosure Leadership Index (CDLI) include climate change information in their annual reports (non-CDLI: 49%).”

Shell’s New Lens Scenarios predicted that in 2020, “emissions are heavily taxed.”

And California is implementing Cap and Trade.

The non-news “news” made the top right hand column of the New York Times front page, placement reserved for the day’s most important story. The same story seemed to appear everywhere at once, from Huffington Post’s Politics Section to Reuters and a week later, Forbes.

But still, why is this major news? And why now?

Certainly, the media has recommitted to environmental coverage. New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan ended her impassioned commitment to environmental reporting with a quote from Al Gore, “The survival of human civilization is at risk. The news media should be making this existential crisis the No. 1 topic they cover.” The heat is on.

But my bet is that the news included, for the first time, the specific price per ton for carbon that each company is using. Exxon’s bet is $60; BP and Shell use $40; the lowest number is $6. CDP’s mission is to give investors data they can use to motivate companies to disclose their environmental impacts and take action to reduce them. It’s difficult for investors to make risk projections based on generalized corporate statements of intent. Much easier when the company publishes actual cost projections, as the respondents to CDP did. More than just another admission of responsibility, this is vital news for investors and confirms that CDP respondents are serious about carbon pricing.

Or maybe CDP respondents finally took a hard look at what’s actually at stake.

According to CDP, if oil and gas companies don’t come out for carbon pricing, the risk is delayed projects, further divestment pressure and, at the worst, threats to their license to operate.

Even when carbon pricing is enacted, profits will be safe. Consumers will end up paying for carbon taxes in any guise through higher energy bills, as they have in the past.

Stock prices won’t be hurt – in fact, investors like the certainty of carbon pricing. MarketWatch said of the announcement, “Big Oil is straying from conservative orthodoxy and making long-term financial plans under the assumption the government will force them to pay a price for carbon pollution as a way to control global warming — and Exxon Mobil Corp is better prepared than others to face the new expense” because of its investments in natural gas, which has lower measurable emissions.

[csrhubwidget company="Exxon-Mobil-Corporation" size="650x100" hash="c9c0f7"]

The potential opportunity from Big Oil embracing carbon pricing and accepting its responsibilities, as Exxon did in openly acknowledging to the New York Times that carbon pollution from fossil fuels contributes to climate change? A reputational turn-around that could result in higher stock prices.

The most cynical explanation for the timing of the “news” is that that Big Oil is looking at carbon prices as a distraction from the real threat that fossil fuel production will be regulated out of business. They stimulated salacious delight in exposing their actual numbers and changed front page chatter from what had been dominant, that major public funding sources from the Ex-Im Bank to the World Bank would no longer lend to coal projects. When the administration nearly doubled its internal carbon price earlier this year, energy companies immediately jumped in – to demand the calculations be open to public comment. Carbon pricing wrangling could divert the media from more important stories.

Photo courtesy of Carbon Visuals via Flickr CC.


Carol Pierson HoldingCarol Pierson Holding writes on environmental issues and social responsibility for policy and news publications, including the Carnegie Council's Policy Innovations, Harvard Business Review, San Francisco Chronicle, India Time, The Huffington Post and many other web sites. Her articles on corporate social responsibility can be found on CSRHub.com, a website that provides sustainability ratings data on 8,400+ companies worldwide. Carol holds degrees from Smith College and Harvard University.

CSRHub provides access to corporate social responsibility and sustainability ratings and information on 8,400+ companies from 135 industries in 104 countries. By aggregating and normalizing the information from 290+ 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 change the world.


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Turning ‘we don’t report’ into ‘we do’

[fa icon="calendar'] May 21, 2013 10:23:52 AM / by Bahar Gidwani

By Bahar Gidwani

We were recently invited by our friends at Trucost to moderate a webinar with the above title.  Our shared goal was to encourage more companies to start reporting their sustainability performance.

You can download the webinar from the Trucost site, here.  However, I thought I’d share a few of the things I learned from preparing for the talk and from the other panelists.

I started the webinar by sharing some figures from the CSRHub database.  I showed the audience that only 30% of companies in developing countries outside the US are using one of the three main reporting systems (the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the Carbon Disclosure Project (now CDP), and the UN Global Compact or UNGC).  US companies lag far behind—with only about 10% of the companies we track reporting via these systems.

I didn’t spend a lot of time during the webinar bragging about this data.  However, I was pretty proud to see that our coverage has now grown to the point where we can start to make broad, worldwide statements about corporate social performance.  We currently cover more than 7,300 companies in 93 countries.  Other sources have claimed that “reporting is rising rapidly” and that “90% of large companies are reporting.”  If we take the term “large company” to include those over $100 billion in revenue, these statements are true.  However, when we look at companies between $100 million and $1 billion (which most people would still consider “large”), reporting remains quite weak.

The next speaker was Lorinda Rowledge, who is one of the founders of EKOS International.  Over the past 17 years, Lorinda has helped many large companies take their first steps towards reporting their performance.  Among other things, she offered this set of insights into the benefits of making an initial report.

Our third speaker was James Salo of Trucost.  Jamie uses Trucost’s proprietary models (some of which he helped build) to improve company understand of their environmental performance.  He showed the audience this great example of how a company could use the data it gathers through a reporting process to help visualize its competitive position.

After we shared our slides, we took questions and comments from the audience.  In particular, there remains confusion about new standards for reporting such as those being proposed by SASB and the IIRC.  We agreed that we are happy to see the quality of reporting improved by these efforts—as long as they don’t discourage or confuse companies who are just starting on their journey into reporting.


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. Bahar is a member of the SASB Advisory Board.  He plays bridge, races sailboats, and is based in New York City.

CSRHub provides access to corporate social responsibility and sustainability ratings and information on 7,300+ companies from 135 industries in 93 countries. By aggregating and normalizing the information from 200 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 change the world.

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Private Company Ratings on CSRHub

[fa icon="calendar'] Mar 20, 2013 9:00:29 AM / by Bahar Gidwani

By Bahar Gidwani

Publicly-traded companies are a big part of world economic activity.  However, most of the world’s goods, services, and jobs are generated by privately held companies (including large, medium-sized, and smaller companies), not-for-profit enterprises (including foundations, schools, and religious institutions), and government organizations (airports, ports, municipal governments, agencies, etc.).  CSRHub’s mission is to provide transparent information on the social performance of all types of enterprises.  This past month, we have begun to offer ratings on a number of private and government organizations.

Why couldn’t we do this before?  The original pressure for revealing social performance data came from investors who wanted to put their money only into companies that had a positive social impact.  These investors supported the work of financial analyst groups, encouraged the rise of reporting systems such as the Global Reporting Initiative, and helped fund not for profit groups like the Carbon Disclosure Project (which has recently re-christened itself “CDP”).  These systems tended to focus on the largest and most widely-held companies—the ones that large investors most wanted to know about.

Competitive pressures—and investor interest in investing in smaller growth companies and public companies in less-developed economies—has caused the coverage universe of financially driven research to expand.  Some of our data partners now claim to track the social performance of 30,000 publicly-traded companies.  At the same time, a growing number of non-public organizations have begun reporting data on their sustainability performance.  For example, we estimate that about 1,800 non-public organizations filed Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) reports in 2012, as did at least a thousand of the 5,000 reports offered via CDP.

Two additional sources of data have emerged on non-public companies over the past few years.  One is crowd source/user contributed data feeds.   Employee opinions about 110,000 companies come from Glassdoor, sustainability-oriented user ratings on 5,000 companies come from GoodGuide/ULE and more than 30,000 products and companies come from WeGreen, data on the brand value of 5,000+ organizations derive from Brand Finance, and 27 measures of risk on 32,800 companies, 7,000 projects, 5,300 NGOs and 4,500 governmental bodies come via RepRisk.  Some of these sources receive fees from investors, some are supported by donors, and some generate revenue from selling services such as job ads or consulting.

The second new source arises from the effort by major companies to improve the sustainability of their supply chains.  Engagement from a company’s supply chain is vital to meet announced sustainability goals (e.g., a 20% reduction in carbon use) or respond to pressure from social groups on water user, treatment of indigenous peoples, child labor, etc.  Using software systems from firms such as Source 44, OneReport, Credit360, Enablon, Eco-Vadis, CSRware, and others, large companies gather huge databases of sustainability data on their own operations and on their suppliers—many of whom are not publicly traded.  Industry organizations (e.g., EICC, The Sustainability Consortium, SEDEX, and Sustainable Packaging Coalition) help by providing standard questionnaires and by allowing their members to share data and supply chain audits.

When we add data from some of these new sources to the information we obtain from other more conventional inputs, we can rate almost 200 non-public companies and organizations.  The initial list includes companies such as Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Levi Strauss, S. C. Johnson, and TIAA CREF.  We also have partial ratings on McKinsey & Company, The US Postal Service, and Finnair.  As a group, our non-public companies have a respectable average rating (using our average user profile) of 55.5—seven points above the average for all companies of 48.5.

non-public companies

This good performance makes sense—the first non-public organizations to report are likely to be those who have good social performance and who want others to know about it.  We expect the next wave of smaller organizations and government groups to bring this average down—just as smaller public company scores lag behind those of bigger public companies.  We also expect the number of sources on non-public organizations to converge towards the average for publicly-traded organization of about eight sources.

Average Number of Sources

Non-Public Organizations

4.3

Publicly-Traded Companies

7.8

Would you like to help us further our cause by bringing you more non-public organization information?  If you would, please:

  • Reward non-public organizations who report—even if their scores still are not as good as we might like—by giving them your business and your attention.
  • Share ratings from non-public organizations with other non-public organizations.  We need to break down the organizational barrier that says “we are private so we don’t talk about these things.”
  • Encourage anyone who collects information to allow the groups they collect their data from to control their own data and to have the option of sharing it.  It is unfair for big companies to require their supply chain components to pay to gather and report data, but to not get further value from their work.

Our long term goal is to provide a CSRHub rating for any type of organization—public, private, or governmental—of any size, in any location.  To reach our goal, we need your help to encourage all organizations to report their social performance and to make available more of the data that has already been collected in various sustainability tracking systems.


Bahar GidwaniBahar Gidwani is a Cofounder and CEO of CSRHub. Formerly, he was the CEO of New York-based Index Stock Imagery, Inc, from 1991 through its sale in 2006. He has built and run large technology-based businesses and has experience building a multi-million visitor Web site. Bahar holds a CFA, was a partner at Kidder, Peabody & Co., and worked at McKinsey & Co. Bahar has consulted to both large companies such as Citibank, GE, and Acxiom and a number of smaller software and Web-based companies. He has an MBA (Baker Scholar) from Harvard Business School and a BS in Astronomy and Physics (magna cum laude) from Amherst College. Bahar races sailboats, plays competitive bridge, and is based in New York City.

CSRHub provides access to corporate social responsibility and sustainability ratings and information on 7,000+ companies from 135 industries in 91 countries. Managers, researchers and activists use CSRHub to benchmark company performance, learn how stakeholders evaluate company CSR practices and seek ways to change the world.

 

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CSE Hosting Certified Carbon Strategy Practitioner Training

[fa icon="calendar'] Feb 28, 2013 9:00:54 AM / by CSRHub Blogging

The recent release of the Carbon Disclosure Project CDP lgo(CDP) 2013 Investor Information Request and scoring methodology has spurred interest in organizations looking to improve their CDP scores. Reporting and verifying on all categories of scope 3 emissions will certainly increase your score, but this often proves to be the greatest challenge.

Our training partner CSE, a leading global sustainability (CSR) consulting, coaching, and training firm, has several new offerings.

On March 7-8, CSE will host its Certified Carbon Strategy Practitioner in Chicago. The 2-day training program will provide participants with a comprehensive understanding of sustainability issues, including greenhouse gas management, carbon footprint, and energy efficiency. Included in the training will be exercises and discussion focusing on scope 3 emissions, supply chain management, and assurance of sustainability reporting.

Carbon Tool. As a special offer, participants will receive CSE's GHG Emissions Verification Questionnaire based on the Greenhouse Gas Protocol - Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions. All participants will be able to use this questionnaire to evaluate the GHG emissions of one of their organization's facilities.

Menno Enters, Director of Energy and Sustainability at Walgreens, will be the guest speaker in Chicago on March 8th.  Menno represents Walgreens in all issues related to energy policy for its 7,800 facilities nationwide. He is also responsible for the company’s corporate sustainability and environmental matters.

If you haven’t already, register to attend CSE’s Certified Carbon Strategy Practitioner Training today! CSRHub members can enjoy a 15% discount by entering promotion code HUB15 during registration.

 

The first 10 people to register for CSE’s training and let us know will receive a 20% discount on a subscription to CSRHub. Contact sales@csrhub.com for the discount link.

CSE will also be hosting its Certified Sustainability (CSR) Practitioner Training

in Toronto on April 18-19, and New York City on June 13-14.



CSRHub provides access to corporate social responsibility and sustainability ratings and information on nearly 7,000 companies from 135 industries in 82 countries. Managers, researchers and activists use CSRHub to benchmark company performance, learn how stakeholders evaluate company CSR practices and seek ways to change the world.

 

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