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

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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HBR Publishes List of Best Performing CEOs in the World

[fa icon="calendar'] Oct 19, 2016 8:00:00 AM / by CSRHub Blogging

The Harvard Business Review released their ranking of the world’s 100 best performing Harvard Business ReviewCEOs, based on both financial and ESG (environment, social, governance) measures of the leaders’ entire time in office to highlight those executives that have established a lasting track record. CSRHub is proud to be one of the two research providers for this year’s list.

HBR wrote in its November 2016 article covering the ranking, “one persistent criticism of ESG data is that it can be subjective, and indeed, when you examine how various research organizations rank the same firm using ESG criteria, you’ll often find significant differences.  This year HBR used ratings from CSRHub, a firm that collects and aggregates ESG data to help companies better understand what they can do to improve. By incorporating two ESG components, we hope to increase our accuracy and reduce the odds that any company may unduly benefit from or be penalized by a single firm’s rating.” (For more details, see “How We Calculated the Rankings,” page 6.) “The revised approach, along with ups and downs in world stock markets, brought 33 new CEOs onto the list. At the same time, 30 CEOs have made the list for the third year in a row.”

See which leaders and companies made the top list here, https://hbr.org/2016/11/the-best-performing-ceos-in-the-world.

 

About CSRHub

CSRHub provides access to corporate social responsibility and sustainability ratings and information on 16,550 companies from 135 industries in 133 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.

 
Contact: Cynthia Figge, COO and Cofounder, Cynthia@csrhub.com

 

Csrhub logo

 

 

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What’s Next for ESG Metrics?

[fa icon="calendar'] Feb 3, 2016 10:17:17 AM / by Bahar Gidwani

By Bahar Gidwani

Several groups have written predictions about the future course of the Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) measurement space.  We’ve seen stories about the importance of millennials (as both customers and employees), a sense that carbon tracking is finally an accepted part of corporate life, and that companies must watch out for a range of new legal and regulatory issues.

At CSRHub, we are exposed to all of these trends, and many more.  Our data collection engine automatically absorbs new data elements on 3,500 topics from 435 data sources.  It analyzes this information, normalizes it, weights it, and outputs ratings on more than 15,000 companies.  Each month we get a fresh look at what sustainability professionals around the world think is important.

One thing we’ve watched for several years is the shift in emphasis between interest in Environmental, Social, and Governance issues (“ESG” issues).  Governance and Environment each had their time as the top area of focus.  However, our data shows clearly that Social issues are now emerging as the focus for corporate social behavior analysis.

The overall sustainability ratings for the companies CSRHub tracks was stable or even dropped a little between 2009 and 2011.  We believe this was due to cutbacks on ESG spending, following the great recession of 2008-9.  Since 2011, we have seen steady overall improvement across companies in all industries and geographic regions.

CSRHub Sustainability Ratings

It is relatively easy to drill down into this data and pull out the average ratings across all of the companies CSRHub tracks, for each aspect of ESG.  However, our coverage has grown rapidly over the past eight years, partly due to the fact that we’ve found more data sources (we started with only 70 sources) and partly due to the fact that more companies are reporting sustainability information.  To ensure that we could focus just on trends in ESG focus, we selected 400 companies from this year’s Fortune 500 for whom we had full ratings back to 2009.

As you can see in the graph below, the ratings on Governance issues for this set of 400 companies have fallen since 2009 (probably as the legal and governmental pressures from the recession receded).  Environment had an upward spike in perceived performance from 2012 through 2014, but has now leveled off.  Social ratings have now started to move up and look likely to soon pass those for the other two areas of ESG.

Social Rating_Rising

We can also track how much information we receive from our sources for each area of social performance.  If we assume that the amount of information our sources receive ties to the amount of information that companies produce, we see evidence that the group of companies we study have generated more data in Social than in either of the other two areas.

Social Data Available_rising rapidly

CSRHub tracks six different social metrics areas: Community Development & Philanthropy; Compensation & Benefits; Diversity & Labor Rights; Human Rights & Supply Chain; Product; and Training Health & Safety.  We expect to see our clients continue to step up their efforts to benchmark their performance against that of their competitors in each of these areas.  Software firms will add more tools and consultants will write more reports on Social practices—just as they did during the 2008-09 era for the Governance space and in the 2012-14 era for the Environment space.  The overall effect should be a refocused interest on improving corporate performance on social issues, over the next few years.


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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CSRHub and Bloomberg - part 2

[fa icon="calendar'] Dec 16, 2015 10:02:32 AM / by Bahar Gidwani

By Bahar Gidwani

Part 2 of a 2-part series

The first part of this post described the reasons iCompli and CSRHub decided to create the new ESG Metrics Brief report.  We thought it might be helpful to provide a concrete example of the kinds of information—and opportunities for action—that these reports create.

At number 8 on the 2014 Fortune list, Ford is a well-studied, multinational with a long history of interest in sustainability.  Ford has reported to the GRI since 2007, to CDP since 2006, and has won many awards and recognitions.  CSRHub has 139 different sources of information on Ford and 22,501 different ratings points.  Ford’s overall CSRHub rating of 60 puts it at the 71% percentile among the 118 motor vehicle manufacturers that CSRHub tracks.

The overview

The first chart in Ford’s ESG Metrics Brief provides a visual representation of this relative performance:

Ford CSRHub overall ratings

While overall performance is well above average, it is clear that of the four major categories of sustainability performance that CSRHub tracks, Ford is strongest in “employees” and weakest in “governance.”

The ESG Metrics Brief has access to CSRHub’s eight years of ratings history and a similar range of history from Bloomberg.  This chart shows how Ford’s CSRHub rating has changed over this time period.

ESG Metrics Brief CSRHub Rating

The ESG Metrics Brief next brings in other ESG sources from Bloomberg’s system.  Here is the relative performance for Ford as seen by ISS and by CDP.

ISS Governance QuickScore

CDP Performance Score

Drilling down

After a user has reviewed the overall situation for a company, he or she can “drill down” into each of the four main categories that CSRHub covers.  For instance, here is the change over time for Ford’s governance rating, compared to those of its peers.

CSRHub Governance Rating

The above chart uses CSRHub ratings.  Other sources and metrics drawn from Bloomberg help further explain Ford’s loss of competitive advantage compared to its peers in this area.  One factor may be a reduction in the amount and quality of Ford’s disclosures.

Bloomberg Gov Disc Score

A second factor could be the perception that Ford’s CEO compensation is out of line with that of its peers.

CEO compensation

Bloomberg tracks a wide array of metrics and policies that give users of the ESG Metrics Brief even more insight into this part of Ford’s sustainability behavior.

ESG Metrics Brief KPIs

CSRHub comparators

The bottom line

We believe that an ESG Metrics Brief will be a good starting point for those who want to understand one company’s sustainability performance.

  • The report is easy to obtain.  It takes three business days or less to generate each report.
  • The report is inexpensive.  Each report costs only $495—much less than the time and energy required for most researchers to generate something comparable, and far less than the cost to license the datasets.
  • The report is broad and comprehensive.  You get data on more than 120 indicators across all areas of sustainability.  Each report normally compares against between 10 and 30 peers.
  • The report helps inform the stakeholders in a sustainability strategy process.  You can share the report internally and help prove your case for new programs, further investments, and shifts in strategy.

We have more data than we can ever fit into any single report!  We look forward to getting feedback from our users about the ESG Metrics Brief and continuing to fine-tune it to meet their needs.

See more now, including a full sample, at  http://www.csrhub.com/content/icompli-csrhub-esg-metrics-brief/.

 


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 15,000 companies from 135 industries in 132 countries. By aggregating and normalizing the information from 400 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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Bloomberg ESG and CSRHub Benchmark - part 1

[fa icon="calendar'] Dec 15, 2015 10:00:21 AM / by Bahar Gidwani

By Bahar Gidwani

Part 1 of a 2-part series

Sustainability professionals spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and months of time developing and managing their sustainability programs.  Most dread the almost inevitable question from their manager or their manager’s manager—”How are we performing relative to our peers?  Where are we doing well and where do we need to improve?”  The iCompli CSRHub ESG Metrics Brief is designed to make it easy to answer these questions in a fact-based and authoritative way.

Why has it been hard to get answers?

Sustainability managers know their own programs—and understand the data they generate and report.  However, hundreds of outside sources each form their own opinions on a company’s sustainability performance.  They use different criteria and come to different conclusions—and both their analysis methods and their viewpoints are not always readily available.

For instance, is Wal-Mart more socially responsible than Target?  The barriers to answering this question include:

  • Too much information – CSRHub contains 131 sources of sustainability information for Wal-Mart and 118 sources for Target.
  • Gaps in the data - 85 of the above data sources rate both company, but many sources are unique to only one of the two companies.
  • Broad range of comparable companies – CSRHub tracks 274 retail companies worldwide.  To fairly compare Wal-Mart and Target, one needs to put them into context against all of these other competitors.

 

Our new solution required combining two components

CSRHub’s database system maps, merges, and normalizes sustainability ratings from 425 sources.  It includes information from Wall Street firms such as Thomson, MSCI, EIRIS, and Trucost; data from non-governmental organizations such as CDP, GRI, Transparency.org and the UN Global Compact, and information from government databases, publications, and various types of certification and crowd sources.  By combining almost 80 million pieces of data, CSRHub can generate objective scores of the perceived sustainability performance for more than 15,000 companies in 132 countries.

CSRHub ratings process

The end result shows that Target is generally more sustainable than Wal-Mart—although Wal-Mart is seen has having better performance on environmental issues.

CSR Ratings for Target vs Walmart

This perception perspective helps identify where a particular company is weak or strong.  But, most corporate managers need to also see comparable sets of facts and figures, before they can invest in new projects or change their strategy.  The new ESG Metrics Brief combines CSRHub’s insights with the hard facts contained in Bloomberg’s well-respected ESG (Environment Social Governance) Database.

Bloomberg tracks data on more than 30,000 publicly-traded companies, from around the world.  Its data set includes information not only hundreds of data items its own staff gathers from public sources and company filings but also data from other major ESG sources such as Sustainalytics and ISS.  The result is a set of comprehensive reports on 6,969 companies in 77 countries.

ESG regions

Look for part 2 of this series to see a concrete example of the kinds of information—and opportunities for action—that the new ESG Metrics Brief's create.

To see more now, including a full sample, go to www.csrhub.com/content/icompli-csrhub-esg-metrics-brief/.


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 15,000 companies from 135 industries in 132 countries. By aggregating and normalizing the information from 400 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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