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ImpactSpace and CSRHub bring environmental, social and governance (ESG) ratings to impact investments

[fa icon="calendar'] Oct 4, 2016 9:09:47 AM / by CSRHub Blogging

4 October, 2016 - ImpactSpace, the open database for the impact investing marketplace, is bringing CSRHub’s environmental, social and governance ratings into the world of impact investing.

ImpactSpace users seeking company information will be able to see CSRHub CSR/ESG ratings and data whenever available. CSRHub provides access to corporate social responsibility and sustainability ratings and information on more than 16,500 companies.

Similarly, CSRHub’s pages on these companies will be linked to the appropriate page on ImpactSpace.  Additionally, CSRHub users will be able to search for ImpactSpace companies on the CSRHub site.  (This search link shows the 119 companies that are already connected.)

The partnership will bridge the growing marketplace for impact investments and the broader effort to track and report ESG (environmental, social and corporate governance) performance. The “impact space” is made up of small companies and private investors, with investments are typically in the millions of dollars. The “ESG” space is inhabited by large, often publicly listed companies, with billion dollar valuations and large institutional investors.

“CSRHub has data on 140,000 smaller companies that it cannot yet rate,” said Bahar Gidwani, chief executive of CSRHub. With help from partners such as ImpactSpace, CSRHub hopes to give many of these smaller companies the opportunity to receive full credit for their sustainability work. This recognition will help them find new customers, attract high quality employees, and receive support from their local communities.”

Impact investors believe there is a business opportunity to support companies for which achieving positive social and environmental outcomes are core objectives. On the ESG side, in general, there are indications that strong ESG ratings signal strong management more broadly.

Both recognize that risk and opportunity are ultimately two sides of the same coin, when it comes to emerging issues such as greenhouse gas reduction, supply chain security and community relations.

“The partnership with CSRHub greatly enhances the value of our datasets for users and expands their scope.” said Zuleyma Bebell, co-founder and director of ImpactSpace.  “Going forward, companies and investors of all sizes can be evaluated and tracked against sustainable development metrics.”

About CSRHub

CSRHub provides access to corporate social responsibility and sustainability ratings and information on 16,511+ 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: Bahar Gidwani, CEO, bahar@csrhub.com.

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About ImpactSpace
ImpactSpace is the open data platform powering the global impact marketplace. Together with our sister site, ImpactAlpha, we are providing stories and data to investors, entrepreneurs and other market participants driving business advantage with social and environmental impact. Contact Zuleyma Bebell, Director, zbebell@impactalpha.com

Impact Space

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Is It Already Over?

[fa icon="calendar'] Jun 8, 2015 9:45:52 AM / by Carol Pierson Holding

By: Carol Pierson-Holding

Last week I met a young man who is about to major in environmental engineering. When he found out I blog about climate change, his first question was, “Is it already over?”

Moon-Trek

Clearly he intended to be provocative. But it was an interesting question from someone about to enter the environmental field. He wanted to talk about solar arrays in space and space elevators. Both are ideas that would in part alter the sun’s radiation, preventing it from warming earth.

Don’t these ideas sound nuts? The National Academy of Sciences agrees, reporting that the idea of increasing the earth’s reflectivity so that more sunlight gets bounced back into space is, in their more tempered language, “fraught.”

Clive Hamilton, the Australian climate change ethicist and author, puts it more strongly in the UN web magazine Our World, “Some of the ideas put forward to block the sun’s heat would be far-fetched even in a science fiction novel.”

The excitement my young student showed was, in its own way, just as troubling. As environmental activist Rachel Smolker blogged in Huffington Post, “What is clear is that climate geoengineering is opening new doors for many career seekers. From scientists with superman complexes, eager to be seen as doing ‘cutting edge’ work with big important global consequence, to various environmental and other NGO careerists seeking grant support, status and a place at the table.”

In other words, geoengineering is the new macho, no matter how otherwise sincere my young friend.

All of the schemes for climate solutions that change the delicate balance between the atmosphere, the ocean and the sun’s energy sound deranged. But what if these ideas seduce us into believing that we can continue to rely on carbon-spewing fossil fuels until all the reserves are used up?

According to Smolker, solar reflectivity and other geoengineering ideas, with the exception of technologies designed to remove emissions such as carbon scrubbing, are diverting our attention, “…from implementing the straightforward, proven, low tech, low risk approaches to saving the planet…like halting deforestation, protecting biodiversity, putting a halt to overconsumption, ending the mining, fracking, clear cutting and burning of the planet…”

Just as with climate change in the early days, scientists are lining up on either side. The predominance of scientific bodies argue for caution. Their projections show the potential harm, as in the weakening of coral reefs and sea life shells that results from fertilizing the ocean with iron or the projected side effect of sprinkling the atmosphere with sulphates, which scientists say may reduce our rainfall.

The most enthusiastic proponents of bioengineering include the fossil fuel companies and their organizations such as the American Enterprise Institute. In 2013, the influential think tank partly funded by ExxonMobil and the Koch brothers, launched a high-profile project to promote “geoengineering,” or as the National Geographic defines it, “intentional intervening in the climate system in an attempt to forestall some of the impact of global warming.”

Shell and ConocoPhillips are investing in geoengineering and using it to buttress their argument that we will don’t have to stop using fossil fuels because we will innovate ourselves out of our climate crisis.

To an ex-branding person like me, the most-telling signal of pro-geoengineering forces’ intentions is the re-branding taking place. From the original and now highly controversial “geoengineering” term to a replacement that turned out to be no better — “climate engineering,” the current moniker is the evocative “climate intervention,” as though the climate has a problem which only humans can fix.

Advocates for “climate intervention” think the best strategy is to alter nature’s delicate balance, to address climate change by changing the climate. But it’s Mother Earth who has the genius for cleaning up messes, not us. Think of the mushrooms currently used to detoxify superfund sites. Surely we can figure out a similar solution to excessive carbon, one that mimics nature rather than destroying it.

Let’s attend to our own “intervention” and fix what we can, those behaviors that caused climate change. We won’t destroy the earth, just our ability to survive on it. It’s our own extinction that’s at stake. The solution is not to alter earth’s magnificent equilibrium but our own self-destructive behavior.

To answer my young friend, no, it’s not over.

Photo courtesy of photophilde 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 14,400+ companies worldwide. Carol holds degrees from Smith College and Harvard University.

CSRHub provides access to corporate social responsibility and sustainability ratings and information on 14,400+ companies from 135 industries in 127 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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[fa icon="comment"] 0 Comments posted in American Enterprise Institute, carbon scrubbing, climate change, climate engineering, climate intervention., fracking, geoengineering, global warming, space elevators, Uncategorized, Rachel Smolker, Carol Pierson Holding, Clive Hamilton, environmental, Koch bothers, solar arrays in space, solar reflectivity

Big Oil Talks the Talk Then Pulls an End-Run on Carbon Pricing

[fa icon="calendar'] Mar 13, 2015 10:44:04 AM / by Carol Pierson Holding

By: Carol Pierson-Holding

Carpool lane

The Seattle Times ran an article whose headline was so unsurprising I almost didn’t read on: “Oil industry not buying Gov. Jay Inslee’s cap-and-trade plan.” No surprise right?

Big Oil’s actions tell us it not only wants to kill carbon pricing but still actively promotes climate-denial, a fact most recently reinforced by the cash-for-climate-denial scandal of Harvard-Smithsonian physicist Wei-Hock Soon, whose papers are the go-to reference for impugning climate change. Big Oil withdrew from direct supporting Soon and now funnels “donations” through Donors Trust charity, which in turn donates to climate denial organizations.

And hadn’t I just been sent a link to Biggreenradicals.com, a site funded by the DC-based Environmental Policy Alliance (which goes by the ultra-cynical acronym “EPA”)? Its stated function is to “educate the public about the real agenda of well-funded environmental activist groups” and its investigations point to the Kremlin as a major funder of the US EPA.

Russia funds the EPA to destabilize the U.S.? Really? Still, whatever “EPA” is spending on its whacky research is a pittance compared to $213 million the fossil fuel industry spent last year on lobbying and the $900 million a year given to organizational supporters of climate denial.

That Seattle Times headline seemed to be restating the obvious, that oil companies will always oppose carbon pricing. But the text of the article presents a totally different picture: “…(chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell) Ben van Beurden warned that the industry faces a credibility problem ‘if you undermine calls for an effective carbon price; and if you always descend into the ‘jobs versus environment’ argument in the public debate’.”

Shell is not the only oil giant to endorse carbon pricing — BP also says it favors a global carbon price, and that national or regional carbon policies are “a good first step.” The industry knows its coming. 73 countries including China and Russia have or are creating a form of carbon pricing, either carbon tax or cap and trade. A successful cap and trade system has been operating since 2008 across nine states in the northeastern U.S.

But here in Washington State, where the legislature is currently debating cap and trade legislation, the oil industry is opposing carbon pricing with everything its got.

It’s a brilliant play:

Big Oil CEOs say they support carbon pricing.

Washington’s governor proposes legislation would set a price on carbon emissions.

Big Oil refuses to negotiate.

The oil and gas sector has spent $415,000 in donations directly to legislative candidates. Couldn’t they have stalemated without the expensive price tag?

Sure, but they’ve got something else up their sleeve:

Last week, the GOP-controlled Senate passed a new $15-billion transportation plan that includes increases in the gas tax (nearly 12 cents phased in over three years) to pay for road infrastructure.

…But the Senate bill also contains a so-called ‘poison pill’ that cuts transit funding if the governor imposes stricter emission standards on fuels, vehicles or fuel distributors, or limits carbon emissions. That would be true for the life of the plan, or about 16 years.

How diabolically clever. Going flat out against any limit on emissions, much less cap and trade, would backfire in a pro-environment state like Washington, where 71% of the population supports the measure. With its Republican friends in the Senate, Big Oil devised a run-around that improves the odds that cap and trade will not become law and holds public transit ransom if anyone objects.

Improving Washington State’s roads could alleviate the terrible traffic jams in Western Washington’s cities. But they’d also make Washington State’s major polluters, private passenger cars, more attractive, and thereby assure that the switch from fossil fuels to renewables is extended. Carbon pricing seems inevitable, even to Big Oil, yet they’re using every trick to delay it, spending a bundle in this relatively tiny market to do so.

Thankfully, we’ve got a governor willing to throw his political clout behind it, and the support of environmentalists, labor unions, health organizations, low-income groups and native tribes. And shouldn’t that be enough?

Photo courtesy of Keith Tyler 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 10,000+ companies worldwide. Carol holds degrees from Smith College and Harvard University.

CSRHub provides access to corporate social responsibility and sustainability ratings and information on 13,736+ companies from 135 industries in 127 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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Which Sustainability Factors Are Most Linked to Brand Strength?

[fa icon="calendar'] Jun 27, 2013 9:40:19 AM / by Bahar Gidwani

By Bahar Gidwani

Part 5 of our 5-part series

In the previous posts in this series, we have described the relationship between Brand Finance’s Brand Strength Index and CSRHub’s sustainability rating.  The overall correlation between these large sets of data is strong—and it has been growing stronger.  We will now look at how each of the twelve individual components in CSRHub’s metric system relate to brand strength.

CSRHub ingests sustainability information from 230 sources that each have their own way of measuring and rating corporate social performance.  In order to make sense of these different measures (we have more than 9,000 different indicators in our system), CSRHub has mapped each indicator from each source into one of twelve “subcategories.”  (You can see a description of this schema here.)  These subcategories are then grouped into four categories (with three subcategories in each category).

The ratings for each subcategory are forced into a curve that has a central tendency (around 50 on a scale from 0 = low to 100 = high).  There is a natural tendency for subcategory scores to be correlated (i.e., a company who is good on one measure of sustainability tends to be better on all of the others), the correlation between subcategories is generally between 0.25 and 0.5 for subcategories that are in the same category (e.g., Energy & Climate Change vs Resource Management) and between 0.1 and 0.25 for subcategories that are in different categories (e.g., Product and Board).

To understand which subcategories may be more important for brand strength, we performed a multivariate analysis between the twelve CSRHub subcategory scores and the Brand Finance Brand Strength Index.  The results of the regression mentioned show that eleven of the twelve CSRHub’s subcategories have meaningful individual correlation statistics.  Only our Human Rights & Supply Chain measure seems to have no correlation with brand value.

Correlation Between BSI and Each of Twelve CSR Factors

Correlation Between BSI and 12 CSR Factors

We performed a similar analysis on our 2011 data set—using 921 sets of data.  Both the coefficients for the multivariate regression and the relative strengths of the correlations between each subcategory and brand strength were similar.  The extent of correlation was less at all levels for the 2011 data.

We would expect that product sustainability, leadership ethics, and a company’s environment policy and reporting would be tied to brand strength.  These are areas that companies actively invest in and communicate about.  The weaker ties to board performance, transparency and reporting, energy and climate change, and resource management may be due to the fact that consumers have few means to connect these areas with the products they buy.  The most surprising results are the weak relationship between brand and human rights and supply chain issues, the modest effect of community development and philanthropy, and that how companies treat their employees is important to their brand strength.

We have some thoughts to offer on these last three points:

  • Human rights and supply chain.  Our rating in this area goes up when a company is more transparent about its behavior.  It also goes up when a company has few “incidents” with its supply chain and when it takes steps to enforce socially positive policies (such as diversity, fair pay, and workplace safety) on its suppliers.  We suspect that consumers may not understand the complexity of the issues companies face in this area.  They may distrust company communications in this area or dismiss them as “window dressing.”  More communication and transparency may indicate that a company has problems in the area, without making it clear that the company has solved some or all of them.
  • Community development and philanthropy.  Many companies assume their investments in these areas will support their brands.  However, it is hard for a company to brag about its good deeds without appearing to be “paying for love.”  Further, an investment in one community may not pay off with brand benefits in other/all communities.
  • Employee treatment.  Many studies have shown that consumer brand impressions are heavily influence by the behavior of a company’s employees.  Polite, knowledgeable service people; employees who actively serve in community organizations; and personal contact between employees and customers can directly affect how a brand is perceived.

Conclusion and Next Steps

If corporate social responsibility performance drives brand strength, companies have yet another reason to care about their social performance.  We do not advocate cutting expenditures on human rights and supply chain improvements.  We believe that consumer awareness in this area will grow rapidly—spurred partly by news coverage of events such as the recent collapse of a factory in Bangladesh.  However, we hope that our results show companies that investing in better treatment of their employees may also increase the strength of their brands.  Our results also suggest that brand managers may expect to see broad benefits on their brand strength from promoting and leveraging their company’s good social responsibility performance.

We plan to repeat our study using Brand Finance’s next annual BSI data set (due to be released in March 2014).  We are also reaching out to other groups who have brand data and digging into the indicators and data we have from our 230 other data sources.  We intend to study the performance of “outliers”—companies whose brand and sustainability performance run counter to the general trend we have described.  We invite any company or group who is interested in this area to contact us regarding this work.  We will need detailed information and input from the management of both brand-driven and non-brand driven companies, if we want to understand best practice in this area.

View:

Part 1 The Tie Between Brand Value and Sustainability is Getting Stronger
Part 2 There is a Strong Link Between Brand Strength and Sustainability
Part 3
Is the Correlation between Brand Strength and Sustainability Due to Random Chance?
Part 4 The Relationship Between Brand and Sustainability is Getting Stronger


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 7,300+ companies from 135 industries in 93 countries. By aggregating and normalizing the information from 230 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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The Relationship Between Brand and Sustainability Is Getting Stronger

[fa icon="calendar'] Jun 26, 2013 9:50:30 AM / by Bahar Gidwani

By Bahar Gidwani

Part 4 of our 5-part series.

In the last post in this series, we examined our finding that brand strength and sustainability are correlated.  We found evidence that the relationship we have discovered between Brand Finance’s Brand Strength Index and CSRHub’s corporate social responsibility and sustainability ratings are not due to random chance.  Let’s assume the relationship is real.  How has it changed over time?

Both Brand Finance and CSRHub have used consistent methods to evaluate companies over the past five years, from 2008 through 2012.  Because we wanted to see how the brand-sustainability relationship changed for each year, we included all of the available company pairs for 2012 and then for each year, used only the companies that were also present in the following year.  While the number of companies studied in the earlier years is less than that in the latest data set, all years include more than 350 company data set comparisons.

Five Years of Data

5 year Brand study

The correlation between the BSI and CSRHub’s overall rating averaged about 0.11 for the first four years of our study (2008 through 2011).  The jump to 0.22 in 2012 is quite dramatic.

Brand Strength - CSR Correlation Doubled

The 12 factor analysis for 2011 gives a 0.19 correlation.  This is again lower than the 0.28 correlation we get for the twelve factor analysis in 2012.  This confirms that there has been a strong improvement in the relationship we are studying.

We believe there are several reasons consumers may be increasingly aware of corporate responsibility and sustainability performance:

We would expect this correlation to continue to grow, although there should be a natural limit on how much of brand strength can be driven by social performance factors.  We look forward to repeating our study in 2014, when we have a new year of data from our partners at Brand Finance.

Our next and last step will be to see which parts of sustainability seem most closely related to brand strength.

View:

Part 1 The Tie Between Brand Value and Sustainability is Getting Stronger
Part 2 There is a Strong Link Between Brand Strength and Sustainability
Part 3
Is the Correlation between Brand Strength and Sustainability Due to Random Chance?


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 7,300+ companies from 135 industries in 93 countries. By aggregating and normalizing the information from 230 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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