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

New Stock Performance and ESG Research from MSCI

[fa icon="calendar'] Feb 25, 2013 9:00:53 AM / by Bahar Gidwani

 By Bahar Gidwani

As a CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) and past denizen of Wall Street, I am always MSCIinterested to see studies that relate data or trends to the performance of a group of stocks.  The SRI (Socially Responsible Investment) industry has been producing some interesting work in this area, recently.

For instance, our data was used as part of a study by Governance & Accountability on the relationship between sustainability and stock performance for the S&P 500.  Our friends at GovernanceMetrics put out a study that showed a connection between the Accounting and Governance Risk (AGR) data and default in the CDS market (11 times more likely for companies in the bottom decile vs the top decile).  And, our friends at Trucost have just released an extensive report on the State of Green Business (co-produced with GreenBiz).

Now MSCI’s research group has published a fascinating study that inspects three commonly-used strategies for integrating ESG (Environment, Social, and Governance) factors into portfolio management:

  • “ESG exclusion” describes a process that strips out “bad” stocks and overweights a portfolio with the top rated companies among the “good” stocks.
  • “Simple ESG tilt” underweights “bad” stocks and overweights “good” stocks.
  • “ESG Momentum” focuses on stocks that are showing changes in their sustainability performance.  It overweights companies that are improving and underweights those that are lagging behind.

If you want to see the details of MSCI’s analysis of these strategies, you should download their report.  I was surprised to learn that the momentum strategy dominated the other two over the four year horizon of the study.  It was also reassuring to see that all three ESG strategies produced active return benefits.

MSCI will host a webinar on March 21, where they will discuss their results.  You can register for it, here.  Please send me other interesting ideas in this area, and help me stay up to date on the latest development in SRI and ESG.


Bahar 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 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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[fa icon="comment"] 0 Comments posted in Accounting and Governance Risk, AGR, Bahar Gidwani, CDS, CSR, CSRHub, ESG, GovernanceMetrics, GreenBiz, MSCI, SRI, State of Green Business, stock performance, Uncategorized

Crowds of Ratings: The Financial Folks

[fa icon="calendar'] Dec 15, 2010 11:54:00 AM / by Bahar Gidwani

By Bahar Gidwani

 

The best-known and best-established sources of information on corporate social responsibility (CSR) performance are probably socially responsible investment (SRI) researchers. These firms are also called ESG (environment, social, and governance) analysts.  At CSRHUB, we use data from six major SRI houses, including ASSET4, GovernanceMetrics International, IW Financial, MSCI, Trucost, and Vigeo.  Other well-known sources in this area include EIRIS, SAM, and SIRIS.

 

SRI firms primarily serve investors—mutual fund managers, investment advisors, brokerage houses, etc.  They try to help them:

  1. Make money.  SRI firms hope either they or their clients will discover connections between CSR-related factors and stock performance.
  2. Create and maintain special mutual funds.  Around $6 trillion has been invested so far into mutual funds that have a social theme or purpose.  Most of the major fund groups are now involved, including Calvert (one of the first movers in this area), Parnassus, Van Eck, T. Rowe Price, and Vanguard.
  3. Measure their performance.  Investors want to know if their investment manager or mutual fund is doing a good job.  The easiest way to find out is to compare the return from a particular investment strategy against that of an index such as the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, the FTSE for Good, or the NASDAQ OMX Global Sustainability Index.

Do CSR-oriented investors do better or worse than those who don’t care about the social behavior of the companies they invest in?  Many studies have probed this question, but there is still no definite answer.  You can follow the discussion on Lloyd Kurtz’s SRI Studies site and form your own opinion.

 

SRI data is not cheap.  The annual fee for a data feed from one of these firms can run from $20,000 per year to over $100,000 per year.  Some firms specialize in certain areas (e.g., Trucost offers data on carbon and water use, GovernanceMetrics tracks corporate governance) and some firms offer more than one approach to measuring social performance (MSCI offers data under the KLD, IVA/Innovest, and Global Compact+, and RiskMetrics Carbon Beta brands).  Some firms sell individual reports or industry reports—but these prices are also high (between $200 and $2,000 per company).

 

Recently, the SRI area has consolidated.  Thomson Reuters bought ASSET4, MSCI bought RiskMetrics (which in turn had bought both Innovest and KLD), and The Corporate Library and Audit Integrity merged with GovernanceMetrics.  Several forces may be driving this trend.  Investment firms cut back on all types of costs—including research and data feeds—during the recent downturn.  New entrants such as Bloomberg have encouraged players in the broader market for trading data and indices (such as Thompson and MSCI) to enter the CSR area.  It takes a big capital base to support the high-speed infrastructure and programming dollars involved in creating and maintaining indices.

 

Many SRI participants and many of their customers are worried that our society could lose some of the strength, diversity, and richness of the data that SRI firms produce.  CSRHUB shares this concern and we hope that our site will introduce these wonderful data resources to many new users.  Our next post in this series will look at the organizations who are trying to improve ESG/CSR reporting.

 


 

Bahar 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.

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[fa icon="comment"] 1 Comment posted in ASSET4, Bahar Gidwani, Calvert, corporate responsibility, CSR, CSRHub, Dow Jones Sustainability Index, EIRIS, FTSE for Good, GovernanceMetrics, IW Financial, MSCI, NASDAQ OMX Global Sustainability Index, Parnassus, SAM, SIRIS, sustainability, T. Rowe Price, Trucost, Uncategorized, Van Eck, Vanguard, Vigeo

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