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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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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

 

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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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CSRHub COO and Cofounder Cynthia Figge Joins Impact Conference at Sustainatopia

[fa icon="calendar'] Apr 27, 2016 10:28:16 AM / by Cynthia Figge

Sustainatopia 2016

CSRHub COO and Cofounder Cynthia Figge will be speaking at the Annual Impact Conference at Sustainatopia on Monday, May 2nd in San Francisco, California. The session will discuss Driving Impact & Robust Returns Through Renewables.

The Impact Conference at Sustainatopia 2015 will be one of the best opportunities to learn, network, and connect with hundreds of top global impact leaders and organizations.

Monday, May 2nd 2:30 PM – 3:30 PM

Driving Impact & Robust Returns Through Renewables

  • Chris Warren, Clean Energy Advisors
  • Erik Melang, Clean Energy Advisors
  • Cynthia Figge, CSRHub

The Impact Conference is part of Sustainatopia, one of the largest events in the world for financial, social and environmental sustainability. For more information on the event, click here.


Cynthia Figge, Co-founder and COO of CSRHubCynthia Figge is a forerunner and thought leader in the corporate sustainability movement who co-founded EKOS International in 1996, one of the first consultancies integrating sustainability and corporate strategy. Cynthia is COO and Cofounder of CSRHub. Cynthia has worked with major organizations including BNSF, Boeing, Coca-Cola, Dow Jones, and REI to help craft sustainability strategy integrated with business. She was an Officer of LIN Broadcasting/McCaw Cellular leading new services development, and started a new “Greenfield” mill with Weyerhaeuser. She serves as Advisor to media and technology companies, and served as President of the Board of Sustainable Seattle. Cynthia has an MBA from Harvard Business School. Cynthia is based in the Seattle area. 

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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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