Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Are we talking sustainability reporting or sustainability performance?

A reader recently inquired about whether or not I had seen any ranking or indexing scheme that rates companies on their actual sustainability performance - not just the quality of their reporting. My answer: surprisingly hard to come by!

The professional indicies such as the Dow Jones Sustainability Index and the FTSE4GOOD use sustainability reports and other data provided by companies on the list (or competing to get on the list) to make a valuation of their performance from a risk exposure and future value perspective. Often times the methodology is not made public because these of course are proprietary products. (Note: I am not sure if the two above-mentioned products make their methodologies public or not).

The only other performance evaluations I can think of are award schemes. There are publications like the former Business Ethics Magazine (now the CRO)that rank the 100 Best Corporate Citizens. Many industry associations also award their members or companies in the industry for performance. In the UK, the membership association Business in the Community (BiTC) runs a very high profile and competitive Corporate Responsibility Index annually.

Quality of reports often act as a proxy for performance. Take for example the bi-annual Global Reporter's survey done by SustainAbility, UNEP, and Standard & Poor's which ranks report quality. Check also the Roberts-McKenna Pacific Sustainability Index which ranks companies reports on a system that awards companies for the breadth and depth of issues they cover.

Why is it easier to find rankings of report quality than it is to find rankings of performance quality?

1 comment:

Stephen said...

Well, I guess its a start. How does the old accounting saying go? "You can't manage what you can't measure."

Reporting is the first step, the assessment process the second, and the performance is the third. Hopefully the day when companies are competing against each other based on their ESG performance is not too far in the future.

On an aside, Greenpeace released a good sector report ranking the Electronics industry today: