Asking Stakeholders for Their Opinions – Will This Help To Shape ISS ESG Ratings?
G&A's Sustainability Highlights ( 10.01.2023 )
Corporate executives and board members may wonder what specific factors are shaping the scores and ratings assigned to their companies by the major ESG ratings agencies. These include MSCI, Sustainalytics (part of Morningstar), Refinitiv (owned by London Stock Exchange group), Bloomberg, and Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) – one of the last ratings agencies to adopt ESG research and ratings for companies.
The clients of these ratings agencies are institutional investors, important fiduciaries, and others in the capital markets. The same questions may also be on the minds of these clients, who depend in various ways on the ESG agencies’ ratings systems for portfolio management and ESG product construction. Each of the agencies uses different methodologies that focus on various ESG data and information provided by companies.
One of these agencies – ISS (majority owned by Deutsche Börse Group) – is now seeking input from stakeholders through a structured ESG survey to refine what ESG data and information they should focus on in their rating methodology.
In the inaugural survey effort, ISS ESG is asking key stakeholders – defined as investor clients, publicly-traded companies, academics, professional services firms – what information they are seeking in a “rapidly-evolving” ESG regulatory landscape.
The survey, explains ISS, “underscores ISS ESG’s commitment to both transparency and engagement with stakeholders.” This starts with inviting feedback regarding ISS ESG’s “global approach” and the foundation of drawing on international normative reporting frameworks, voluntary disclosure standards, and regulatory regimes that will inform ISS ESG methodology.
The survey asks for stakeholder input on materiality, use-cases for ISS ESG corporate ratings, and the scores and data making up such ratings. The survey also drills down on individual sectors and topics to draw stakeholder views on the relevance of existing and emerging ESG issues.
Topics that ISS ESG is asking stakeholders for feedback on include climate change; freshwater use; biodiversity loss; regenerative agriculture; the circular economy; labor; human rights; customer health and safety; and data protection. The survey asks for feedback on governance risks and assessments in the ISS ESG Corporate Rating methodology.
What would you say to ISS in responding to the survey questions? You can access the survey to examine questions and provide responses at this link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/WZKBVJ3
Corporate managements are very familiar with ISS scores and ratings in corporate governance, the historical focus of its business. Clients include pension funds (state and municipal, organized labor, etc.) and other clients such as mutual funds advisors, providing opinions and recommendations for their consideration in proxy voting decisions and portfolio management, beginning almost 40 years ago.
The ISS ESG ratings platform was launched in August 2020 by the ISS organization’s investment arm, initially to assess the ESG performance of investment funds. ISS ESG ratings are now issued for corporations, countries, and green bonds.
The G&A team continues to monitor the various methodologies used by all of the ESG ratings agencies, assisting our corporate clients in understand the work of the ESG raters. We welcome your questions regarding any of the agencies or the differences between them. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is just the introduction of G&A's Sustainability Highlights newsletter this week. Click here to view the full issue.