June 07, 2013
Gulf Persists Between Corporate Sustainability Claims and Performance
by Robert Kropp
Sixty percent of corporate respondents to an oekom research survey suggest that rating agencies and
sustainable investors influence strategy.
Sustainable investors should find the responses from 199 companies, headquartered in nearly 30
countries and representing 34 industry sectors, to a recent survey by oekom
research encouraging. Almost two-thirds of corporate respondents told oekom that two prominent
investment strategies—a best-in-class approach and shareowner engagement—influence their
While such a response is encouraging
on the face of it, the fact remains that negative screening continues to be the overwhelming
investment approach for the $13 trillion in assets under management devoted to sustainable
"Investors wishing to influence companies' sustainability
performance would be well advised to make use of the best-in-class approach and dialogue with
companies,' Robert Haßler of oekom said. "Sustainable investment could be much more effective
overall if sustainable investors made more use of these two strategies."
About the same
percentage of respondents also said that sustainable ratings agencies had a decisive influence on
their strategies, often "prompting them to tackle the issue of sustainability in the first place,"
oekom reports. Only customer demand was of more critical import, the companies said.
"Socially responsible investments and sustainability ratings motivate the majority of companies
to make a greater commitment to sustainable development," oekom concluded. "Access to the capital
market makes an important business case for the integration of sustainability criteria into company
management. One of the key motives of sustainable investors is thus fundamentally addressed."
Almost every company surveyed acknowledged the importance of sustainable development to future
corporate performance. However, oekom continues, "We will come straight to the point here. The
companies' self-assessment… regarding the importance of the sustainability model and the current
status of relevant activities, does not stand up to external scrutiny."
conducted by oekom rated only one in six of the companies from the
MSCI World Index as
demonstrating a good level of commitment to sustainable development. not a single company in the
Index has yet qualified for a rating of very good from oekom.
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