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International Effort to Develop Global Standard for Corporate Sustainability Ratings

Corporate Sustainability RatingsWashington, D.C.The Global Initiative for Sustainability Ratings (GISR) announced on December 18 the key set of core Principles it will use for accrediting sustainability ratings worldwide.

The year-long effort included close participation from leaders in the investment and corporate communities – among those, Aviva, Deutsche Bank, Bloomberg L.P., BBVA, TIAA-CREF and UBS, who are members of GISR’s core committees; and AMD, UPS, Vale, Disney, Bosch and Bayer, who are members of GISR’s technical working group.

Launched by Ceres and the Tellus Institute in 2011, GISR is a global non-profit initiative that aims to accelerate the integration of environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues and indicators into global financial markets and investment decision-making. GISR will not rate companies on sustainability measures, but will instead accredit sustainability ratings, rankings or indices that meet certain standards of excellence for assessing corporate sustainability performance.

“The number of investor, company and NGO participants in various GISR activities has doubled over the past 12 months, a trend we expect to continue in the coming year,” said Allen White, Vice President of the Tellus Institute and Founder of GISR. “The hundreds of comments received on the draft Principles provide additional evidence of GISR’s growing worldwide profile.”

Currently, more than 100 rating systems are evaluating various aspects of the ESG performance of more than 10,000 companies using more than 400 issues and 2,000 indicators. In collaboration with the sustainability ratings community, NGOs, investors and companies, GISR aims to further harmonize and expand the global market for high quality sustainability ratings, rankings and indices.

“To those of us working to improve corporate performance on climate change and other sustainability challenges, the need for standards is clear,” said Mindy Lubber, President of Ceres, a non-profit group mobilizing business leadership on sustainability challenges. “Investors are increasingly evaluating companies in terms of their ability to meet sustainability challenges and they are seeking assurance that a rating system provides an accurate picture of how well a company is building the natural, social and human capital needed to operate sustainably well into the 21st century.”

The GISR standard will comprise three components: Principles, Issues and Indicators. The Principles, announced on December 18, identify the core attributes of a ratings framework applicable to all sustainability ratings, rankings and indices. “Issues” are themes, topics or aspects of sustainability material used to assess a company’s sustainability performance, such as water stewardship, carbon emissions and human rights.

After a year-long development process including hundreds of comments from interested parties, the principles released on December 18 include: continuous improvement, impartiality, balance, and transparency. Additionally, the principles cover: incorporation of stakeholders whose investment decisions are influenced by sustainability ratings; focus on issues material to investors; inclusion of a rated company’s value chain in performance assessment; and comparability across rated companies while avoiding an overly prescriptive or rigid approach to ratings.

“GISR is seeking to highlight leading groups doing an excellent job of rating corporate sustainability performance, while encouraging all raters to achieve a continuously higher level of excellence,” White said. “That doesn’t mean there’s only one credible way to measure sustainability performance, but it does mean that credible systems should rest on certain common principles. Once they know which ratings systems align with such principles, we anticipate a major expansion of the ratings market worldwide.”

“GISR’s goal is to create a benchmark of excellence that will bolster investor confidence in and reliance upon sustainability ratings,” said GISR Program Manager, Mark Tulay. “This, in turn, will grow the market for ratings and unleash their full potential to move capital toward true sustainability leaders. In a world fraught with uncertainty, such outcomes will play a vital role in bringing long-term prosperity to investors, companies and society at-large.”


Click here to read more on GISR Standard Component 1: Principles:


Source: Ceres.


About Ceres

Ceres is a non-profit organization mobilizing business and investor leadership on climate change, water scarcity and other sustainability challenges. Ceres directs the Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR), a network of over 100 institutional investors with collective assets totaling more than $ 12 trillion. Ceres also directs Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy (BICEP), an advocacy coalition of nearly 30 businesses committed to working with policy makers to pass meaningful energy and climate legislation. For more information, visit www.ceres.org.

About Tellus Institute

The Tellus Institute, founded in 1976, is among the world’s leading sustainability research and policy organizations. Its work focuses on the creation of scenarios,  tools and networks designed to drive transformational change in business, civil society, global governance and, more broadly, public discourse surrounding global futures. The Institute is founder/co-founder of numerous sustainability initiatives, including the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Great Transition Initiative (GTI), Corporation 20/20 and the Sustainable Consumption Research and Action Initiative (SCORAI). For more information, visit www.tellus.org.