August 14, 2008
Social Platform for Socially Responsible Investors
by Anne Moore Odell
The SRI community has a new way to share information about what companies are or aren't doing on
social, environmental, and governance issues.
People in the SRI community now have a place to share insights and experiences on the companies
they interface with at www.OpenSRI.com.
Created by Intertek, a provider of CSR
certification and quality services, OpenSRI.com is designed to give investors and other
stakeholders a forum to rate the corporate social responsibility (CSR) of companies.
OpenSRI postulates that the time is ripe for a Web 2.0 collaborative web platform for
socially responsible investors. The organization estimates the European SRI market at more than
€1,000 billion or 10-15% of all European assets. The US market in 2007 saw $2.7 trillion of assets
in screen portfolios.
"One of the ideas behind the project is to make CSR methodologies
more transparent, to multiply the sources of information and to use the 'wisdom of the crowd',"
said Franca Morroni, managing director & co-founder of OpenSRI. "A company's reputation has a very
big impact on stock prices, and the reputation is what the stakeholders think about a company,
hence the idea of asking them to rate the companies. We are not a rating agency and don't intend
to become one. Our job is complementary to the job currently carried out by extra-financial rating
agencies," continued Morroni.
OpenSRI's role will start where the work of the classic CSR
analysts usually stops. The size of CSR analyst teams, the number of companies to study, and the
sheer amount of materials to cover can limit traditional analyst firms. However, by joining people
interested in CSR together, OpenSRI's ability to create content is massive. Yet OpenSRI doesn't see
its stakeholder rating as the final objective of the process, but rather as the starting point for
dialogue between a company and its stakeholders.
Morroni told SocialFunds.com, "OpenSRI
will provide stakeholders with a method to express their opinions and promote responsible behaviour
for companies in a constructive and sustainable way while offering a place where people will feel
at ease to discuss and tackle relevant questions. "
Any interested person or group can
join the platform, including consumers, shareholders, employees, NGOs, trade unions. Once you are
signed in as a member you can rate companies using a questionnaire, view companies' ratings,
participate in forums, and use a special engagement space to conduct dialogues with companies. To
foster transparency, the companies will also have the right to provide additional information
concerning their profile rating by stakeholders.
"OpenSRI was born with the idea of a
collaborative site where users spend a lot of time because they are involved in a project where
every opinion has the same weight," explained Morroni. "OpenSRI stakeholders have the ability to
be heard by others and by the companies. The sources are not anonymous for us, but they will be
anonymous for the public as all stakeholders will have a pseudonym to protect themselves, but we
will have the basic personal information at the moment of the registration."
information and rating available on the site will be the basis to start to understand why a company
has a good or a bad image, to look for solutions, and to create a real dialogue between the
stakeholders and the company. The OpenSRI model will allow for an updated rating that will be made
in "real time" as it is linked to daily events and information received from stakeholders.
Historical summary and comparisons of performance of a company over time and in relation to other
companies in the same sector will also be available.
The stakeholder rating site is
freely available for use by the stakeholders involved in the rating but the OpenSRI web portal will
also propose other CSR/SRI products and services dedicated to professionals. The project will be
funded by the other services and products proposed to both investors and companies such as the
reputation sectoral benchmarking, special access to our research database and studies, engagement
service, and tailored solutions offered by OpenSRI's IT platform.
Launched at the
beginning of June, OpenSRI is offering events on both coasts to explain its approach
later this fall.