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 investment strategies.
"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."
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."
Recent research 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.