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oekom Impact Study 2017: The impact of responsible investment on companies is increasing

It is sustainability rating agencies that exert the most influence over companies’ CSR activities 


Munich/London, 18 October 2017
– oekom research concluded in its Impact Study 2017 that the influence of the responsible capital markets is clearly positive. According to companies, the impact that responsible investors, banks and rating agencies have on the company’s sustainability efforts has increased considerably since the last survey in 2013. The sustainability rating agencies play a decisive role in this, whereas the UN SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) are currently less significant for most companies. The study of almost 500 companies around the world was conducted in partnership with PRI (Principles of Responsible Investment).

The driver for greater sustainability in corporate management

There is generally much consensus amongst companies in regards to the topic of sustainability. More than 90 percent consider it to be of “great” or “very great” importance. The strongest drivers for increased awareness of and commitment to sustainability amongst companies are the demands and analyses of sustainability rating agencies. A total of 61.3 percent of companies state that they have been motivated to look into sustainability issues by such agencies, the same percentage as four years ago. Customer requirements and expectations rank second, at 60.3 percent.

Over 36 percent of companies, an increase of four percentage points from four years ago, confirm that the requirements of sustainability analyses have an influence on their general business strategy. 

The usefulness of sustainability ratings for companies

A major part of companies wants to be attractive to investors and increasingly focus on sustainability activities. Eighty percent of companies consider it important to be listed in sustainability funds and indexes. Accordingly, almost two-thirds of companies (62.2 percent) include information on sustainability management in their general financial reporting. Practically all companies (93.1 percent) assume that liaising with sustainably operating financial institutions will be increasingly important in the future. 

Not only do investors use sustainability agencies’ ratings and research, but companies use the information too. For 91 percent of those surveyed, the requirements of sustainability rating agencies represent an early warning system which helps them to recognise relevant social and environmental sustainability trends. Over 70 percent stated that they regularly used sustainability ratings for benchmarking themselves against their competitors.

Robert Hassler, CEO of oekom research: "The impact of responsible investment has increased in the last few years. We are particularly proud of the fact that rating agencies, when compared to the first impact study from 2013, are considered even more relevant and have become an important driver for corporate sustainability activities. Sustainability ratings have a huge leverage effect. However, this high significance is coupled with considerable responsibility, which must be reflected in the use of a strong quality management system by agencies."

UN SDGs: Orientation and incentive for better sustainability efforts

The UN SDGs were developed as a referential framework for uniform sustainability targets. Study findings indicate that corporates may need help and guidance to reference the framework.  Currently, only 17.4 percent of companies actively align their sustainabilty-targeted management systems to the UN SDGs. For 15 percent, they constitute at least a point of reference in terms of their own sustainability reporting. However, a narrow majority of companies (58 percent) would feel motivated towards improving sustainability efforts and greater commitment to putting SDGs into practice if there was an SDG label which investors could refer to when making their decisions.

The oekom Impact Study 2017 was conducted in partnership with PRI (Principles of Responsible Investment) and is the extended new edition of an earlier study from 2013. In total, 3,660 companies were surveyed, of which a total of 475 companies from 36 countries and across 50 industries participated. The study was supported by Metzler Asset Management and the Evangelische Bank, as well as further institutional investors and asset managers.

 

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