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  • Flickr image by Bailey Cheng

    Guest contributor Seb Beloe is Head of Sustainability Research at WHEB Asset Management and a SustainAbility Council member. This article was originally published on the WHEB blog.

    In November WHEB Asset Management published a blog highlighting deep flaws in ESG research that focuses exclusively on how companies operate, while ignoring the impact of products and services. In this article, we take aim at another part of the ESG industry that has become popular in recent years – ESG ratings.

    ESG issues are clearly material to company performance – the question is which ones

    It is important at the outset to underline that our investment process at WHEB utilises environmental, social and governance (ESG) information as a core part of our investment analysis. To quote from our Responsible Investment Policy, “We have strong conviction in the impact of ESG issues on company performance either in their own right or as a wider proxy for the quality of a business franchise, especially over a multi-year investment horizon.”

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  • “You want us to produce one of those corporate socialist reports?!” This incredulous response, from the CEO of a large US conglomerate, may not be the typical reaction that we get from companies (a raised eyebrow is much more common in London), but it does belie a deep-seated misunderstanding about the role and value of sustainability reporting.

    In case you’ve not been watching, sustainability reporting has become a sizeable industry. CorporateRegister.com, a consultancy that monitors the global output of reports every year, estimates that in 2011 there were approximately 6600 reports (including corporate responsibility, sustainability, environmental and other similar reports) – up from less than 1000 ten years ago and …

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