ESG Rating: What Are The Standards In US, EU and Gulf Region

by | Jul 13, 2023 | ESG

Home » ESG » ESG Rating: What Are The Standards In US, EU and Gulf Region

Environmental, social, and governance considerations are becoming increasingly significant as legal frameworks change and as the interests of banks, institutional, and individual investors shift. Companies are reinventing their business models to adapt to a changing environment. As a result, ESG rating firms are becoming increasingly important. ESG assessment and rankings are becoming increasingly important to shareholders, asset managers, financial institutions, and other stakeholders.

What is an ESG Rating?

An ESG rating assesses a company’s long-term exposure to environmental, social, and governance risks. These risks, including energy efficiency, worker safety, and board independence, have financial consequences. However, they should be more frequently noticed during typical economic evaluations. Investors that employ ESG ratings in addition to financial analyses might receive a more comprehensive perspective of a company’s long-term potential.

ESG Rating Significance

A solid ESG rating indicates that a company manages its environmental, social, and governance risks well compared to its peers. A low ESG grade suggests the inverse: the company has a substantially higher unmanaged exposure to ESG risks. ESG ratings, in addition to ESG reporting, assist investors in understanding a company’s priorities and the long-term dangers it may face in the future.

The MSCI ESG score is one of the most extensively used ESG evaluation systems. MSCI ranks over 8,500 companies and over 680,000 fixed-income and equities instruments worldwide, including ESG funds. The MSCI ESG score is built on a significant problems framework that analyses risk over ten environmental, social, and governance categories.

Also Read: ESG Reporting: All You Need To Know

How Are Companies Rated In The US?

1. Industry identifies critical issues

MSCI chooses the 35 most essential concerns for individual industries. Packaging material and waste, for example, is a significant concern for the soft drink sector. This would not be a consideration in industries where products are not physically packaged, such as technological infrastructure. All industries’ fundamental corporate governance challenges are covered.

2. Companies are graded on each significant concern

MSCI examines 80 different exposure criteria and 270 governance metrics to assign a score of 0 to 10 to corporations on each critical problem. A low score indicates that the company is substantially vulnerable to the issue and is not properly managing the risk. A high score suggests an intensive risk-mitigation attempt.

3. Weights are assigned to issues

MSCI ranks significant concerns based on their timeliness and likely impact. The problems with the highest weights could have a significant environmental or societal impact during the next two years. The issues with the lowest consequences have a lower potential for effect and a timescale of more than five years. In an industrial context, for example, worker safety is an urgent danger with severe financial and legal ramifications. That would support a higher weighting.

4. The issue scores and weights are added together

The issue scores and weights are combined to create an industry-adjusted numerical score for the rated company ranging from 0 to 10.

The numerical score is converted into an ESG rating by MSCI. CCC to AAA are the ESG ratings. The top scorers have AA and AAA ratings. The ratings are divided into three categories, as stated in the table below: laggard, average, and leader.

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Data source: MSCI

Laggards have more uncontrolled involvement with ESG variables than their peers. Average ESG performers have variable results. They may be excellent at handling some important ESG issues, but they may be average overall. Leaders are better than their counterparts at proactively managing ESG risk and optimizing ESG possibilities.

ESG Reporting In The Gulf Cooperation Council

What is measured is managed. This is an area where GCC enterprises must improve. According to the study findings, while nearly three out of every four GCC boards are involved in developing an ESG vision and mission, continuous follow-up and action are primarily entrusted to committees. Only 10% of survey respondents claimed that they use the GRI (global reporting initiative) framework for ESG reporting; further investigation would be required to understand the various reporting frameworks that firms are currently employing.

Creating monitoring and ensuring governance necessitates policies, procedures, and people. While more than half of GCC corporations do standalone reporting, they need to catch up in other areas with separate yearly ESG reports and board supervision of ESG themes.

EU Commission ESG Rating Regulations

The European Commission announced a slew of initiatives to strengthen its environmentally friendly finance framework, including a fresh proposal for regulating ESG rating providers and adding an additional set of characteristics for sustainable economic activity to the EU Taxonomy. The sustainable finance framework is intended to aid in the flow of money required to support the EU’s sustainability targets, notably the European Green Deal’s ambitions of lowering net greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030 and attaining climate neutrality by 2050.

The EU Taxonomy is one of the framework’s fundamental building pieces, as are rules on disclosures and reporting for enterprises and investors, as well as instruments like standards and labeling that enable the creation of sustainable investment solutions while avoiding greenwashing.

Proposals to regulate the ESG rating sector have grown in recent years as investors increasingly incorporate ESG concerns into the investment process, yet, the operations and businesses of the providers are primarily unregulated by markets and securities regulators.

ESMA will supervise ESG rating providers to verify the efficacy and dependability of their services under the new recommendations, and providers will be forced to employ procedures that are “rigorous, systematic, objective, and subject to validation.” The suggestions include organizational standards to avoid potential conflicts of interest and transparency regulations for the techniques, models, and significant rating assumptions underpinning the provider’s rating activity.

ESG Rating Reliability

ESG ratings have recently made headlines due to a lack of openness in data collection. ESG ratings are only helpful if they are data-driven, dependable, and objective. While this is still mostly true, recent events have questioned it. The war in Ukraine is a critical occurrence in which environmental and social values collide. To restrict Russian oil, Europe is relaxing climate goals and reverting to fossil fuel use, increasing fossil fuel use across corporate sectors.

Simultaneously, the Russian-backed Sberbank (ETR: SBNC) has provoked uproar after receiving good ratings from both MSCI ESG research and Sustainalytics as of December 2021. The bank performed exceptionally well in data security and governance compared to Western institutions.

Sberbank and other Russian government-backed enterprises have now been downgraded or suspended by MSCI and Sustainalytics. Investors demand changes in how geopolitics and human rights are accounted for in ESG ratings.

Meanwhile, a working European Corporate Governance Institute study discovered that many ESG rating organizations were retrospectively reducing ESG scores. The results call into question the validity of ESG ratings and may erode investor trust.

In another encouraging news for ESG integration in mainstream banking, the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FAC) declared in June 2022 that it had a clear basis for regulating ESG ratings. Standardization of ESG ratings promotes increased openness and standardization of investment decisions.

What Impact Do ESG Ratings Have on Investors?

ESG investing does not entail solely selecting stocks based on ESG considerations. Instead, the ESG investor incorporates an ESG analysis into the regular investment process. It is up to you how you apply ESG scores to your decision-making. As an example:

  • ESG evaluations can be used to augment financial analysis. An ESG audit provides more information about the dangers that a firm faces in the future.
  • ESG ratings can be used as a filter. You may have strong feelings about only investing in stocks of firms that are excellent corporate citizens and committed to sustainable business practices. In that instance, the first step in your investment process would be to check ESG ratings. Companies must fulfill your criteria to be considered for your portfolio.
  • A variation on this is to prioritize climate stocks or firms that practice conscious capitalism.
  • ESG ratings can also be used to gain further information about your own firms. Decreased ESG rating is a red flag that you should investigate more.

Also Read: What Is ESG Investing?

An Example of an ESG Rating

Amazon’s average MSCI ESG grade (NASDAQ: AMZN) is BBB. Amazon is a market leader in corporate governance, privacy, and data security. However, the e-commerce store has a low product carbon footprint and bad labor management and corporate behavior ratings. If you look at Amazon, the lagging score in labor management and corporate behavior is unsurprising. The corporation has received its fair share of bad press in these areas. For years, Amazon employees have been complaining about their working conditions. Hazardous working conditions, forceful attempts to prevent unionization, and abuse of pregnant workers are all mentioned in reports.

Amazon has additionally been charged with price manipulation on multiple occasions. A group of retail bookstores launched a class action lawsuit in early 2021, alleging that Amazon and big book publishers were influencing the wholesale cost of print books. A month later, the District of Columbia launched a separate antitrust suit saying that Amazon barred third-party merchants from offering cheaper rates outside of Amazon’s website. Poor working conditions and unethical business practices are more than just a moral issue. They entail financial concerns such as labor churn, increased recruitment expenses, lawsuits, and reputational damage. If you own (or want to own) Amazon stock, the more you understand the factors that influence the company’s returns, the more educated choices you will make.

How To Improve ESG Rating?

When a company decides to join an ESG rating scheme, it must establish a solid ESG governance framework to guarantee adequate and efficient ESG management procedures and systems, controls within the organization, implementation measures, and a loop to enhance and optimize performance continually. On the other hand, companies should analyze ESG data before submitting it to rating agencies to ensure that it accurately and successfully addresses the rating criteria.

Bottom Line

An ESG rating evaluates a company’s commitment to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues and how aggressively it manages ESG issues that are most relevant to its business. Both commercial and charity organizations publish ESG ratings to analyze how corporate claims, performance, and business strategies align with sustainability goals. They are primarily offered to investment and private investors to evaluate companies in their funds or portfolios.

An ESG rating assesses a company’s long-term resilience to social, governance, and environmental risks. Energy conservation, employee security, and board independence have financial ramifications, which are sometimes overlooked during typical economic evaluations.

FAQs

Q1. Who calculates ESG Score?

Bloomberg supplies investors and financial professionals with ESG data and analytics. Their approach is based on a company’s ESG risk exposure and capacity to manage those risks, and they produce ESG scores for over 11,000 organizations.

Q2. What are the five levels of risk in ESG Ratings?

The ratings provide a quantifiable estimate of unmanaged ESG risk and categorize it into five levels: minimal, low, medium, high, and severe. Comprehensive coverage is available for over 12,500 organizations across 138 subindustries.

Q3. What exactly are MSCI ESG Ratings?

MSCI ESG ratings assess a company’s ability to withstand long-term, financially significant ESG (environment, social, and governance) threats. ESG investing has evolved into a substantial and prominent investment approach, driven mainly by principles such as responsibility for society and corporate accountability.

Also Read: What Is An ESG Score? And How To Calculate It?

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