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Sustainability rankings watch: 2017

Charlie Ashford

A new set of specialist sustainability rankings are due to arrive on the scene in 2017. It’s time to start preparing for them…

As Corporate Citizenship’s research shows, the wide array of rankings, ratings and indices that companies are confronted with can often seem overwhelming.

It’s not just investor-focused ratings, like the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, FTSE4Good and CDP. A growing number of NGOs and other organisations are bringing out their own rankings. Inspired by trailblazing efforts like the Access to Medicine Index and Greenpeace Cool IT Leaderboard, some more recent arrivals include the Oxfam Behind the Brands Scorecard, Access to Nutrition and Access to Seeds Indices and the US Dodd-Frank Conflict Minerals Benchmark.

Why are such rankings on the rise? In short, because campaign groups have found that the carrot can be just as effective as the stick. There are only so many ways you can tell a company they’re doing something wrong. Tell them their competitors are doing it better, and you might start seeing some changes.

Here are just a few of the new initiatives currently on the horizon:

  • Access to Vaccines Index: Due to arrive in Q1 2017, and assembled by the same group behind the Access to Medicines Index, the ATVI shows the increasingly niche nature of some corporate rankings. The specific subject-matter and small number of companies involved (9 have been asked to submit data to the survey) mean that companies at the lower end will be under considerable pressure to improve disclosure and performance.
  • Corporate Human Rights Benchmark: Building on the release of the UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework in 2015, the new benchmark will assess what companies say publicly about their human rights policies, due diligence and grievance mechanisms. Launching in March 2017 and covering a pilot group of 106 multinational extractives, agricultural and apparel companies, expect the benchmark to cover more companies and industries in future.
  • Responsible Mining Index: Mining companies have generally been ahead of other industries in terms of transparency on issues like tax and executive pay, through industry initiatives like the EITI. But the first Responsible Mining Index, due out in 2017, aims to spur further action by highlighting leading practice on economic, environmental, social and governance issues.
  • Climate-Related Financial Disclosures: OK, it’s not exactly a ranking. But the new recommendations from Mark Carney and Michael Bloomberg’s Task Force aim to radically increase companies’ transparency on climate risks. If the recommendations are adopted into law by a few G20 countries, this could enable an enterprising NGO to begin ranking companies by their disclosures.
  • A Modern Slavery Benchmark? Over 1,300 companies worldwide have now published statements in line with the UK Modern Slavery Act. The Anti-Slavery Commissioner’s recent annual report makes it clear that transparency is “not an end in itself”, and that he aims to create a system to allow “easy scrutiny and comparison” of companies’ modern slavery statements. Could a government-sponsored ranking be on the way?

The above is just a brief list of some of the highest-profile rankings on their way this year. Companies should start preparing and planning now.

Have we missed any? Let us know at mail@corporate-citizenship.com.

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