Tokyo (NordSIP) – Data quality and access are currently some of the biggest challenges that sustainable investors face. Sourcing, aggregating, and analysing the vast amount of information needed to make sustainable investment decisions takes a lot of dedicated effort and resources. Rotterdam-headquartered asset manager Robeco has long been one of the leaders in the field, having developed a proprietary framework and populated it with numerous diligently assembled data points over the years. In a bold move promising to transform the industry, on 3 October, the company announced that it had decided to share this extensive body of information, opening its Sustainable Investing (SI) Open Access Initiative to the public, including companies and NGOs.
At a press conference held just ahead of the opening of the annual PRI in Person conference in Tokyo, Carola van Lamoen, Head of Sustainable Investing at Robeco, explained the extent of this generous data-sharing initiative and the reasoning behind it. The original initiative, launched in August 2022, offered access to the corporate Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) scores and country ESG rankings to some 300 clients and 80 academics via the company’s client portal. The experience from this first attempt at sharing the information must have been encouraging enough to persuade Robeco to move on and offer the data to the broader public. The aim is to contribute to developing new standards in sustainable investing and improve the quality of sustainable investing data by applying the principle of the “wisdom of the crowd”.
“At Robeco, we believe the widest possible incorporation of SI data is crucial to create real-world impact,” says van Lamoen. “With our SI Open Access Initiative, we collect feedback to improve the quality of sustainable investing data, and by doing so, we can help investors to integrate SI in their approaches. Furthermore, by collaborating with academics, we aim to contribute to the advancement of education and research. Expanding the accessibility of our SI Open Access Initiative means that we are inviting more external perspectives and feedback, reaffirming our commitment to data transparency and innovation in the field of sustainable investing,” she adds.
The SI data that Robeco is offering free access to via its website consists of two blocks:
- The corporate SDG scores that Robeco has been developing since 2017 measure the extent to which companies contribute positively or negatively to the SDGs, unlike traditional ESG ratings that often measure financial materiality. They are complementary to ESG ratings and, taken together, offer a more holistic perspective on companies’ sustainability efforts.
- The Country Sustainability Ranking is a framework for analysing both emerging and developed economies’ performance on a wide range of ESG metrics. The model has been used since 2010 and currently covers 150 countries, 22 developed and 128 emerging markets. It offers an early warning system for country-specific risks and can be used to compare countries on individual indicators.
According to van Lamoen, the open access granted to a selected audience has been a success so far. Scholars are using the SDG scores in their research; the first academic publication referring to them is already a fact. The model is also used in teaching. For example, a professor at Beijing Normal University has integrated the SDG framework and scores in a forthcoming book on sustainable development.
Practitioners, meanwhile, can use the information in multiple ways: from screening the SDG exposure of their portfolios to measuring, monitoring, and reporting it and, more importantly, defining a sustainable corporate philosophy. Let’s hope that will make the most of this impressive resource.
In the spirit of SDG 17, the financial sector needs to collaborate to further boost the sustainability agenda. Robeco’s commendable initiative is an excellent example of how to do it. It also bodes well for the outcomes of the ongoing PRI conference.