Researchers to give €20k fee to COVID response if investment industry gets behind EU study on ESG data

ESG leaders sought for European Commission research on the quality and availability of sustainability data and ratings

Two research firms undertaking a study on ESG ratings and data for the European Commission have pledged to donate their entire fee to a COVID response fund if they can get enough online responses to their survey.

Earlier this year, UK-based consultancies SRI-CONNECT and Hindsight Consultancy were among those selected by the Commission to conduct a major study on “the reliability and quality of sustainability ratings” as part of the EU’s sustainable finance agenda. 

SustainAbility, Institutional Investor Research and Minter Ellison were also included in the mandate. 

The latest phase of the project will see SRI-CONNECT and Hindsight begin interviewing investors on the topic. In a blog post published today, Mike Tyrrell, founder of SRI-CONNECT said:

“Our research team is now sitting at home planning a schedule of interviews with heads of research, senior sustainable investors and listed companies across Europe and the world.  We have developed a set of well-targeted questions… asking different value chain participants about your experience of the sustainable investment research value chain and the ways that it could be improved.”

“And then it occurred to us,” he continued, “If we could persuade our target respondents to answer our questions online (rather than via telephone interview), we could reduce the research time required and donate our fee to a charity operating at the frontline of COVID-19 response.”

The pair are getting €20,000 in total from the Commission for conducting the interviews. “So, in as much as you, leaders of the sustainable investment industry, complete our surveys online, we will donate that money to the World Health Organisation COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund,” pledged Tyrrell.

In its documentation, the European Commission said the aim of the study was to provide an overview of current sustainability-related products and services, including what they are, who provides them, and their quality. It also requires the researchers to provide “recommendations and best practices to stimulate demand and improve the quality of supply”.

Companies, policymakers and investors regularly identify the current state of ESG data and ratings as a hindrance to scaling up sustainability. The information is often accused of being poor quality, expensive and incomparable, with too high a reliance on estimated data and subjective assessments.

In February, Steven Maijoor, the Chair of the European Securities and Markets Authority – which supervises traditional credit ratings agencies – called for ESG rating agencies to be regulated and supervised by public sector authorities.

Hindsight and SRI CONNECT are asking ESG/sustainability head at institutional investors and research providers, as well as investor relations officers and CSR managers at listed companies, to complete their survey. Participants from all over the world are encouraged to participate, not just those located within the EU. The survey can be viewed here