Switzerland’s Ethos launches sustainability ratings service

Services aimed initially at Swiss pension funds

Ethos, the research firm ultimately owned by 130 Swiss pension funds, is launching a sustainability ratings service as part of an expansion of its traditional services to clients.

The new services – sustainability ratings, environmental, social and governance (ESG) analyses, screening for exclusions and “serious controversies”, and portfolio screening – build on its existing offerings in asset management, proxy voting advice and engagement with companies.

Officials said the services are being developed and that they will be offered to mainly Swiss clients in a soft launch.

Ethos, which is known for its vocal engagement on issues such as executive pay at major Swiss companies like UBS, says it aims to “foster socially responsible investment” with the new services.

“In order to invest in a socially responsible manner, investors need more than strictly financial information,” Ethos says.

“Information regarding a company’s environmental and social responsibility and corporate governance is a key element. Ethos therefore offers various services to assess company sustainability.”

Ethos, which was launched in 1997, analyses the 100 largest listed companies in Switzerland and all companies included in the MSCI World Index.The new sustainability ratings are based on ESG assessments covering corporate strategy and environmental management system, human resources, product sustainability, human rights, suppliers and relations with civil society. Also covered are governance factors such as transparency, capital structure, board composition, remuneration, shareholders’ rights and business ethics.

ESG analyses cover all relevant criteria as well as a comparison with other companies in the same sector, including benchmarking against market standards and best practice.

“Investors need more than strictly financial information”

Ethos will also analyse companies to check whether they should be excluded from a sustainable portfolio, due to involvement in industries such as armaments, tobacco, nuclear power or human rights breaches.

Ethos, which recently advertised a vacancy for a Head of Environmental and Social Sustainability, will also conduct screening of existing portfolios based on ESG criteria as well as on exclusion criteria. Link