Six growing trends in corporate sustainability

Trend 6: Rankings and ratings matter to company executives

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Companies should seek to tell their story before others do.

Companies today face a barrage of labor-intensive sustainability-focused surveys and questionnaires from customers, NGOs, investor groups, analysts and media organizations.

Some companies privately complain about the time and expense of fulfilling these requests, considering the difficulties they face in pulling together diverse information from all over the company, and the data requested may vary from one questionnaire to another. However, the value is clear: 55% of respondents say that actively responding to sustainability ratings questionnaires is a primary means of communicating with investors about their sustainability performance and initiatives.

Ratings and rankings serve a purpose for sustainability professionals inside companies, too: they can help bring C-suite attention to key sustainability issues. Several ratings and rankings are particularly well-regarded by respondents:

  • The Dow Jones Sustainability Index
  • The Carbon Disclosure Project’s leadership rankings
  • Fortune magazine’s “Most Admired Companies” list
  • The 100 Best Corporate Citizens, named by Corporate Responsibility magazine.

Not included in our survey, but frequently named as a write-in by respondents, was Newsweek magazine’s Green Rankings, the only one in our survey from a mainstream media organization.

It’s worth noting that several of these ratings and rankings don’t require company participation, instead relying on information provided by investment research firms, NGOs, media clips or companies’ own sustainability reports.

That places the burden on companies to ensure that the information about them is accurate, balanced and up to date. It’s also an important reason why companies should seek to tell their story before others do.

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