Stakeholder views gaining ground against specialistsMarch 2008
A system using stakeholders rather than SRI specialists to rate companies on social and environmental performance has been created by an offshoot of the consultancy Intertek.
The web-based OpenSRI system will rely on views from the public, company employees, consumers, non-governmental organizations and trade unions to establish the ratings.
Initially it will cover Europe’s 500 largest companies but will eventually be extended to the US and Asia. A Eurosif study in 2006 estimated the single European SRI market at more than €1,000billion (£757bn, $1505bn) or 10–15 per cent of European assets.
Stakeholders can sign up for free online membership and make their views known on a particular business by completing a questionnaire. Their answers, combined with others, will determine overall company ratings. The stakeholders that have answered questionnaires will then be invited to discuss their views with others online and to engage with companies in another area of the website.
Businesses have free access to their own profiles, but will be allowed to see others’ ratings only if they pay.
Franca Morroni, co-founder of OpenSRI, who has been head of CSR and SRI research at CoreRatings and has worked for the asset manager Dexia, told EP the idea was ‘to make corporate responsibility methodology more transparent, to multiply the sources of information, and to use the wisdom of the crowd’.
She said: ‘A company reputation has a very big impact on stock price, and the reputation is what the stakeholders think about a company, hence the idea of asking them to rate the companies. We are not a rating agency and don’t intend to become one. Our work is complementary to that currently carried out by extra-financial rating agencies.’
The project is not the first to involve stakeholders directly in delivering judgements on companies – last year internet users were given the chance to evaluate the social and environmental performance of companies on a website called dotherightthing.com (EP8, issue 11, p1). However, OpenSRI is further evidence of a trend towards involving stakeholders more intimately in revealing how companies are viewed by the public on their social and environmental performance.
Late last year the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) began a programme to involve the public, instead of a judging panel of experts, in choosing the best sustainability reporters (EP9, issue 5, p8). This reflects the growing belief that, as corporate responsibility matures, there should be less reliance on the views of specialists when a company’s performance is rated.
OpenSRI will be operated by a team of six in Paris, London, New York and Mumbai. It will be managed at arm’s length by Intertek, which expects to generate a certain amount of revenue by charging for access to some of the data.
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