If you have a Bloomberg terminal in your office then you are able to access all sorts of data on companies. And for the last couple of years you have been able to see ESG data on companies. ESG stands for environmental, social, and governance. And, according to Fast Company's Paul Tullis, the ESG ratings were added after Bloomberg's susatainability director, Curtis Ravenel, stumbled across such ratings while working to make Bloomberg's operations more green. Ravenel came across an increasing number of clients (mainly in Europe, Tullis notes) that wanted more sustainability data. But not for egalitarian reasons. Tullis writes:
If a company treats its employees well, for instance, it should have less turnover and lower HR costs; if a manufacturer gets serious about safety, it can avoid expensive lawsuits. There's increasing evidence -- and, correspondingly, a growing belief among portfolio managers -- that companies taking such factors into account are forward-thinking and well managed, and therefore places investors should consider.
The biggest indicator in the ESG matrix right now is environmental impact. "The financial community likes the E because it's easy to quantify," Ravenel says. "And within E is the big C: carbon." And within that C is another C: cost. Some European countries, such as Sweden and Denmark, tax the carbon emissions of companies with offices there. The EPA's rules to regulate CO2, which went into effect January 2nd, will affect many American balance sheets. If companies wake up one day to find it costs $15 to emit a ton of CO2, a financial analyst considering ExxonMobil would see it emitted 128 million metric tons in 2009. That adds nearly $2 billion to the oil giant's operating costs -- hardly extra-financial data.
Ravenel used this kind of argument to persuade Bloomberg to add ESG data to its terminals. His team spent countless hours assembling and entering data into the system (often by hand) before going live in July 2009. Today, when Bloomberg's 300,000 market-savvy customers turn on their terminals in the morning, they can see ESG data such as greenhouse-gas intensity per sales, water usage, employee fatalities, toxic discharge, and more than 100 other indicators as part of their basic package alongside the rest of the Wall Street alphabet soup. (The ESG data does not cost extra.)
And investors are using it: In the second half of 2010, 5,000 unique customers in 29 countries accessed more than 50 million ESG indicators via Bloomberg's screens -- a 29% increase over the first half of last year. "We expect that trend to continue," Ravenel says.
Read Bloomberg's Push for Corporate Sustainability here.
Filed under: green business, sustainability, investing, Bloomberg, strategic management, fast company, environmental social governance, green investing, paul tullis, curtis ravenel, esg