A new partnership of firms called the ESG Working Group has been formed, consisting of The Thomson Reuters Foundation, Refinitiv, International Sustainable Finance Centre (ISFC), White & Case, Eco-Age, The Mekong Club, and the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) (as an observer participant). According to a recent publication (which is discussed below) “the objective of this group is to demonstrate to investors how it is possible, and why it is necessary, to have and drive forward more sophisticated social performance assessments.”

They just published an excellent report called Amplifying the “S” in ESG: Investor Myth Buster. It isn’t a peer-reviewed report in the traditional sense, but the list of endorsing partners, reviewing partners and consulted stakeholders is long and impressive. While the intended audience is investors, operating companies will find it valuable in helping them with their own programs and strategies.

The report explores five “investor myths about ‘S’ indicators” and provides resources and practical actions investors and companies can take. My favorite is Myth #2 – “It is too difficult to know how and where to start assessing social performance.” This is a comment I hear frequently because arguably, the “S” is the least understood component, and it can at times be difficult to separate from E and G elements.

Well, the group did a lot of the work for you. Annex I of the report presents a rather thorough matrix of social impact themes and indicators, even cross referencing them to GRI, SASB and SDG frameworks, as well as to Refinitiv and RepRisk rating criteria. All in a single easy-to-understand document. Each company and investor needs to make their own determinations about applicability, importance and materiality of the indicators and collect relevant data.

A few company examples are provided and Myth #5 covers social indicators as investment research advantage. Operating companies can think through Annex I in relation to their specific situation to help them with tactical decisions that align with investor perspectives.

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