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  • Astrid von Schmeling 4:01 am on January 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 'Ethical Corporation', DJSI, performance, strategy,   

    Culture of understatement 

    In Scandinavia, actions speak louder than words. The country prides itself on its ingrained culture of understatement. They call it jantelagen, and it forbids anyone from feeling superior to their neighbors.

    Transfer this to corporate sustainability and you get a focus on process, performance measurement, getting your house in order and a long-standing appetite for global management systems and standards. In fact, there are 14,000 companies with ISO14001 certification and Sweden ranked 4th in the number of ISO14001 accreditations in the world in 2010. This is indeed impressive for a country with a population smaller than Belgium.

    Sweden’s corporate performance stood out most when sustainability was perceived as risk management. But we’ve entered into a different era. Bold leadership and forward-looking strategy is the way sustainability performance is being gauged now, and Swedish pioneers are being marked down by their traditional discretion.

    In 2010, four Swedish companies made the DJSI World index (Electrolux, Volvo, Sandvik and SKF). This has shrunk from six in 2005; Ericsson, H&M, Atlas Copco and Gambro have since lost their standing. This loss in recognition is a big deal here. The question is whether these shrinking numbers in the DJSI World coupled with the huge Scandinavian interest in the index have played a role in the recent decision to launch the DJSI Nordic.

    Introducing a new index tailored to the Scandinavian way of doing things isn’t going to cover up the core challenge for these companies.  When it comes down to it, Sweden’s approach towards sustainability isn’t all that it is cracked up to be. To regain their position, Swedish companies need to shake off ‘jantelagen’, stand tall and find a stronger voice. In practical terms, it means defining bold strategy and long-term targets, and talking vision and leadership.

    If you want to read more about One Stone’s take on Swedish corporate sustainability, check out the UK Ethical Corporation’s Sweden Country Briefing. The link leads you to a short content synopsis. You can access the full report as a subscriber or by taking out a 2 week trial subscription.  We’d love to hear your thoughts!

  • Fran 5:21 am on October 19, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: DJSI, raters,   

    DJSI fever 

    Around September 10th this year, there was a frisson in the air as corporate heads of CR and sustainability around the world anticipated who’d be in and who’d be out of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index 2010. In Sweden it was big news; the DJSI is very highly regarded, and successful DJSI entrants and old timers made it to the papers.

    For a number of companies, the delight or disappointment following the DJSI announcement soon turned to curiosity as they tried to fully understand their scores. Although the DJSI is one of the more transparent rating organizations in the business, the scores returned to companies cover high level assessment areas, and no detailed explanation is given as to how marks are awarded. DJSI does make fuller corporate performance assessment information available for a fee, but not every company is willing to pay.

    Indexes and rating systems are well known for their ‘black box’ approach, and SustainAbility’s Rate the Raters, their second report on the rating business, highlights raters’ “secret sauce” as a key issue for further research. It’s not just a matter of giving participating companies enough information about their assessment, it also concerns the standing of raters themselves. SustainAbilty’s research indicates a close relationship between the credibility of raters in the eyes of experts, and how transparent they are about their methodology.

    Other areas SustainAbility has identified for further research include the utility of universal vs. more focused ratings and how raters can ensure they reward good performers, not just good reporters. With over 1600 views of the web-based video since its launch on October 5th, SustainAbilaity’s research seems to have struck a chord. Michael Sadowski, the report’s author, says that raters themselves are “enthusiastic about what we are doing – though certainly some are on the nervous side about what we will ask”. And while no one knows quite where rating is headed next, Sadowski is clear on one thing: rating agencies face serious challenges.

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