What the world needs now is another multi-tiered, comprehensive online resource for helping investors and corporate leaders track and manage sustainability, corporate social responsibility, CSR reporting, and socially responsible investing. I actually don’t know anybody who really believes this. The fact is we already have way too much information, too many sites, too many indexes and ratings – and not nearly enough useful, digestible knowledge.
And, yet, the information databases, Web portals and news aggregators continue to proliferate.
The latest entry is SustainabilityHQ™, founded by the New York-based Governance & Accountability Institute, Inc. This new, subscription-based online platform is designed to track the activities and influence of “watchers” such as market players and influencers. Institute Chairman/CEO Hank Boerner said the platform is designed to “help users ‘watch the watchers’ so that both corporate and investment managers can better understand and participate in” investors’ rising expectations about the sustainability, social responsibility and corporate governance of public companies. SustainabilityHQ, formerly known as INSIGHTS-edge™, offers a free trial demo, after which time a site license fee is charged.
In her October 12, 2010 CSRwire column, contributing writer Elaine Cohen offers some good insight into the new service, which has four sections: ESG & Sustainability, U.S. Public Employee Pension Funds, Sovereign Wealth Funds, and Asset Managers.
I can’t go into detail here about other platforms that offer additional, adjacent or redundant information, but here are some you may want to look at: Social Investment Forum, SocialFunds, AccountAbility, Global Reporting Initiative, Dow Jones Sustainability Index, Carbon Disclosure Project, FTSE KLD 400 Social Index, Global Environmental Management Initiative, CSRwire, Calvert Social Index, and so on. And every one of them offers a wealth of information, usually for a membership or subscription fee.
The bottom line is socially responsible investing is big business: accounting for $2.7 trillion in professionally managed U.S. portfolios. Knowing where to invest and what to look for are major challenges; buyer beware! Socially responsible investing information is also big business. And the “buyers” – the providers and consumers of the information – are rightfully wary, confused, concerned and overwhelmed.
Maybe SustainabilityHQ will prove to be the ultimate full-service, easy-to-use solution. Or could it be just one more gas guzzler on the information superhighway? The proof will be in its own sustainability and attraction power because I’m sure “the next big thing” announcement is due out any day now. And then another. And another…