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How To Benchmark Sustainability Data Between Apples & Oranges? An Interview with CSRHub Co-founder Cynthia Figge

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How To Benchmark Sustainability Data Between Apples & Oranges? An Interview with CSRHub Co-founder Cynthia Figge

When I first announced that Wizness would be partnering with CSRHub to create a new kind of benchmarking tool, the feedback from our community was enthusiastic, but the same question seemed to arouse interest: how can we really compare apples and oranges when it comes to Sustainability?

cynthia_figge at Sustainable Brands '13

This is a legitimate question, and instead of focusing on the digital features of our project and how practical it will be (we’ll get to that later), I invited Cynthia Figge, the co-founder of CSRHub, to answer questions about her company and to shed some light on benchmarking in the Sustainability world. Of course, if you still have questions, don’t hesitate to ask them in the comments.


Q: Hi Cynthia. I’d like to start by asking you what is CSRHub’s goal and purpose?

A:  CSRHub aggregates information about corporate social performance into one place so companies and individuals can track sustainability worldwide. It’s the first easy way to discover how companies perform and compare on sustainability and CSR issues.


 Q: What was the genesis of CSRHub?

A: My partner Bahar Gidwani and I founded CSRHub in 2007 to solve the CSR data problem. Back then, there were many often conflicting data sources – sound familiar? We were the first company to recognize that the growing body of CSR information would soon require a Big Data solution. We figured out how to combine the data into a single rating that incorporates an ever-growing number of sources. We started with the premier environment, social, governance, the ESG firms, also known as socially responsible investment or SRI — we aggregate nine now — and added data from 300 sources so far and counting, NGOs plus government agencies, social networking groups, indexes and publishers. Our proprietary tools combine more than 60 million pieces of data on sustainability and CSR performance into a consistent set of ratings.


Q: Who are CSRHub major ESG/SRI data sources?

A: Our sources include premier ESG organizations ASSET4 (Thomson Reuters), CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project), EIRIS, GovernanceMetrics International, IW Financial, MSCI (ESG Intangible Value Assessment and ESG Impact Monitor), RepRisk, Trucost and Vigeo.


Q: What is the CSRHub schema?

A: Our data schema lays it out in detail, but generally our ratings are based on four categories: Environment, Employees, Community, and Governance. Each category has three subcategories. For example, within the Environment category there are Environmental Policy and Reporting, Energy and Climate Change, Resource Management. For Employees, Diversity and Labor Rights, Compensation and Benefits, Training Health and Safety, and so on.


Q: How are people using CSRHub ratings?

A: The market uses us for six applications:

  • First, for benchmarking. Our ratings and analysis tool covers 9,296 companies across 135 industries to track competitors over time.
  • A lot of our users analyze performance by stakeholder for CSR and Sustainability Reports. We offer a, single powerful interface to over 348 sources of information.
  • Professors and students conduct academic research and projects. Our tool analyzes six years of data and over 60 million data points, and is currently used in hundreds of universities globally.
  • Sustainability is increasingly important to company brand. Companies use us to build authentic brand values and increase customer loyalty.
  • CSRHub is used to build a world-class sustainable supply chain. Our APIs can map into a company’s supply chain network across 106 countries.
  • Finally, we find that sustainability performance is increasingly a factor in economic decisions. People search for places to work, brands to buy, and partners to support based on their values.



Q: How does CSRHub enable comparisons between companies? Can we really integrate apples and oranges?

A: The CSRHub schema maps data elements from all these data sources into the twelve subcategories, then aggregates and normalizes the data for comparability. The schema isn’t unique, but the aggregation and normalizing absolutely is. Bahar and I together had the perfect skillset to attack this challenge. We met at Harvard Business School. I went on to cofound EKOS International, one of the first consultancies to integrate sustainability and corporate strategy, way back in 1996 if you can believe it. Bahar has a CFA and built and ran Web-based and technology-based businesses on Wall Street with Kidder, Peabody and for McKinsey.


Q: Why is knowing my CSRHub rating and ranking in my industry important?

A: Benchmarking is key to competing successfully and creating value. Knowing your CSRHub rating and ranking enables your company to gain an independent perspective about how well you perform compared to other companies, identify specific areas for improvement, and monitor company CSR performance over time. Integrating CSRHub benchmarking across divisions enables a company to prioritize improvements and provide greater transparency of progress.


Q: How will CSRHub and Wizness work together?

A: CSRHub and Wizness are collaborating to create a Benchmark Template Report. Our reports will be streamlined, digital, social and mobile solutions for key stakeholders interested in sustainability data and progress.


Q: When will this benchmarking tool be available?

A: The tool will be released in few weeks, however interested users can already register for an early preview.

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