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Do investors care about CSR?

Investors need access to better social and environmental data, says Rory Sullivan.

One of the recurring questions in discussions around responsible investment is whether investors actually pay any attention to the data and information provided by companies about their social and environmental performance.

Companies frequently complain that investors “never ask about corporate responsibility issues” in meetings between CEOs and analysts/fund managers, and take this as an indication that investors have no interest at all in this type of information.

A recent Harvard Business School working paper by Robert Eccles, Michael Krzus and George Serafeim challenges this argument, and suggests that there is in fact a growing investor interest in corporate responsibility information.

Using data from Bloomberg, they analysed the number of times different environmental, social and governance (ESG) were “hit” (ie the number of times a user accessed that particular data point) over the period November 2010 to April 2011.

But as the authors acknowledge, the fact that a data point was accessed says nothing about how or if at all that information is used, their data provides some valuable insights into the ESG information that investors do look at.

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