What are ESG Ratings? (Overview, Definition, and Examples)

  • By: Josh Palmer
  • February 20, 2023
ESG Ratings
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Learn how ESG ratings evaluate a company's performance on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors.

Companies seek out Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) ratings to showcase their commitment to sustainability and demonstrate to stakeholders how they address environmental and social issues. 

Investors often use ESG ratings to evaluate potential investments and manage risk in their portfolios.

As such, a strong ESG rating may make a company more attractive to investors, leading to access to capital and a better valuation. A high ESG rating can also bolster your reputation and credibility among customers, employees, and other stakeholders.

What are ESG Ratings?

ESG ratings evaluate a company’s performance on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors. Various rating agencies, such as MSCI, provide these ratings to investors, while other stakeholders use them to assess a company’s sustainability and potential risks or opportunities. 

ESG metrics are specific measurements and data points used to evaluate a company’s performance on ESG factors. The ESG data collected by these metrics is based on environmental, social, and corporate governance.

Examples of environmental metrics include:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions
  • Energy consumption
  • Water usage
  • Resource efficiency

Examples of social metrics include:

  • Employee diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)
  • Employee engagement and satisfaction
  • Community engagement and impact
  • Human rights and labor standards

Examples of governance metrics include:

  • Board structure and independence
  • Executive compensation
  • Transparency and disclosure
  • Political lobbying and campaign contributions

ESG ratings are becoming increasingly important to companies as they strive to meet customer and employee expectations on social issues and the environment.

Why are ESG Ratings Important?

ESG ratings are important to organizations for a variety of  reasons, including:

  1. Investment: Many investors use ESG ratings to appraise potential investments and manage risk in their portfolios. 
  2. Reputation: A good ESG rating can lead to a better reputation and credibility among customers, investors, employees, and other stakeholders.
  3. Risk Management: ESG data can help companies identify areas where they can improve their performance and mitigate potential risks, including environmental regulations, labor practices, and data privacy.
  4. Compliance: Businesses use ESG ratings to ensure compliance with the strict laws and regulations related to sustainability.
  5. Long-term Sustainability: By focusing on ESG, companies can improve their long-term sustainability and resilience, which is becoming a key concern for many stakeholders.
  6. Stakeholder Pressure: Companies strive to meet employees, customers, and other stakeholders’ expectations as they become more focused on the impact of business on the environment and society.

Many countries require companies to disclose information on environmental and social performance. For this reason, organizations should coordinate with the necessary departments to provide an ESG policy, which is a written policy that serves as a blueprint for effective and sustained governance to encourage ESG investing.

How to Improve ESG Ratings

Organizations can use the following tips to improve their ESG ratings:

1. Conduct an ESG Readiness and Resources Assessment

An ESG readiness and resources assessment can help companies identify areas of strength and weakness concerning ESG issues. Organizations can use this to create a plan to improve ESG ratings by identifying areas of improvement, as well as  resources, such as 

  • Personnel
  • Funding
  • Technology

An ESG readiness and resources assessment can also help the company benchmark its current ESG performance against industry peers and competitors. It can assist in identifying best practices and areas for improvement.

2. Involve Key ESG Ratings Stakeholders 

Improving relationships with key ESG rating stakeholders can be essential in improving a company’s ratings. Companies can increase transparency and disclosure of ESG information to stakeholders through regular reporting or by publishing sustainability reports.

By building strong relationships with ESG rating stakeholders, companies can improve their ESG ratings and demonstrate their commitment to responsible and sustainable business practices.

3. Track ESG Progress, Revise Targets, and Work Toward Long-Term Opportunities

Tracking ESG progress helps companies monitor their progress on ESG issues by publishing sustainability reports, and helping the company identify areas where they need to make progress and areas where they need to improve.

In addition, companies can continuously monitor and improve their ESG performance by establishing a robust governance framework, setting up monitoring and reporting systems, and involving the management and employees in the process.

Understanding the Board's Role in ESG

The board of directors plays a crucial role in a company’s approach to ESG issues. They’re responsible for setting the company’s strategic direction, including its approach to ESG matters. The board ensures the effective management of ESG risks and opportunities, and ensures transparency in its reporting of ESG performance. 

OnBoard is a board management software solution that simplifies board governance, including how companies approach environmental, social, and governance issues. It also helps companies manage and report on their ESG performance, engage with stakeholders, and ensure compliance with relevant regulations and guidelines.

OnBoard’s board management features, enable organizations to:

  • Schedule and host virtual meetings with one click 
  • Create agendas and record meeting minutes with ease 
  • Collect feedback from stakeholders and make improvements based on their input 
  • Share documents and collaborate in real time on projects and goals 
  • Keep track of progress and get up-to-date insights on performance 

In other words, our software offers all the features needed for effective board management, from meeting scheduling and live online video conferencing to agenda management and voting tools. 

If you’re interested in learning more about how OnBoard can help streamline your board meetings and improve alignment across the organization, start a free trial of OnBoard today or check out our free Board Management Software Buyer’s Guide.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Ready to upgrade your board’s effectiveness with OnBoard the board intelligence platform? Schedule a demo or request a free trial

About The Author

Josh Palmer
Josh Palmer
Josh Palmer serves as OnBoard's Head of Content. An experienced content creator, his previous roles have spanned numerous industries including B2C and B2B home improvement, healthcare, and software-as-a-service (SaaS). An Indianapolis native and graduate of Indiana University, Palmer currently resides in Fishers, Ind.