Power Dynamics Within ESG Ratings and Rankings

ESG is the flavor of the corporate zeitgeist for all kinds of drivers and is often treated as an acronym which might be a temperature check for ethics. Environment as a domain when double clicked on, leads to drop down menu of number of sub domains starting from climate change to biodiversity to waste management. Governance is a vast sea of knowledge of their own from anti-graft to board diversity to compensation matters.

As an environmental engineer who retrained as an ethnographer by reading PhD level coursework in Human Geography and Sociology while working on Policy Projects, the S is my area of expertise. However Social itself has several buckets from Health & Safety to DEI to BHR to Community Stakeholder Engagement to Inclusive Governance. Now a days i focus on responsible supply chains and modern slavery concerns including decolonizing HRDD.

The intertwined nature of the various elements and their effect brings about the real nature of the weak signals that ESG as a riskfication paradigm is trying to achieve. All these elements need to be mapped along a spectrum and drawn from the ESIA playbook; the cumulative impact is a vital measure. The interpretive nature of the assessment requires an appreciation of the organizational context.

Ratings and rankings are bundled value judgements; thus, the methodology matters in the way that assessments are done, rather than looking at the rankings at face value. Important questions to ask as a ready reckoner are:

Who is assessing?

To what end is assessment driven data utilized in decision making calculus?

For ESG to move from risk to resilience, power dynamics need to be included.

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