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Baselining Sustainability Performance with ESG, Science, & Technology

Submitted by: Kelly Eisenhardt

Posted: May 13, 2016 – 06:00 AM EST

Tags: sustainability, esg, reports


By leveraging their comprehensive ESG database, Thomson Reuters helps companies’ baseline sustainability performance and stay ahead of emerging global sustainability trends. TR will soon be releasing their latest Greenhouse Gas Emissions report highlighting “sustainable growth,” in addition to reducing GHG emissions and alignment with the U.N. Guidelines.

Tim Nixon is the Managing Editor of the Thomson Reuters Sustainability publishing platform, a frequent writer on Thomson Reuters “Answers On” blog, and a speaker and facilitator at United Nations and various private-sector sustainability-related events.


What sources does TR use to produce thought leadership content and special reports on global sustainability trends?

We primarily use three sources. Our company provides professionals with the intelligence, technology, and human expertise they need to find trusted answers.  We approach our thought leadership in the same way.   First, we consult our own data and analytics for the latest trends.  The quality of our data and information is integral to everything that we do. One example, Thomson Reuters ESG data, is full of insights on megatrends in the global economy related to GHG emissions or water use.  Second, we ask for commentary from our internal, subject matter experts.  And lastly, we ask for views from our trusted partners like UNEP or IUCN, and clients like KPMG, White & Case, or State Street.

Here are some great examples of our latest thought leadership pieces:

9 Billion Bowls
Seven Reasons the World Will be Sustainable

Why did your company create the TR Sustainability site using external partners?

As an organization, we are committed to driving change through our people, our markets and our world.  Sustainability, and the solutions to problems connected with sustainability, is multilateral in nature.  Climate change, for example, involves a solution from a wide variety of stakeholders.  Therefore, the site draws on this insight to bring input together from these different key perspectives. 

What are some of the most critical sustainability trends you’ve uncovered in the last 5 years?

The increasing “Climate-Gap” is probably the most acute, new trend. By this, I mean we are supposed to be decreasing our global, aggregate GHG emissions by around 1.4% per year starting from 2010, in order to have a reasonable probability of staying within two degrees Celsius of global warming.  Instead, global emissions have increased since 2010, creating an even bigger, more urgent challenge to reduce emissions. We are playing with climate fire, quite literally. 

Water risk is related to climate change, and is exacerbated by it.  Ocean acidification is similar to water risk in that sense, as is rising sea level.  Pervasive poverty, lack of education and rule of law—all relate to and contribute to negative momentum with environmental sustainability because it’s difficult to focus on longer-term risk when you are suffering from immediate risk of starvation, or persecution.  This is one of the reasons we see all these issues grouped together as part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal framework.

On the positive side, innovation and new and unusual collaboration provides hope, as well as increasing activity from investors using ESG filtering to guide investment decisions.  Last, the everyday heroism of people all over the world who are looking to make the world a better, safer place for future generations is becoming a positive global movement

Do you have partners who are helping promote a sustainable future using science and technology? 

We partner with MIT and Caltech on various innovation and thought-leadership projects.  Many of our clients are leaders in innovation that impacts sustainability, such as the work done by policymakers using our data and analytics to help guide the global economy towards sustainable growth, or the anti-fraud screening tools used by clients to detect deception or corruption in supply chains or business deals.

How does the TR ESG database provide criteria that companies can use to baseline sustainability performance?

TR ESG data provides a myriad of different views on the environmental, social and governance performance of thousands of the largest companies in the world.  With this data, it’s possible to compare an individual company’s performance with that of its peers, or aggregate performance of the entire global economy on certain key issues such as GHG emissions, which we do in reports like these

Can you share some of the details from your special reports on the 9 Billion Bowls and 7 Reasons the World will be Sustainable?

Both of these reports are meant to present broad sets of guidelines for how we, as a human family, can work through some of the most challenging sustainability issues facing us over the next 50 years.  We think that presenting “pathways” to success is a positive and forward-leaning approach to these issues, and the solutions we set forth are driven by the data, experts and partnerships we talk about above.  I think the detail which stands out most broadly across this body of work is the incredible level of human talent and determination we have working for our planet.  There are real heroes out there, right now, giving incredibly of themselves, for the betterment of the whole.  These include scientists, mothers, fathers, farmers, corporate leaders, investors, regulators, journalists . . . and the list goes on.  These individuals create new realities, which eventually propagate out to touch all of us in some way.

What were the highlights from TR’s Green House Gas Emissions report and how can readers find out more?

We have now published three reports, and the highlight—or lowlight—has been the same in all three. Since 2010, the global economy is continuing to generate growth, but this growth is not decoupled from increasing emissions.  In other words we are still growing at the expense of the environment and shifting risk onto future generations.  As a sneak preview of the next report coming out in about a month, we will identify who in the global economy is starting to show real “sustainable growth,” that is growing their businesses while at the same time reducing GHG emissions consistent with UN guidelines.  These companies are the first leaders of the new, post COP21 economy, and will be examples for the rest.

How can people stay up to date with the latest trends in sustainability and where can they find out more about TR’s sustainability efforts?

The first step is understanding that sustainability is about making decisions, which do not make it harder for future generations to live healthy and meaningful lives.  Once you adopt that viewpoint, you will see “news” on sustainability, positive and negative, all over.   If you are interested in a specific aspect of sustainability, there are many good sources now.  I would suggest looking to our site (of course) for this multilateral view which combines many different sources of insight along with daily, curated news.  The United Nations, UNEP, UNEP FI, and WWF area also good starting points, but there are many reputable, science-based sites or sources which will be very good.  Like I said before, there are lots of heroes out there doing outstanding work!


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