Home > ESG Scores: What is it, and how are they calculated? 

ESG Scores: What is it, and how are they calculated? 

May 24, 2023 | Blog

The use of ESG scores to assess businesses’ sustainability and social responsibility policies has become increasingly common as investors and organizations place a greater emphasis on these issues. 
Investors and other stakeholders can analyze a company’s sustainability practices and risk exposure using ESG scores, which are quantitative evaluations that rank organizations on various environmental, social, and governance factors. 

So how are these scores determined, and what factors are considered when calculating a company’s ESG score? We will review the fundamentals of ESG scores, their approach, and the significance of the results in this blog. 

What is an ESG Score?

A company’s performance is evaluated quantitatively using an ESG score, which considers a variety of environmental, social, and governance variables. Environmental, social, and governance, or ESG, are the three categories evaluated when determining a company’s sustainability policies and risk exposure. Investors, financial institutions, and other stakeholders assess a company’s sustainability and social responsibility using the ESG score to make informed investment decisions.

The environmental, social, and governance (ESG) score determines how well a company performs in several important categories. These categories may cover carbon emissions, water use, waste management techniques, diversity and inclusion of employees, labor rights, supply chain management, executive salaries, and the board structure of a corporation.

Companies are assessed using a set of predetermined criteria and given a score for each category to determine their ESG score. The company’s total ESG score is then calculated by averaging these ratings. While some grading companies and data providers utilize a letter grade system, such as A-F, others use a numerical score system, such as a 0-100 scale.

The ESG score meaning differs based on the rating organization and the specific criteria for evaluating organizations. Yet, in general, a company with a higher ESG score is viewed as a lower-risk investment since it has shown greater sustainability and social responsibility policies. 

Why Do You Need an ESG Score?

Investors and other stakeholders may use an ESG score to assess a company’s sustainability and social responsibility policies for several reasons. 

  • To Mitigate Risk: 

Businesses can incur legal, financial, and reputational risks if they do not adequately manage environmental, social, and governance issues. For instance, a company that does not successfully control its carbon emissions may be susceptible to carbon taxes or regulatory fines. Investors may identify well-positioned firms to handle these risks and avoid investing in companies that may be exposed to them by utilizing an ESG score to assess a company’s performance in these areas. 

  • To Align Investments with Values: 

Many investors want to align their assets with their beliefs, whether they be personal or organizational. They could invest in businesses dedicated to lowering their carbon impact, advancing diversity and inclusion, or increasing supply chain transparency. Investors may find firms that share their values and steer clear of investing in those that do not by utilizing an ESG score to analyze companies. 

  • To Improve Performance: 

Businesses dedicated to sustainability and social responsibility may have a higher chance of long-term success. For instance, businesses that successfully manage their environmental risks may be more equipped to adjust to shifting customer demands and environmental requirements. Companies may pinpoint areas for development and show stakeholders their dedication to sustainability by utilizing an ESG score to assess their performance and compare themselves to peers. 

  • To Meet Stakeholder Expectations: 

Customers, team members, and shareholders are among the stakeholders who demand that businesses be open about their sustainability and social responsibility policies. Companies may show their commitment to sustainability and social responsibility and establish trust with stakeholders by applying an ESG score to assess their performance and disclosing this information to stakeholders.  

What Does ESG Score Measure? 

  • A company’s environmental, social, and governance concerns performance is measured by its ESG score. 
  • Environmental concerns include water use, waste management, energy efficiency, and carbon emissions. 
  • Supply chain management, worker rights, employee diversity and inclusion, and community involvement are examples of social aspects. 
  • Governance-related factors include board composition, CEO pay, risk management, and shareholder rights.

How To Calculate ESG Score?

Evaluating a company’s performance across several environmental, social, and governance variables is necessary to calculate an ESG score, which may be challenging. Following are some primary stages in an ESG score calculation process: 

How to calculate ESG score
  • Determine the Relevant ESG Factors: 

Identifying the environmental, social, and governance variables most important to the organization or sector being assessed is the first stage in computing an ESG score. This can change depending on the company’s size, industry, and location. 

  • Collect Data on ESG Performance: 

Data on the company’s performance in these areas must be gathered when the pertinent ESG criteria have been recognized. This might entail completing independent research and examining publicly available information, like sustainability reports or regulatory filings. 

  • Assign Weightings to Each ESG Factor: 

Each element must be given a weighting based on its relative value once data on the company’s ESG performance have been gathered. Depending on the sector and stakeholder expectations, a company’s carbon emissions can, for instance, be assigned more considerable importance than the diversity of its board. 

  • Score Each ESG Factor: 

Each ESG factor is then rated depending on how the firm performs compared to its competitors or industry standards after weightings have been applied. This might entail creating unique measures based on business- or industry-specific variables, or it can require using standard metrics like carbon intensity or staff turnover rates. 

  • Calculate the Overall ESG Score:  

The final step is to combine the different ESG element ratings to determine the company’s overall ESG score. This score can be compared to peers or industry benchmarks and may be expressed as a letter grade or a number scale. 

It is crucial to remember that there is no established formula for how ESG score is calculated, and different companies may employ other methods or weightings. 


Who Calculates ESG Score?

The majority of investment companies and financial institutions, as well as specialized ESG research and data companies, calculate ESG scores. These companies gather data on a company’s environmental, social, and governance performance, evaluate it, and utilize the results to provide an ESG score.
Some of the leading players in the computation of ESG scores are listed below: 

  • ESG Research and Data Providers: 

These organizations are experts in gathering and analyzing ESG data for thousands of businesses worldwide. The biggest providers are ISS ESG, S&P Global, and MSCI. These companies often calculate ESG scores using their unique, proprietary algorithms that may include various ESG elements and weightings. 

  • Investment Firms and Financial Institutions: 

Many financial institutions and investment companies now provide ESG scores and ratings as part of their research services. To give ESG scores to their clients, these companies may employ their methodology or collaborate with ESG research and data suppliers. 

  • Industry Associations and Non-profit Organizations: 

ESG scores are also computed for corporations within sectors by several non-profit and industry associations. For instance, the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) compiles information on businesses’ carbon emissions and assigns them a letter grade based on their performance. 

ESG score calculation methodologies can vary widely depending on the provider. Yet, most processes consider elements like a company’s influence on the environment, labor standards, governance structure, and stakeholder involvement. 

What Is a Good ESG Score?

Determining what is considered a “good” ESG score depends on several criteria, including the company’s industry, size, geographic location, and the individual ESG elements under consideration.

There is not a single “good” ESG score, although a score in the 70–80 range (out of 100) or more may be regarded as above average or strong. However, this might differ significantly based on the specific ESG elements being assessed and the sector and location of the organization being evaluated. While making investments or other decisions, it is crucial to consider ESG ratings in addition to data from different sources and research. 

How To Improve ESG Score?

Improving an ESG score necessitates a systematic strategy considering the environmental, social, and governance elements most important to a company’s operations and stakeholders. The following actions can be taken by businesses to improve ESG scores: 

  • Conduct a Materiality Assessment: 

Companies should first undertake a materiality evaluation to determine the ESG factors that are most important to their company and stakeholders. Both internal and external elements should be considered in this evaluation, such as corporate strategy, operations, and threats (e.g., stakeholder expectations, regulatory requirements, and industry norms). 

  • Set ESG Goals and Targets: 

Companies should establish objectives and targets for enhancing their performance in these areas after identifying the material ESG variables. These objectives must be clear, quantifiable, and in line with the expectations of both stakeholders and the company’s overall business plan. 

  •  Implement ESG Initiatives:  

The next step is for businesses to implement various ESG initiatives aimed at enhancing their performance in the key ESG categories. These initiatives can focus on lowering carbon emissions, raising labor standards, diversifying the board, or bolstering supply chain management. 

  • Measure and Report Progress: 

Companies should regularly assess and report on their ESG performance to monitor development. This process may be part of using ESG measures and indicators, doing independent reviews, or talking to stakeholders to get their opinions.   

  • Engage With Stakeholders: 

To establish trust and understanding, businesses should interact with their stakeholders (customers, employees, investors, suppliers, and communities) about ESG concerns. This might entail holding town hall meetings, consulting with stakeholders, or joining industry associations with an ESG focus. 

Why Do ESG Scores Matter?

ESG scores are significant because they give stakeholders and investors vital information about a company’s sustainability and social responsibility performance. ESG scores allow investors to use their capital wisely by assessing a company’s performance on environmental, social, and governance concerns. Also, they may assist businesses in determining how to enhance their performance and forge closer ties with stakeholders.   

Inrate is a Swiss-based independent ESG rating firm that provides ESG scores for businesses, governments, and investment funds. The environmental effect, social responsibility, and governance standards are just a few factors that go into Inrate’s ESG Impact Ratings. Investors, businesses, and stakeholders utilize Inrate’s ratings to assess ESG performance and make responsible decisions. 

Want to know more about our ESG impact rating system? See Inrate’s methodology here.

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