The Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes, a series of stock market indexes for companies which have adopted Sustainable Development (SD) strategies, provides some useful guidance on what it means for a large company to implement SD. Companies are evaluated for the indexes on three dimensions:
- Economic such as codes of conduct, corporate governance, financial robustness, and integration of sustainability in investor relations;
- Environmental such as environmental policy/management, eco-efficiency, and carbon intensity of product portfolio;
- Social such as human capital development, stakeholder engagement, labor practice indicators, and emerging markets/global sourcing.
One third of the points on which a company is assessed are given for each of these three dimensions, but sector specific criteria within the dimensions account for about 40% while 60% are general criteria that apply to all industries.
They are popular amongst people in the financial services sector who have an interest in Sustainable Development. But they are based to a significant extent on company self-reporting rather than on independent review of SD performance.
They include the large corporations whose SD practices are already well known to most SD experts, but do little to encourage companies that are not yet practicing SD to adopt SD practices. They do establish a practical SD benchmark that is useful in demonstrating the application of SD tools.