CSR Database Review: CSRHub

Shortly after my CSR databases blog post from the other day, I received an email from Cynthia Figge, a founder of CSRHub, asking me if I’d do a review of the beta version of their system.  Always eager to share information about new CSR products on the market, here is  what you can expect from this ambitious new product.

CSRHub is an aggregator of data from the CSR universe.  It boasts ratings for “5,000+ large publicly traded companies in more than 60 companies”  aggregated from 80+ sources and “benchmarked “across 135 industries and by geography.”  The website offers several products.

• For free, a user can register to see and customize company scores across the categories of community, environment, employees, and governance, and has the ability to adjust the relative weights of these four issues  to reflect how they weigh the value of these four categories (All scores are weighted and normalized to remove biases).

• For $10 a month, an individual can see more extensive information, including three sub-categories for each of the four categories available to registered users.

• For $50 a month, a corporation can do basically the same thing.

• Users can also purchase company reports summarizing data from individual ESG sources, meaning that for a few hundred dollars, you can buy a report on a single company based on data from either Asset4, IW Financial, Trucost, Vigeo, or GovernanceMetrics.

CSRHub is still in beta form and will be for quite a while, so those who register now can become part of the feedback loop to refine what could be a very interesting product catering towards those impatient with the disparities between the various ESG groups evaluating the social responsibility of different companies within an industry.  Like One Report, a product which offers companies the opportunity to respond to several ESG ratings companies without filling out multiple redundant forms, CSRHub offers one-stop-shopping to those interested in knowing how the lion’s share of ESG ratings firms judge an individual company (note that not all ESG ratings groups are on board, at least yet).  It also offers a mechanism for accessing individual reports on individual companies, a significant value for any individual or company that doesn’t want to pay thousands of dollars for access to an individual database (to give an example, if the CSR director from Estee Lauder wants to know how her company stacks up against Revlon, Shiseido, and L’Oreal in the Asset4 database, she could purchase individual company reports summarizing Asset4 data at a few hundred dollars a pop, rather than pay thousands of dollars for access to the whole database).

CSRHub is so new that it is hard to envision what it will look like once it is “complete”.  The site is slow and confusing to navigate, although I imagine those are kinks that will be resolved over time.  More of an issue to me is that scores are not transparent, meaning that it is impossible to see what CSR factors or sources are rolled up in an overall aggregate score.  In addition, while one of CSRHub’s selling points is the opportunity to personalize weightings, it is impossible to focus the database on an individual score.  This means that if I was an EHS officer interested exclusively in understanding my company’s environmental profile, I could neither delve deep into the profile of my company with the level of granularity I tend to desire, nor could I look at my company’s score without seeing it diluted at least to some extent by community and employee issues.     Also, since summaries of company reports from individual ESG sources are not yet available, I could not yet evaluate how, for example, the Asset4 report for Walmart available through CSRHub would compare to what I would see if I worked directly in Asset4’s system.

As I suggested early in this review, CSRHub is an ambitious project with potential.  Unlike some CSR databases available, it seems to respond to an actual demand, although by trying to be all things to all people, its developers will have quite a bit of work to do to get to the point that it satisfies the needs of any one type of user (despite wanting to cater towards businesses, its formatting suggests that it is actually better adapted to the needs of socially responsible investors).  All in all, keep an eye on CSRHub, and if you have an opportunity to access it early on, don’t shy away from becoming a test user for a CSR experiment with some real value.

Photo credit: Velo Steve