S&P Global Sustainability Yearbook 2024: Unveiling ESG Trends

Exploring sustainability trends across key industries
S&P Global Sustainability Yearbook 2024: Unveiling ESG Trends
Publ. date 12 Feb 2024
S&P Global unveiled its highly anticipated Sustainability Yearbook for 2024, showcasing the innovative companies that have excelled in sustainable practices following the rigorous 2023 Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA). This article presents an overview of the Yearbook's key findings, shedding light on updated methodologies and pivotal industry trends.

The S&P Global Sustainability Yearbook, published annually, provides an overview of the Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA) outcomes, spotlighting leading companies and sustainability trends across 62 various industries. Despite economic and geopolitical uncertainties, a record number of over 9,400 companies participated in the 2023 CSA. As of December 22, 2023, only 759 organizations with top ESG scores earned a spot in the Yearbook. Among them, 229 were distinguished, with 66 achieving the Gold Class distinction (top 1%), 70 in the Silver Class (top 5%), and 93 in the Bronze Class (top 10%), while others were Yearbook Members. Additionally, 36 organizations were identified as Industry Movers, showcasing significant improvement in their ESG scores between 2022 and 2023.

Minor methodology refinements

The methodology for selecting companies for the Sustainability Yearbook remains largely consistent between 2023 and 2024, with minor adjustments and clarifications made in the latest edition. While the specific exclusion criteria approach remains the same, there are minor differences in thresholds or levels of involvement for certain activities. Additionally, the approach to corporate actions (i.e. mergers and acquisitions) remains similar, but the latest methodology explicitly mentions the timeframe for delisting companies, which was not previously specified.

Last year's Yearbook methodology saw major updates, particularly in the exclusion screening approach, where tobacco, weapons, and coal were no longer considered in the eligible universe. Additionally, a controversy screening approach was introduced as a prerequisite for Yearbook inclusion, evaluating a company's response to critical sustainability issues based on media and stakeholder analysis.

ESG trends shaping key industries

Focusing on select sectors can yield valuable insights as we highlight key drivers and material issues in five sectors, showcasing leading companies.

Banks: Banks, integral to developed economies, faced sustainability challenges like climate transition risks and regulatory pressure for ESG disclosures. Digitalization is also reshaping the sector, emphasizing the need for technology investment and cybersecurity. Ethical business practices (under high regulatory scrutiny) and keeping consumers’ trust also play large roles in a bank’s ability to differentiate itself from competitors. According to CSA results, the number of companies in the Yearbook for this sector decreased from 75 in 2023 to only 66 in 2024, led by KB Financial Group and Taishin Financial Holding, in the top 1%. Taiwan as a location is noted to hold a significant presence for this industry's top performers. 

Chemicals: The chemicals industry drives sustainability across critical sectors like food production and electronics by influencing global production processes and offering solutions for waste transformation. Prioritizing innovation, product stewardship, and eco-efficiency, while addressing hazardous substance risks, was shown to enhance profitability and support a circular economy. The number of chemical companies in the Yearbook increased from 26 in 2023 to 30 in 2024, led again by PTT Global Chemical in the top 1%. Linde is the only other company in the top 10%, then followed by LANXESS, Arkema and 12 other Yearbook members.

Equity Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs): The Real Estate Industry was split last year into two industries, REITs, and Real Estate Management & Development. REITs’ focus is on green building certifications and sustainability, withstanding potential trade disruptions and climate change impacts. Effective supply chain management, adaptation strategies, and robust corporate governance were identified as vital for capital efficiency and long-term sustainability.

Food & Staples Retailing: Amidst price hikes and the growth of online grocery sales, the Food & Staples Retailing sector grapples with adapting to IT advancements, focusing on IT infrastructure for operational efficiency and customer communication. Meeting consumer demand for sustainable food choices required high transparency in supply chains and efforts to reduce waste. According to the 2024 Yearbook, this sector took a significant hit, decreasing from 13 placing companies in 2022 to 10 in 2024. Berli Jucker stands out as the sole company in its percentile, with a notable total of 92 points, distinguishing it significantly from its industry peers.

Pharmaceuticals: Post-pandemic, pharmaceuticals navigate supply chain risks and pricing scrutiny, highlighting human capital investment for innovation and access expansion. Patient-centric research, innovation, and prioritizing human capital management emphasize the critical importance of maintaining ethical practices for both organizational reputation and financial stability. Based on the CSA results, the Yearbook companies for Pharma increased from 17 in 2022 to 22 in 2024, led by GSK in the top 1%, Chugai within the top 5% and the top 10% being completed by Roche, Sanofi, Ono, Dr. Reddy's and Takeda.

Are you ready to secure your spot in the Sustainability Yearbook 2025?

As companies strive for recognition in the Sustainability Yearbook and seek to enhance their sustainability performance, it's crucial to remain proactive and informed. ESG professionals are encouraged to join the upcoming CSA Expert Training on Thursday, March 14th, 2024, in Amsterdam. Join us for a focused day based on the CSA framework, deep diving into key ESG challenges including double materiality, climate strategy and managing ESG risks in the supply chain with guest speakers from S&P Global and leading companies from the Yearbook Coca-Cola HBC (top 1% in Beverages) and Sanofi (top 10% in Pharmaceuticals).

If you can’t make it to Amsterdam or need more personalized guidance and support in the assessment process, contact Johana Schlotter at johana@finchandbeak.com or call +31 6 28 02 18 80 to discuss how Finch & Beak can help you improve your ESG performance.

About Katharina Staudt

Driven sustainability professional, passionate about assisting clients in improving their overall ESG performance and aligning sustainability with their core business objectives | katharina@finchandbeak.com

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