The case for CSR/ Sustainability Reporting Done Responsibly


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Case study: How Sustainalytics promotes employee engagement

As a global leader in ESG (environmental, social and governance) and Corporate Governance research and ratings, supporting hundreds of the world’s leading investors who incorporate ESG and corporate governance insights into their investment processes, Sustainalytics seeks to introduce innovative ways for employees to feel more engaged and satisfied at their workplace.  Tweet This!

This case study is based on the 2017 Sustainability Report by Sustainalytics that can be found at this link. Through all case studies we aim to demonstrate what CSR/ ESG/ sustainability reporting done responsibly means. Essentially, it means: a) identifying a company’s most important impacts on the environment, economy and society, and b) measuring, managing and changing.

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Sustainalytics’ success relies on the skills and commitment of talented people working towards achieving its vision for a more just and sustainable global economy. Enhancing employee engagement is, thus, a top priority. In order to promote employee engagement Sustainalytics took action to:

  • address the high turnover rate
  • introduce an Engagement Index
  • organise a Global Volunteer Day

What are the material issues the company has identified?

In its 2017 Sustainability Report Sustainalytics identified a range of material issues, such as equity & diversity, client satisfaction and retention, product and service innovation, governance structure and composition. Among these, promoting employee engagement stands out as a key material issue for Sustainalytics.

Stakeholder engagement in accordance with the GRI Standards              

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) defines the Principle of Stakeholder Inclusiveness when identifying material issues (or a company’s most important impacts) as follows:

“The reporting organization shall identify its stakeholders, and explain how it has responded to their reasonable expectations and interests.”

Stakeholders must be consulted in the process of identifying a company’s most important impacts and their reasonable expectations and interests must be taken into account. This is an important cornerstone for CSR / sustainability reporting done responsibly.

Key stakeholder groups Sustainalytics engages with: 

Stakeholder Group                Method of engagement


·      Annual General Meeting

·      CEO contact

Board ·      Board meetings


·      Human Resources communication

·      Executive leadership involvement initiatives



·      Mid-year client survey

·      Frequent in-person meetings in all markets, collecting feedback on a continuous basis

·      Client feedback helped to enhance internal processes, product offering, innovation agenda and communications

Companies Sustainalytics researches ·      Solicit feedback on company profiles as part of Sustainalytics’ research process


How stakeholder engagement was made to identify material issues

To identify and prioritise material topics Sustainalytics asked employees to select the most material topics in an internal survey. Additionally, a selected group of clients representing all regions where Sustainalytics operates shared their opinion on Sustainalytics’ material topics.

What actions were taken by Sustainalytics to promote employee engagement?

In its 2017 Sustainability Report Sustainalytics reports that it took the following actions for promoting employee engagement:

  • Addressing the high turnover rate
  • Sustainalytics’ turnover was, in 2017, higher than its target for the third consecutive year. This level of turnover remains a concern, and Sustainalytics is making significant efforts to address this issue. Examples of some of the practices employed, beyond the standard benefit suite offered, include:
    • flexible return-to-work practices for employees returning from maternity and parental leaves
    • support for employee-initiated transfers to another global office for personal or professional growth opportunities
    • the opportunity for employees working abroad to spend two weeks per year working from their home country
  • Introducing an Engagement Index
  • Sustainalytics’ Engagement Index is based on Mercer | Sirota’s Employee Engagement Index and includes a selection of questions about employees’ sense of commitment to Sustainalytics, how proud they feel to work for the company, whether or not they would recommend Sustainalytics to others as a good place to work, and related matters. The average value for 2016 was 79%, which is almost 15% higher compared to the market average.
  • Organising a Global Volunteer Day
  • Sustainalytics’ Global Volunteer Day is an annual event organised since 2013 that reinforces Sustainalytics’ values while building a strong global culture. It is an initiative inspired by a simple, yet powerful goal: “Do something good, somewhere for someone else”. Every year, Sustainalytics’ offices close for one day and employees work together to support their local communities. In 2017, Sustainalytics decided to connect its 25th Anniversary with the Global Volunteer Day, drawing inspiration for the different initiatives from pledges employees made to show their personal commitment to contribute to Sustainalytics’ vision of supporting a more just and sustainable economy. The causes Sustainalytics supported varied, from helping stray animals to raising awareness about societal issues and reviving local gardens. For example, the Boston office volunteered at Career Collaborative, a local nonprofit that helps low-income, first-generation, and underemployed job seekers navigate the hurdles of the labour market. Sustainalytics’ Tokyo office supported Refugees International Japan (RIJ), an independent, Japan-based NGO that funds projects focusing on the health, education and economic livelihoods of people displaced by conflict around the globe. Additionally, Sustainalytics employees also receive two and half volunteer days each year, to pursue a cause they find personally meaningful.

Which GRI Standards and corresponding Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been addressed?

The GRI Standard addressed in this case is: Disclosure 401-1 New employee hires and employee turnover

Disclosure 401-1 New employee hires and employee turnover corresponds to:


80% of the world’s 250 largest companies report in accordance with the GRI Standards

SustainCase was primarily created to demonstrate, through case studies, the importance of dealing with a company’s most important impacts in a structured way, with use of the GRI Standards. To show how today’s best-run companies are achieving economic, social and environmental success – and how you can too.

Research by well-recognised institutions is clearly proving that responsible companies can look to the future with optimism.

FBRH GRI Standards Certified and IEMA approved Sustainability Course | Venue: London LSE

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1) This case study is based on published information by Sustainalytics, located at the link below. For the sake of readability, we did not use brackets or ellipses. However, we made sure that the extra or missing words did not change the report’s meaning. If you would like to quote these written sources from the original, please revert to the original at the link:


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