Benchmarking has proven to be an effective instrument in driving sustainability in the financial sector. It creates a race to the top by providing comparative insight into which financial institutions and sustainability topics are lagging behind. The VBDO has assessed the feasibility for international sustainability benchmarks in the financial sector. In the first phase of this study, which was finalized in February 2016, we explored the options for sustainability benchmarks and selected the three most promising ones. The second phase involves a feasibility study of these benchmarks. This report describes both phases of the project. This study was funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is actively encouraging Dutch companies to make advancements in international corporate social responsibility.
In June 2013 Minister Ploumen explained her ambition regarding this topic in her policy note “Corporate social responsibility pays off”. The government’s strategy involves financing feasibility studies for global sustainable development indices for companies, as public benchmarking is an effective and proven tool to improve corporate sustainability performance. A condition is that new indices must not be limited to Dutch businesses so as to guarantee an international level playing field. They also have to be developed with support from the industry while being completely independent, in order to avoid ‘greenwashing’ or ‘industry bashing’. The government also requires that the criteria for an index must be developed through amulti-stakeholderprocess. These conditions very well match the VBDO as we have many years of experience of working with institutional investors and their stakeholders.We like to thank all stakeholders that contributed to this project through participating in the online survey, interviews, the stakeholder consultation meetings, the steering committee, the expert groups or as pilot participants.