ESG Score

Updated on January 5, 2024
Article byKosha Mehta
Edited byAshish Kumar Srivastav
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

ESG Score Meaning

ESG Score, is abbreviation for Environmental, Social, and Governance Score, is a metric used to evaluate a company’s performance in terms of sustainability and responsible business practices. It assesses three key dimensions. It rates factors like carbon footprint, social responsibility, diversity, and management ethics.

ESG Score

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ESG scores give investors and stakeholders insights into a company’s sustainability efforts and ethical behavior. They play a crucial role in helping investors make informed decisions that align with their values and long-term interests, fostering a positive impact on both financial returns and the well-being of the planet and society.

Key Takeaways

  • ESG Scores comprehensively evaluate a company’s environmental, social, and governance practices. This helps investors and stakeholders gauge the company’s commitment to sustainability and responsible business conduct.
  • It offers valuable insights for socially conscious investors, enabling them to align their portfolios with ethical values and potentially mitigate long-term risks.
  • Companies with high ESG Scores tend to demonstrate resilience, innovation, and better risk management, positioning them for long-term success in an evolving business landscape.
  • ESG Scores encourage transparency by holding companies accountable for their impact on society and the environment, fostering positive change, and promoting sustainable practices.

ESG Score Explained

An ESG Score, denoting Environmental, Social, and Governance, gauges a company’s sustainability and ethical performance. This score assists investors in assessing a company’s commitment to responsible practices and potential long-term risks. It encourages businesses to align profits with positive societal and environmental outcomes, fostering a more sustainable and equitable future.

  1. Environmental: This aspect examines a company’s impact on the environment, including its carbon emissions, resource usage, waste management, and efforts towards conservation and eco-friendly practices.
  2. Social: The social dimension focuses on a company’s relationships with its employees, communities, and broader society. It considers factors such as employee welfare, diversity and inclusion, community engagement, and adherence to human rights.
  3. Governance: Governance evaluates a company’s leadership, transparency, ethics, and management practices. It assesses the effectiveness of the board of directors, executive compensation, risk management, and overall business ethics.

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How To Calculate?

Calculating an ESG score involves evaluating various Environmental, Social, and Governance factors. The precise methodology can vary depending on the organization or rating agency conducting the assessment. However, a general approach involves these steps:

  1. Data Collection: Gather data on environmental, social, and governance performance. This could include metrics like carbon emissions, water usage, employee diversity, executive compensation, board structure, and more.
  2. Normalization: Normalize the data to ensure comparability between companies of different sizes and industries. This might involve adjusting values based on revenue, employee count, or other relevant factors.
  3. Weighting: Assign weights to each E, S, and G factor based on their importance to your assessment. For example, one might assign a higher weight to carbon emissions if environmental concerns are a priority for their analysis.
  4. Scoring: Score each metric or factor based on predetermined criteria. For instance, a company might receive a higher score for having a diverse board and a lower score for high carbon emissions.
  5. Aggregation: Combine the scores for all metrics within each dimension (E, S, G) to get three sub-scores.
  6. Final ESG Score: Aggregate the sub-scores, applying the predetermined weights for each dimension to calculate the overall ESG score for the company.
  7. Comparison and Interpretation: Compare the ESG scores of different companies. A higher ESG score indicates better performance in sustainable and ethical practices.


Several types of ESG scores and ratings are designed to assess a company’s environmental, social, and governance performance from a different angle. These include:

  1. Proprietary ESG Scores: Developed by individual organizations, these scores incorporate various metrics and methodologies to evaluate ESG performance. Examples include MSCI ESG Ratings, Sustainalytics, and ISS ESG Corporate Rating.
  2. Index ESG Scores: ESG scores assigned to companies within an index, like the Dow Jones Sustainability Index or FTSE4Good Index. These indices select companies based on their ESG performance, promoting sustainable investment practices.
  3. Rating Agencies: Credit rating agencies like Moody’s, S&P, and Fitch increasingly integrate ESG factors into their credit assessments, providing investors with additional insights into long-term risks.
  4. ESG Data Providers: Companies like Bloomberg, Thomson Reuters, and FactSet offer ESG data and ratings that investors can access to inform their decision-making.
  5. Corporate ESG Reports: Some companies produce ESG reports, disclosing their performance and initiatives to stakeholders. These self-assessments provide transparency and accountability.


Let us look at the example to understand the concept better.

Example #1

As per an article by Reuters, ESG scores by S&P Global have abandoned a combination of letters and numbers introduced in 2021. The purpose was to evaluate the credit quality of publicly rated entities within specific industries and asset categories based on their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) attributes. The company stated that they have determined that the dedicated analytical narrative paragraphs in their credit rating reports are most effective at providing detail and transparency on ESG credit factors material to their rating analysis, and these will remain integral to their reports.

Example #2

Consider Company A and Company B, both operating in the technology sector. To calculate their ESG scores, Company A’s data reveals a low carbon footprint due to renewable energy use, a diverse workforce, and an effective board structure, resulting in strong E, S, and G sub-scores. On the other hand, Company B struggles with emissions and has limited social programs but boasts strong governance practices.

Company A achieves a commendable ESG score of 80 out of 100 upon aggregation and weighting, reflecting its comprehensive commitment to sustainability, diversity, and responsible leadership. Meanwhile, Company B scores a lower 60 due to its uneven performance across the three dimensions.

Investors, armed with these scores, can make informed decisions. Company A’s high score indicates its robust alignment with ESG principles, potentially attracting more socially conscious investors. Although lagging, Company B might use the score to identify improvement areas and enhance its sustainability and ethical practices.

How To Improve?

To enhance ESG scores, one can follow the below guidelines

  1. Comprehensive Data Gathering: Strengthen data collection processes to encompass a wider array of ESG metrics, ensuring a more accurate reflection of the company’s performance across all three dimensions.
  2. Quantifiable Targets: Set specific, measurable targets for ESG improvements and disclose progress transparently to demonstrate a commitment to positive change.
  3. Stakeholder Engagement: Actively engage with stakeholders, including employees, communities, and investors, to understand concerns and incorporate their feedback into ESG strategies.
  4. Innovation and Technology: Leverage innovation and technology to develop sustainable products, reduce environmental impact, and enhance social welfare.
  5. Board Accountability: Embed ESG considerations into board responsibilities, fostering governance practices that prioritize long-term sustainability and ethical decision-making.
  6. Supply Chain Transparency: Demand ESG compliance from suppliers and partners, ensuring alignment throughout the value chain and reducing risks associated with unethical practices.


Let us look at its importance:

  1. Risk Mitigation: ESG analysis helps identify and address potential risks, such as regulatory non-compliance, resource scarcity, and reputational damage. Companies can safeguard their operations and financial stability by proactively managing these risks.
  2. Investor Confidence: ESG performance influences investment decisions as investors seek sustainable and responsible companies. High ESG scores can attract a larger pool of investors, enhance market competitiveness, and potentially lower the cost of capital.
  3. Long-Term Sustainability: Incorporating ESG principles fosters responsible business practices that contribute to the company’s long-term sustainability. This includes efficient resource utilization, reduced environmental impact, and ethical governance.
  4. Reputation and Brand Value: Positive ESG performance enhances a company’s reputation, brand value, and customer loyalty. Consumers are increasingly drawn to companies that demonstrate commitment to ethical practices and societal well-being.

ESG Score vs ESG Risk Rating

Let us look at the differences between ESG Score and ESG risk rating

ParametersESG ScoreESG Risk Rating
DefinitionA quantitative or qualitative measure of a company’s ESG performance across multiple dimensions (Environmental, Social, Governance)Assessment of potential ESG-related risks and vulnerabilities a company might face based on its ESG practices, industry, and operational context.
MethodologyAggregating individual metrics or qualitative assessments into a composite score.Utilizes scenario analysis, risk assessment models, and data analysis to assign risk ratings based on specific ESG risk factors.
InterpretationA higher score indicates strong ESG performance and alignment with sustainability goals.A higher risk rating signifies a higher potential impact from ESG risks.
ApplicationUsed by investors, stakeholders, and analysts to make informed investment decisions.Useful for risk managers, credit rating agencies, and regulatory compliance assessments.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Are ESG Scores relevant for all industries?

Yes, ESG Scores are relevant across industries. While specific metrics may vary, the fundamental principles of environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and effective governance apply universally. Different sectors face unique challenges, but ESG Scores help investors assess a company’s efforts to mitigate risks and contribute to a sustainable future.

2. How do ESG Scores affect a company’s reputation?

ESG Scores can significantly impact a company’s reputation. High scores reflect ethical and responsible practices, enhancing brand image and attracting socially-conscious consumers. Conversely, low scores may lead to reputational damage and consumer backlash. Companies with strong ESG performance foster goodwill, trust, and long-term loyalty among customers and stakeholders.

3. What is the connection between ESG Scores and regulatory compliance?

ESG Scores can influence regulatory compliance. Positive ESG practices often align with evolving regulations, reducing the risk of legal issues. Companies with high scores are better positioned to adapt to changing legal landscapes, minimizing potential fines and penalties. ESG-focused strategies help companies proactively meet regulatory expectations, ensuring long-term sustainability and adherence to ethical standards.

This has been a guide to ESG Score & its meaning. We explain how to calculate & improve it, its types, examples, & comparison with ESG risk rating. You can learn more about it from the following articles –

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