Staying Ahead: Methodology Changes for the CSA 2023

Simplification, alignment and update of the questionnaire
Staying Ahead: Methodology Changes for the CSA 2023
Publ. date 16 Mar 2023
To stay competitive and ensure alignment with the most material topics and frameworks, S&P Global updates the methodology of its Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA) each year, and in 2023 the focus is on simplifying the questionnaire and enhancing the CSA accessibility. Download our summary of the methodology changes to review which of the updates are applicable to your industry, and what you should be prepared for.

S&P Global’s Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA) is an annual evaluation of companies’ sustainability practices. Results from the CSA, the S&P Global ESG Scores, are a key factor to select eligible companies into the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI) and S&P Global ESG Indices. 

S&P Global announced the forthcoming methodology changes for the 2023 CSA during a webcast on 16 March, and Finch & Beak has summarized the announced changes in this article. Please note that further changes might still be made until the questionnaire is released.

Simplification and staying ahead of industry trends

In order to select the companies that outperform on sustainability, S&P Global has announced the methodology in the 2023 CSA questionnaire. The objective is to ensure that CSA keeps capturing and providing high-quality and relevant sustainability data, while establishing alignment with recognized standards and frameworks such as SBTi, CDP, TNFD and TCFD. These adjustments aim to increase the ESG transparency from the point of view of participating companies, but also to provide forward-looking data for investors.

Overall, this year’s changes reflect S&P Global’s goal to simplify the questionnaire and its structure to promote transparency and reducing the reporting burden. S&P Global’s efforts to reduce the length of this year’s questionnaire result in 38 deleted questions, the redistribution and consolidation of some criteria across the dimensions, and the appearance of two new criteria. Most changes have been implemented in the Governance & Economic and Environmental dimensions while minor changes are observed for the Social dimension.

Key changes to the 2023 CSA, including new or updated questions, approaches and criteria

Participation windows
To better accommodate corporate reporting schedules, the CSA will follow a new approach in 2023. Companies can reserve a 2-month assessment window that best meets their own reporting cycle and project planning needs on a first-come, first-served basis. The window always opens on the first week-day of the start month and closes on the last week-day of the following month (independent of regional/religious holidays). That being said, the 2023 questionnaire will be available for all companies on April 4th and can be reviewed from that date, independent of the chosen assessment window start date.

Although companies can now choose the time frame to be assessed, they need to acknowledge that if they want their score to be considered for the DJSI, their latest assessment window should be in July-August. In the same line, if companies would like to be included in the Sustainability Yearbook 2024, the cut-off date is the August-September window.

The publication of the scores will be targeted to be available to companies on the third Friday of the third month after the closing of the participation window. For example, companies who submit their answers by end of May, should receive their scores in August. Additionally, these scores will be first available confidentially to the company and then published on the CSA Portal for all companies in the following month. Consequently, the DJSI membership update will be published by S&P Global on December 8th whilst the ESG Indices membership update will take place in April 2024.

Split in the Real Estate industry
In March 2022, S&P DJI and MSCI announced their plans to create two new industry groups in order to replace the industry group Real Estate. Consequently, in 2023, the CSA questionnaire for Real Estate will be split into two new industries: Equity Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) and Real Estate Management & Development. The two new questionnaires and questions aim to align with international real estate standards and provide a better understanding of the industries.

Restructuring the Operational Eco-Efficiency criterion
The criterion Operational Eco-Efficiency has, until now, consolidated most of the assessed companies’ environmental KPIs. For this 2023 CSA questionnaire, S&P Global has announced the introduction of 4 new criteria that will integrate the questions that previously were part of the mentioned criterion. In this way, those questions will be restructured as follows: Emissions (14 questions), Resource Efficiency & circularity (30 questions), Waste (11 questions) and Water (12 questions).

New criterion: Transparency & Reporting
In line with the intentions of simplifying and consolidating the questionnaire, this new criterion was created to integrate existing questions relating to transparency and reporting. Companies across all industries are required to disclose their information about Public Reporting Assurance and Sustainability Reporting Boundaries. This criterion also includes a question regarding Sustainability Taxonomies which will apply to all industries except Banks, Diversified Financial Services and Capital Markets and Insurance.

Updated criterion: Materiality
To better reflect the entire materiality assessment process and align with the upcoming international frameworks, major changes have been introduced in the Materiality criterion. Two of the questions of the criterion now require public available information, meanwhile there have also been updates in the ‘Materiality Analysis’ question which will include the use of the principle of double materiality, integration of materiality into enterprise risk management, third-party verification of the materiality process and approval by board of directors or senior management. Two new questions are added related to the company’s impact generated on external stakeholders and the quantitative (impact valuation) metrics used to measure such impact.

Updated criterion: Supply Chain Management
S&P Global has fully revised this criterion to introduce five new questions and updates to an existing one which apply to all industries. The focus of these new questions has been mainly put on supplier evaluation policies, processes and their KPIs.

Updated criterion: Sustainable Finance
The criterion structure has changed shifting the focus from the individual business segments to ‘Investing’, ‘Financing’, ‘Advisory’ and Insurance Underwriting’. The criterion, which applies to the industries of Banks, Diversified Financial Services and Capital Markets, and Insurance, introduces three new questions while also presenting updates in six others.

Updated criterion: Product Stewardship
The criterion has been newly introduced to four industries in the Healthcare sector and it presents five new questions. Three of the newly introduced questions will apply to the Biotechnology, Pharmaceuticals, Life Sciences Tools & Services and Health Care Equipment & Supplies sectors meanwhile the other two will also apply to the Life Sciences Tools & Services and Health Care Equipment & Supplies.

Removed criterion: Corporate Citizenship and Philanthropy
S&P Global is determined to increase the efficiency of the CSA questionnaire by aligning with the most significant topics while eliminating non-material or immature topics. Hence, for all industries this criterion has been removed for this year’s questionnaire.

Looking to accelerate your journey towards improved ESG benchmarking?

With over 15 years of experience in ESG rating & benchmarking support including the CSA, Finch & Beak is one of Europe’s leading experts in improving our clients’ sustainability programs and ESG performance.

The Finch & Beak company vision is to accelerate sustainability. Our ESG and sustainability strategy work are characterized by a continuous improvement method that leverages existing assets in the short term while identifying opportunities for strategic development in the future.

If your company is interested in being supported in its CSA process, download our ESG Acceleration Support Service Description or contact Johana Schlotter at or +31 6 28 02 18 80 to discuss how Finch & Beak can help you improve your ESG performance.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

About Valeria Calvas

Sustainability professional who wants to support companies and organizations to tackle ESG challenges, with the ambition to create a sustainable future. |

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