Current Projects

Our work focuses on two overarching themes of policy and management, utilizing four underlying pillars of sustainability: impact measurement, finance, education, and innovation.

+ A Method to Quantify the Social Impact of Investments in Publicly-Traded Emerging Markets Equities (AXA Research Fund)

This joint research project with investment management firm AllianceBernstein, funded by their parent company AXA, seeks to quantify the potentially beneficial impact of patient portfolio flows into publicly-traded emerging markets equities, to distinguish this type of investment from other capital flows to developing countries, and articulate the links between emerging market portfolio investments and specific SDGs.

 

+ Carbon Catalogue

In collaboration with CoClear, a sustainability analytics startup founded by Columbia graduates Sally Paridis and Erika Whillas, Associate Research Scientist Christoph Meinrenken has helped develop the world’s first interactive data visualization of product carbon footprints. A pioneering, interactive data visualization, ‘Carbon Catalogue,’ depicts the life cycle analysis (LCA) of hundreds of commercial and consumer products. The Carbon Catalogue analyzes and visualizes the detailed product submissions made by member companies to CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project) as part of their ‘Supply Chain Climate Change Information Request’ from 2013-2017.

This comprehensive data is drawn from 145 companies, from 28 countries, representing 30 global GICS industry groups and totaling 866 products. The pioneering visualization provides companies who participated in CDP’s program, including Levis, Bloomberg and Interface, as well as product designers and consumers with a platform to explore their products’ carbon footprints and compare with those of other companies, including competitors.

The visual representation shows that over 75% of a typical product’s carbon emissions are created outside a company’s direct operations, i.e. upstream or downstream of manufacturing. It also provides insights into how successful companies manage to design more sustainable products and demonstrates the benefits of sharing these value chain insights across industry sectors.

Explore the data visualization here.
Read more about the tool at the Data Science Institute.

 

+ IndexAmericas – IDB’s Corporate Sustainability Index

Dr. Satyajit Bose is currently working with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Group to support the enhancement of their index that assesses companies acting in Latin America and the Caribbean based on their performance in environmental, social and governance dimensions, as well as on a development commitment in the region. The index, IndexAmericas, is the first index developed by a multilateral development bank to assess companies acting in Latin America in this way, and was launched at the 2017 World Economic Forum in Buenos Aires.

 

+ Inter-American Development Bank Case Study

We are currently preparing a case study that describes and analyzes the role of the Inter-American Development Bank’s resource mobilization work in the broader development finance ecosystem since the creation of its partnerships office in 2008. This study will explore how a multilateral bank can organize internally to leverage its unique social, human and reputational capital to initiate and organize the networks of resources necessary for broad-based development impact. The case study of IDB will examine the range of transactions and instruments in use by IDB and others, including co-financing, pooled due diligence capacities, bespoke transaction structuring and the leveraging of partner resources such as stock exchange capacity, socially responsible investment funds, and non-financial disclosure initiatives such as IndexAmericas. The study will catalogue a range of blended finance mechanisms, the use of treasury-like products such as insurance and guarantees, and green finance in all of its forms to aid adoption by other development finance institutions in the region and globally. The study will address institutional and ecosystem challenges and methods of addressing them.

 

+ Sustainability Metrics

Led by Dr. Steven Cohen and Dr. Satyajit Bose, the Research Program on Sustainability Policy and Management has for the past 5 years been engaged in an ongoing study and evaluation of the current measures of sustainability performance and impact measurement at the organizational, local, national and global level, with the ultimate goal of developing generally accepted measures of the physical dimensions of sustainability.

In the first stage of our research, we conducted a thorough investigation of “environmental, social and governance” (ESG) metrics, analyzing the indicators, frameworks and standards used by organizations to measure, assess, compare, and report on sustainability across industries and sectors, yielding a database of nearly 600 distinct sustainability indicators. We also performed an evaluation of 129 indices in total, an assessment of sustainability platforms and frameworks, as well as research to analyze the link between progress on sustainability or investment in sustainability initiatives with financial performance.

Using this preliminary research, we will attempt to identify a core group of metrics that are formative in nature and have the potential to become generally accepted sustainability indicators with the legitimacy of generally accepted accounting principles. We aim to generate new data on the landscape of sustainability metrics and new data on the aggregation and weighting of these indicators, as well as provide further understanding of the role of sustainability in management decision-making by improving our knowledge of the methods and measures of sustainability initiatives. This project will advance the decision-making tools, models and frameworks available to a variety of stakeholders who are eager to incorporate sustainability into their management practices. Furthermore, convergence on a set of generally accepted sustainability metrics will drive momentum toward a pivot in organizational focus from reporting, disclosure and transparency towards uncovering real opportunity, competitive advantage and financial and non-financial benefits of sustainability. The long-term goal of this study is to serve as foundation to inform the discussion of a global network of scholars and practitioners.

White Paper #1: The Growth of Sustainability Metrics

White Paper #2: Measuring and Reporting Sustainability: The Role of the Public Sector

White Paper #3: Assessing Sustainability: Frameworks and Indices

 

+ Sustainability Metrics and Measurement in China (CCIEE)

In collaboration with the Chinese think tank China Center for International Economic Exchanges (CCIEE), we recently launched a rating system by which the sustainability performance of Chinese cities can be compared: www.urbansustainability.org.

Although the concept of sustainable development has been widely accepted in China, the use of sustainability metrics is still in an early stage. Due to the lack of clear definition of the number and applicability of the metrics that should be used, Chinese corporations and governments have a great deal of flexibility in randomly choosing indicators, which impedes meaningful comparison on sustainability performance and makes it harder to provide standardized policy directives. In order to effectively evaluate the balancing development of China’s economy, society and environment, this study integrates various statistical methodologies to design a robust new sustainability metrics framework and indicator set that covers the economic, environmental, social and institutional aspects of sustainability for Chinese cities.

Our first stage of work resulted in a publication of a joint white paper which was released during CCIEE’s 4th Global Think Tank Summit in June 2015, and we officially launched the first annual ranking in Beijing in December 2017 and at Columbia University in January 2018.

Our joint work will complement decision-making in sustainability policy and our broader research on sustainability metrics. It will also promote healthy and sustainable development of the Chinese economy, provide a unique example and model for other countries, and improve mutual understanding among different countries on sustainable development. Our first stage of work has resulted in a publication of a joint white paper which was released during CCIEE’s 4th Global Think Tank Summit at the end of June 2015, and a press conference was held during the Summit on the collaborative project and its preliminary work.

 

Learn about our Completed Projects here.