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An analysis of the methodologies adopted by CSR rating agencies

Khaled Saadaoui (EM Normandie Business School, Métis Lab, Le Havre, France)
Teerooven Soobaroyen (Essex Business School, University of Essex, Colchester, UK)

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal

ISSN: 2040-8021

Article publication date: 19 December 2017

Issue publication date: 20 February 2018




This paper aims to analyse the similarities and differences in the methodologies adopted by corporate social responsibility (CSR) rating agencies.


The authors gather secondary and primary evidences of practices from selected agencies on the methodologies and criteria they rely upon to assess a firm’s CSR performance.


The authors find not only evidence of similarities in the methodologies adopted by the CSR rating agencies (e.g. the use of environment, social and governance themes, exclusion criteria, adoption of positive criteria, client/“customised” input, quantification) but also several elements of differences, namely, in terms of the thresholds for exclusion, transparent vs confidential approach, industry-specific ratings and weights for each dimension. Drawing from Sandberg et al.’s (2009) conceptualisations, the authors tentatively argue that this mixed picture may reflect competing organisational pressures to adopt a differentiation approach at the strategic and practical levels whilst recognising, and incorporating, the “globalising” tendencies of the CSR business at the terminological levels.

Social implications

Although these data are based on a relatively small number of agencies, the findings and analysis convey some implications for users of CSR ratings and policymakers, particularly in light of the recent Paris 2016 Agreement on Climate Change and the increased emphasis on the monitoring of social, environmental and governance performance.


The authors contribute to the literature by highlighting how key intermediate rating organisations operationalise notions of CSR.



The authors would like to thank all the CSR rating agencies that accepted to take part in this study as well as the Interreg Project for its financial contribution. They also would like to express their gratitude towards the reviewers for their valuable comments and suggestions which have enhanced the quality of the final paper.


Saadaoui, K. and Soobaroyen, T. (2018), "An analysis of the methodologies adopted by CSR rating agencies", Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, Vol. 9 No. 1, pp. 43-62.



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Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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