User-generated Sustainability Ratings

April 12, 2009
  • Aron Cramer portrait

    Aron Cramer

    President and CEO, BSR

A new rating system for company sustainability performance, Scryve, came across my desktop today.

This new service promises users the chance to build sustainability rankings according to the topics that are most important to them.

Such tools are almost certain to proliferate, drawing on fast-growing interest in Web 2.0 tools. And as product transparency and traceability advance—as they almost certainly will—this kind of ranking might go from macro (company by company) to micro (product by product, workplace by workplace, even use by use). In a world where Yelp! is now a favored means of checking out restaurants and other businesses, why wouldn't we want to see user-generated rankings and tools to extended to sustainability?

Well, there may be two reasons.

First, it's hard to know whether the baseline information provided is accurate. For example, Scryve provides links to a handful of sites as information resources. This is a useful tool for people looking to access information on which to base their ratings, but without knowing how comprehensive the perspectives are, results could be skewed. In fact, maybe that’s the point—skew ratings to a user’s own interests. For example, a colleague did a quick check of Yahoo! on Scryve and found no mention of its (serious and interesting) work on human rights over the past couple of years, instead finding information pointing to its shortcomings (which the company has acknowledged).

Second, in a world where companies buckle under the weight of requests from ratings agencies and indices, it's not altogether clear that we need more rankings of any kind. Tools such as these offer micro-rankings that mean a lot to those using it but can provide little direction to companies trying to generate sustainable products and services to a fragmenting marketplace. The open question then, is whether services like this will build—or fragment, and therefore slow down—market demand for sustainability.

Regardless, this effort and others like it will certainly grow. Figuring out how to weave them into a coherent and thriving eco-system is our collective challenge.

Let’s talk about how BSR can help you to transform your business and achieve your sustainability goals.

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