EUROPE – European banks and insurance companies diverge wildly when it comes to the reporting of corporate social responsibility (CSR), according to French research provider Novethic.

A study of the reporting of major European banks and insurance companies shows that they share little common ground in their view of CSR, an approach that they take voluntarily.

Nearly 50 points separate the best and worst scores in the ranking.

The six leading companies in the ranking – Generali (Italy), Crédit Agricole (France), BNP Paribas (France), Société Générale (France), Rabobank (Netherlands), Aviva (United Kingdom) and Deutsche Bank (Germany) – provide reporting that is responsible overall, although quality and details vary.

Some firms home in on the environment, while others focus on governance, but their CSR performance is difficult to benchmark without shared indicators or scopes.

The financial sector has a low direct environmental impact and offers its employees good social benefits.

As a result, two-thirds of the banks and insurance companies reviewed highlight these topics.

Most publish figures on their water, paper and energy consumption or direct CO2 emissions.

Nearly two-thirds even include targets to reduce their environmental footprint.

Due to pressure from NGOs demanding that the financial sector take environmental criteria into account in their investment policies, half of the banks and insurance companies in the sample acknowledge their accountability for the environmental consequences of the businesses they finance.

This could eventually influence their investment selection models, but, for the time being, only one bank mentions a target for measuring the CO2 emissions caused by its businesses, according to the Novethic study.

And while banks and insurance companies publish a range of information, on the whole, they do not meet the expectations of their stakeholders, despite hopes that the financial crisis would impact sector practices.

Executive compensation, for example, still lacks transparency, and tax havens are only discussed by three out of the 31 companies surveyed.

The study can be found here.

In other news, Natixis Asset Management (Natixis AM) has launched a responsible investment partnership with the Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership (CPSL), hosted at the University of Cambridge in the UK, to explore and promote sustainable investment and more responsible behaviour by financial firms in Europe and internationally.

The partnership will cover an active, research-based collaboration involving nine joint publications over the next three years.

These reports plan to analyse how sustainable development issues, such as climate change, biodiversity and human rights, can affect current business models and enable the success of new solution providers.

Natixis AM analysts and Cambridge academics will work together to deliver evidence-based recommendations on how to invest sustainably.

The papers will be made available publicly with a view to driving better investment decisions across the sector. 

The second part of the collaboration will be an Investors Leaders Group to be housed at CPSL and chaired by Natixis AM's deputy chief executive and head of responsible investment division, Philippe Zaouati.

The group, which will be convened next year, aims to bring leading investment professionals at chief executive level together to define how to encourage deeper integration of environmental and social considerations into investment decisions and promote increased engagement by shareholders.