ESG Indices Close the Sustainability Gap

ESG Indices Close the Sustainability Gap

ESG is making headlines everywhere. Andreas Henke, Senior Product Manager in the Financial Information business unit of SIX, explains why universal guidelines and independent indices like the new ESG indices from SIX are important – now and even more so in the future.

In a guest opinion article on, Ross Gerber criticizes the composition of certain ESG funds. ESG stands for Environmental, Social, and corporate Governance issues. The CEO and chairman of Gerber Kawasaki Wealth and Investment Management holds the view that many ESG funds consistently also include companies that hardly or only partially distinguish themselves favorably through their environmental and social actions or corporate governance practices.

Far be it from me to judge whether a company that, for example, creates lots of jobs and promotes a culture of diversity should be included in an ESG fund if it thereby offsets a large environmental footprint. And I will leave it up to others to decide whether some ESG funds are really duping investors, as Ross Gerber somewhat stridently puts it. The headline of his article, though, clearly shows that there are different points of view on ESG.

A Need for Guidelines

Last year alone, according to the Zug Institute of Financial Services, the number of sustainable mutual funds approved for distribution in Switzerland jumped from 595 to 777 and their combined assets under management increased from CHF 198 billion to CHF 316 billion. There accordingly is a great need for universal guidelines regarding ESG criteria. With the new ESG indices from SIX we aim to establish solid, independent benchmarks for the Swiss bond and equity market.

We use data from Inrate, an independent Swiss sustainability rating agency, to calculate the indices. Inrate’s ESG impact ratings measure the positive and negative effects that individual issuers of debt and equity securities – companies, governments, institutions, and public entities – have on our environment and society.

Issuers with an ESG impact rating of C or lower and issuers that derive 5% or more of their revenue from adult entertainment, alcohol, defense, gambling, genetic engineering, nuclear energy, thermal coal, or tobacco are excluded from our ESG indices. The indices likewise rule out issuers that generate revenue from oil sands extraction or which appear on the exclusion list published by the Swiss Association for Responsible Investments.

The new bond and equity indices from SIX enable investors to focus on issuers that act and operate sustainably according to Inrate. The Swiss Bond Index (SBI) gets a sustainable counterpart with the SBI ESG. The Swiss Performance Index (SPI) forms the basis for the SPI ESG and SPI ESG Weighted, which close the sustainability gap in the Swiss equity market.