Consistent with our mission as a purpose-built, research-driven sustainable finance platform, Cornerstone Capital Group engages with asset owners, asset managers, and companies to help them integrate environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations into their capital markets activities. The specific objective of our corporate consulting business is to encourage companies to adopt best disclosure practices that enable capital markets participants to evaluate ESG practices in a way that improves investment decision-making.
Our corporate consulting business affords us the opportunity to engage with corporations about best practices in corporate governance and sustainability. For companies that have already emerged as ESG leaders, we support their efforts to strengthen their existing commitment and communicate it to the capital markets. For companies that are newer to ESG, our partnership with them may help initiate an internal dialogue about the potential value of ESG to the corporation and to frame key questions about ESG risks and opportunities.
While there is a vast continuum of progress across the private sector, there are numerous examples of corporate behavior that is short-sighted, dishonest and harmful, including some “corporate responsibility” efforts that critics reasonably judge to be meaningless or manipulative. Some are concerned that shareholder or stakeholder engagement with certain companies accomplishes little other than to legitimize corporate public relations campaigns.
Mindful of these concerns, we have established the following principles to ensure that our corporate engagements are consistent with our mission and values.
1. Cornerstone Capital Group seeks to build trust among all stakeholders in the capital markets. This can only be achieved through tolerance for imperfection, sincere intention to overcome barriers to collaboration, and honesty about the challenges inherent in bringing this about.
2. Cornerstone Capital Group believes that corporate behavior can be evaluated for its sustainability or its ethics, but people and companies cannot be judged to be exclusively “good” or “bad.” Companies differ in their overall contribution to societal well-being, but all companies have the potential for improvement.
3. Consistent with our mission, Cornerstone Capital Group will consider engagement with any company or organization that is interested in partnering with us. We will not refuse the opportunity to engage with companies based on past behavior or public perception. Where the company is starting matters less than their vision for the future.
4. The format of Cornerstone Capital Group’s engagement may include anything from a private dialogue to providing long-term consulting support to their capital markets strategies. The nature and scope of our engagement will depend on the opportunity for corporate change, our alignment with the company’s intentions, and our business interests.
5. Cornerstone Capital Group will collaborate with companies to create objectives for engagement, which may include: to sensitize management to stakeholder concerns, including those of their “harshest critics;” to explore potential solutions; and to assess and provide input on a company’s own self-assessment and public disclosure. The overriding goal of all our engagements is to encourage robust discussion of material issues within corporations and open, transparent engagement with external stakeholders.
6. We will continually monitor the progress of our engagements with companies to evaluate the tangible progress that is being made. Measures of tangible progress will differ by company and by industry, but may include transparency in disclosure, operational excellence and/or strategic transformation. We will also consider the company’s corporate governance, including management accountability and incentive structures, and the consistency of the company’s sustainability efforts across the organization.
7. Cornerstone Capital Group will be careful not to be co-opted for “greenwashing” purposes. We will provide practical support and assistance only if we determine that our engagement partners are committed both to continual improvement towards corporate excellence and to transparency, including regarding challenges that they face. We may conclude engagements if we become concerned about the commitment of our partner in this regard.
8. Cornerstone Capital Group will respect our partners’ confidentiality concerns, and, particularly in the initial stages of engagement, insist upon it ourselves. When appropriate, we will allow our partners to publicize their progress. We will allow our name to be used only in conjunction with efforts that are consistent with our mission and values.
Erika Karp, Founder and CEO of Cornerstone Capital Group.
John Wilson, Head of Corporate Governance, Engagement & Research at Cornerstone Capital Group.