Have ESG ratings hit the Polish market?
ESG ratings are all the rage these days, especially in the Polish banking sector. But there is still no one-size-fits-all methodology supervised by, for example, the European Banking Association. Instead, multiple rating institutions such as MSCI, Morningstar Sustainalytics, S&P Global and Sustainable Fitch, assess companies on their environmental, corporate governance and social attributes.
Stock exchanges around the world are strongly committed to promoting sustainable development, and so it is increasingly common to publish indexes of ESG-related companies in their daily operations. In Poland, as of 3 September 2019, there is the WIG-ESG index (replacing the RESPECT Index), which brings together companies included in the WIG20 and WIG40 indices carrying out activities related to corporate governance, environmental and social principles. The index is largely based on ESG rankings.
There is no single agency that has universal research methods and the market for such agencies is not regulated. This absence of top-down regulation means there are many research agencies on the market (more than 600) assessing companies' corporate governance, product management, human capital management, privacy, data security, business ethics and integration of financial and ESG aspects. The various agencies may arrive at drastically different assessments.
On 13 June 2023, the European Commission presented a proposal on a Regulation on transparency and integrity of ESG rating activities, as part of its renewed sustainable finance strategy launched in 2021. In summer 2023, the Loan Market Association published a consultation on a voluntary code of conduct for ESG ratings and data product providers.
Banks and ratings
The banks also participate in the assessments in order to obtain ESG ratings. Several Polish banks participated in the survey conducted by Morningstar Sustainalytics (the lower the rating, the better the company's ESG activities), including mBank S.A., with a score of 14.8/100 in 2022, Bank Ochrony Środowiska S.A., with a rating of 14.2/100 in 2022, PKO Bank Polski S.A., with a rating of 23.5/100 in 2023, and BNP Paribas Bank Polska S.A., with a rating of 10.9/100 in 2022.
Sustainable Fitch is another agency that has been active in ESG risk assessment in the Polish banking sector. The agency has assessed, among others, ING Bank Śląski S.A. and Bank Gospodarstwa Krajowego, which achieved a rating of 2/5 (again, the lower the rating, the better the ESG activity).
Sustainability and climate support are among the priorities that banks have set for themselves. In addition to introducing products intended to support social responsibility like green mortgages and climate neutrality, the banking sector is betting on demonstrating its ESG activities through the ESG ratings. Looking at these few examples, it is safe to say that the Polish banking sector is more and more willing to reach for ecological and responsible solutions. This should be good news for everyone.