Sweden is still the world’s most sustainable country, while the UK faces a stability threat due to the Brexit vote, and the refugee crisis is a major global risk, according to the latest RobecoSAM assessment.
Its biannual Country Sustainability Ranking (CSR) assesses the environmental, social and governance (ESG) credentials of 62 countries – 22 from developed and 40 from emerging markets. It aims to find the key risk drivers for investors in government bonds issued by these countries along with potential threats to domestic company equities.
“The sustainability profile in many countries has come under increasing strain, partly as a result of persistent economic weakness, growing fiscal pressures, and – in particular – mounting political risks,” says Max Schieler, Senior Country Risk Specialist at RobecoSAM. “Among political risks, the expansion of conflict in the Middle East and North Africa and the ensuing refugee crisis have become a particular concern. These developments have of course not remained without ramifications for country and sovereign risks in general and currently show little sign of reversing anytime soon.”
Notable risers in the sustainability rankings since the last CSR update in October 2015 are Australia and Ireland, while Switzerland closed its gap with Sweden, which remains in the top spot for ESG scores. Among emerging markets, the best improvements were seen in Kazakhstan and Jamaica.
Notable fallers were perhaps not surprisingly Brazil and Venezuela, both of which are experiencing major political upheavals, though Qatar and Kuwait suffered the worst falls due to rising instability and corruption, and the sustainability scores for China and Indonesia also deteriorated. Nigeria remains bottom.
The prospect of a Brexit also figured in the analysis, though it has not yet affected the UK’s overall ranking as the world’s fourth most sustainable country. “As there is no precedent for such an event, the economic and financial impact is difficult to assess and any projection is therefore based on a high degree of speculation at this stage, in addition to the fact that some prognoses might also be politically biased,” says Schieler.