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There is a clear relationship between the strength of a country’s ESG profile and its creditworthiness. From this perspective, it’s interesting to see that according to RobecoSAM, Ireland has caught up with Germany with regard to sustainability measures. The asset manager evaluates 60 countries in its yearly sustainability framework on a range of 17 environmental, social and governance factors. The April 2015 update of this ranking shows some interesting trends.
• Sweden, Switzerland and Norway remain the top 3 performers
Sweden, Switzerland and Norway are maintaining a firm lead over the other countries. All three countries have consistently achieved high scores for most of the 17 ESG indicators. The gap between the top 3 and the United Kingdom – which is holding onto the fourth place – has increased slightly.
• Ireland on the rise
Ireland is impressing, rising from the 9th to tie with Germany in 6th place in the ranking. The country’s ESG score is almost back to its pre-crisis level. This improvement is being driven by decisive reforms that have been implemented in the last couple of years and are contributing to a decline in political risk. Ireland’s rise in the ESG rankings coincides with an acceleration of economic growth. With the GDP expected to rise by 3.5% in 2015, the country is the fastest-growing EU economy.
• BRIC countries coming in low due to high corruption
The BRIC countries are among the 10 worst performing countries – except for Brazil, which ranks 38th. High levels of corruption are common within these countries. On the Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index – one of the measures used to determine the sustainability scores – India ranks 85th, China 100th and Russia 136th. China and Russia have very low scores for governance factors, while the environmental and social performance of India lags behind that of its BRIC peers.
• The Philippines stands out among low income countries
With a clear rise in its sustainability score (+0.66 to 4.51 since September 2013), the Philippines has climbed to 44th place, which is the highest among low income-countries. A relatively strong governance structure sets it apart from comparable countries, as well as other emerging economies like Russia and Venezuela. While the Philippines scores well on specific social issues such as child labor and gender equality, the country has a relatively high environmental risk due to its high exposure to natural disasters like typhoons, cyclones, earthquakes and volcano eruptions.