Companies’ financial performance is a matter of public record and often headline news. But how do we learn about their environmental performance or human rights record?
Environmental, social, and governance data — ESG for short — is non-financial data that tells us what a company’s impact is on us and our environment. Despite its potential to help solve global problems, most ESG data is hidden behind paywalls because of its commercial application by financial investors and institutions.
Over ten years ago, WikiRate’s founder Philipp Hirche set out to change this and transform how ESG data was shared and used to increase sustainability and equity worldwide. That was the genesis of WikiRate, and here is the story so far.
Here’s where we started
What if, at the click of a button, you could compare how much companies pay their staff…, subcontractors…., or directors? Or how serious it was about improving its sustainability record in its supply chain?
A place where anyone, from a politician to a prospective employee, could find authoritative and conclusive information about a company’s environmental, social, and governance behavior.
This was the idea on which Philipp Hirche founded WikiRate. Creating the ability to pose and answer questions about companies’ commitments and actions. Not just by a select few, but by anyone: he wanted experts and individuals to be able to contribute information, like a Wikipedia for ESG data.
Having seen Wikipedia’s success, he was convinced that WikiRate’s open data, open source, and open participation approach would ultimately offer the broadest data set of the highest quality.
Thus WikiRate was born with the vision of a world where everyone can understand and shape company impacts.
The big idea: how it would work
The idea was there, but much was still needed:
- Money to help build a platform,
- A model to structure the data. And most importantly,
- A community to contribute and analyze data.
The European Commission agreed WikiRate’s vision was vital and could fill a critical accountability gap. Seed funding followed in 2013.
The data model was next. There were three essential principles it needed to follow:
1. Source transparency: To judge data reliability, you must know where it comes from. Many commercial ESG data platforms keep their source material a secret.
2. Open-data principles: tear down barriers preventing people from getting their hands on good bulk data. This meant building and maintaining a platform based on open-data principles.
3. Community-based principles: Many hands make light work. Only a dedicated community could source and analyze the data. Including individuals and building organizational partnerships to collect and analyze the ESG data, and tell the stories the world needs to hear, would be crucial.
But would the idea work?
Challenges and Successes
At first, people were skeptical that the idea could work. Many said (and still say), “No one will fund a platform that gives away the data for free” and “how will you make a profit?”.
But successes started to come, and they came down to one thing: community.
Building a community made WikiRate successful at what it set out to do.
Advocacy organizations, students, experienced data researchers, and people who wanted to do good contributed to successful projects. Similarly, many organizations were looking to digitize and structure their collected data to make it more useful.
In WikiRate, they found the perfect vehicle: A place to share data with organizations working to create a more sustainable world that will benefit and multiply the impact of their hard work.
Sharing data on WikiRate is often powerful and transformative for other organizations’ impact. In many cases, it’s the final piece of the puzzle; that’s why at WikiRate, we say ‘sharing is caring.’
This sharing has led to new tools and deeper insights:
- Beyond Compliance is a living data dashboard assessing modern slavery reporting across business sectors. Visitors can track and analyze companies’ modern slavery reporting performance from the garment, hospitality, and finance sectors.
- The Fashion Checker tool has answered millions of consumer queries about workers’ working conditions and wages supplying major fashion brands.
Onwards and upward to the next chapter. Our team and community are ready for the next challenge and relish the chance to make companies better together.
With a growing team and community WikiRate is ready to scale up its impact.
WikiRate is here for individuals to meet, learn and connect. Check out forthcoming training events to join projects and make your mark.