Why Responsible Investing is in our DNA

Posted on January 24, 2017

Michael Jantzi
Michael Jantzi
Founder of Sustainalytics

– Celebrating Sustainalytics’ 25th anniversary.

This year Sustainalytics turns 25. It is an important event to celebrate, but, for me, the true value of such milestones lie in the fact that they give you pause to reflect. While Sustainalytics is a success story, it doesn’t mean we didn’t have some peaks and valleys. At any rate, I ask myself how we were able to create a company that has built responsible investing into its very DNA.

How did it all start? I remember listening to a radio interview on ethical investing early on as I was embarking on a financial services career. The idea that you could use investment capital to influence corporate behavior was an epiphany and it wasn’t much later that I, with the help and support of my (now) wife, Amy, founded Michael Jantzi Research Associates (MJRA) in our apartment in 1992. Since then it’s been an exciting journey, building a strong team – really, a family of 300+ people who share a common mission – and developing actionable ESG research for institutional investors.

There are too many good memories to mention here, but certainly two important developments were the 2009 merger with Amsterdam-based Sustainalytics, which gave us our name, and the decision to expand our technological capabilities by acquiring Share Dimension in Romania in 2011. When I look back at those days, I am filled with gratitude as I think of the people that have helped make Sustainalytics what it is today – the people without whom it would never have been possible.

A spirit of friendship and collaboration has defined Sustainalytics since its inception. We are good at bringing different people and organizations together, because we are a purpose-driven company with an inspiring mission. That mission is to provide investors and companies with the insights they need to make more informed decisions that will lead to a more just and sustainable global economy. Even today, our collaborative spirit is helping us to grow in an increasingly competitive landscape as evidenced by our successful recent partnerships with Morningstar and Glass Lewis.

Another key ingredient of Sustainalytics’ success was an early realization of the importance of having global coverage underpinned by local expertise. As a management team, we were committed to realizing this objective and, despite many passionate debates along the way, we could rely on our shareholders who remained committed to our mission and supportive of our initiatives. This long term vision fostered an entrepreneurial spirit that enabled our rapid global expansion, most recently, to Japan and Australia.

When I look at Sustainalytics today, it feels surreal when I think back to when we started out. Back then, when people asked me what my greatest fear was, I would always joke, “being hit by a bus.” This is because every time I went to see the bank or an investor, they would ask me, “What would happen to the company if you get hit by a bus?”

Today, Sustainalytics is much bigger than me and it has been for many, many years. We have more than 300 employees who all play an important role in what Sustainalytics is today. Looking back at the last 25 years, I am proud to say that this has been our single greatest success factor: Being able to bring together a diverse group of like-minded individuals and uniting them behind a common vision.

So how did we build responsible investing into our DNA? Responsible investing is in Sustainalytics’ DNA, because it is in the DNA of its people.

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