The Data Has Spoken: Linking Leadership Diversity to Improved Credit Quality and ESG Ratings

As a company providing global Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion data and ratings, Denominator believes that leveraging DEI data can enhance ESG transparency and success. Data serves as a powerful facilitator for making informed, fact-based decisions, particularly addressing the often-overlooked social aspect within the ESG framework. 

The importance of DEI data becomes evident in three important reports released this year, showcasing its instrumental role in understanding organizations’ success within social responsibility and governance. 

 It was only earlier this year, when Denominator’s data played a key role in two reports created by Moody´s Investors Service, which helped shed light on the relationship between leadership diversity and credit quality.  

The first report studied gender diversity on boards of 3000 globally rated Moody´s companies, highlighting a notable and positive correlation, especially in North America and Europe.  

The second Moody´s report delved into the racial diversity of North American corporations, demonstrating that companies with that achieved higher credit ratings also tend to display greater levels of racial diversity in both board and executive leadership roles. 

A recent article by Ethan Moon, published in Harvard Business Review, shows that the data is displaying similar connections as shared in Moody’s reports.  

Moon’s research reveals a strong link between companies with diverse boards and their success in consistently achieving higher environmental ratings from MSCI, a leading ESG data provider. 

 While the environmental aspects often take center stage, Moon’s comprehensive analysis, drawing from 15 years of data from the S&P 1500, unveils a correlation that emphasizes the important role of governance within the ESG framework. Acknowledging the equal importance of social and governance components in promoting responsible business practices and enhancing accountability 

Better DEI performance is better for ESG goals: 

The data shows that a 10-percentage point increase in the proportion of female directors on a board correlates with a 17.5% rise in a firm’s environmental rating. A similar increase in the proportion of Black directors leads to an 18.4% boost in MSCI environmental scores. Moon states that this empirical evidence highlights what many had believed but lacked fact-based data to confirm: That board diversity is not just a matter of representation but that it has a tangible and positive impact on a firm’s environmental sustainability as well.    

A common theme that emerged from Moon´s interviews with business leaders, in the research, is the influence of diverse directors’ lived experiences. Directors from underrepresented backgrounds bring unique perspectives that can profoundly affect ESG discussions. This diversity of thought and experience leads to a more comprehensive approach to sustainability issues and problem-solving.   

The impact on stakeholders: 

The implications of these findings impact several stakeholders:

  • Shareholders: The research underlines that DEI is about more than just diversity; it’s about embracing the advantages it brings. Shareholders can play a crucial role in fostering diversity at the leadership level to promote sustainable business practices, ultimately enhancing ESG goals and success. 
  •  Business Leaders: To harness the potential of diversity, business leaders must actively support and empower minority directors, giving them the space to champion the issues they are passionate about. Minority leaders may need additional support to ensure their voices are heard and their contributions acknowledged. 
  •  Regulators: Policymakers and regulators could consider measures to promote board diversity, like mandates in other countries. By encouraging diversity, regulators can accelerate overall sustainability within the private sector and ensure that minority directors have a strong and influential presence in the boardroom. 

In conclusion, the findings highlight a significant opportunity for stakeholders to improve both leadership diversity and sustainability performance. The synergy between diversity and ESG ratings also presents a compelling case for making DEI a central pillar of any organization’s agenda. The importance of DEI is also echoed in the correlations of DEI in Moody’s reports between Race/Ethnicity and Gender performance and credit risk ratings, as well as good governance.  

By including more diversity, companies can not only enhance their ESG ratings, credit risk rating and governance but also contribute to more sustainable and responsible business practices.  

Denominator’s global DEI data is committed to supporting organizations on their path to achieving greater success in their DEI initiatives and therein ESG performance. 

Contact us at to learn more about our global DEI data and ratings or fill in the form below. 

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