Shirley Lu has always been curious about how firms integrate social and environmental goals into their business operations, especially how they measure the impact of those efforts. Shortly after starting her PhD program at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, she began reading through firms’ corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports, trying to understand the data. To get more clarity, she informally chatted with companies’ sustainability officers. When she asked how they measure CSR, their answer surprised her: Ah, measurement is a big problem.
To tackle this complex issue, Lu turned to Chicago Booth’s Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation to build a database that makes CSR metrics widely—and transparently—available. This work is timely as investor interest in companies pursuing environmental, social, and governance (ESG) objectives soars.
“What firms do in terms of corporate social responsibility can have incredible impacts on the world. But if we really want to know that impact, we have to be able to measure it,” said Lu. “Those metrics have been a black box. I’m hoping to shed some light.”