The Corporate Citizenship Project Asks ISS to Clarify Apparent Decision Not to Downgrade Russia's ESG Rating

The Iowa-based think tank is asking proxy advisor Institutional Shareholder Services ("ISS") to explain the decision in an open letter 

DES MOINES, Iowa, April 7, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- The Corporate Citizenship Project (, a think-tank focused on a data-driven approach to corporate governance issues, today penned an open letter to Institutional Shareholder Services ("ISS") CEO Gary Retelny regarding the apparent decision on the part of ISS to not downgrade Russia's Environmental, Social, Governance ("ESG") rating below a "C Minus", leaving Russia's ESG score unchanged since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

The letter reads as follows:

Dear Mr. Retelny,

On behalf of The Corporate Citizenship Project, I am asking you to clarify the decision on the part of ISS to not lower the ESG rating for Russia after its invasion of Ukraine. 

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is not consistent with ESG goals.

Environmentally, the destruction caused by the invasion has caused destruction to the natural environment. Meanwhile, the reckless Russian decision to shell a nuclear power plant risked causing another Chernobyl-like environmental catastrophe.

Socially, the invasion has cost the lives of thousands of innocent civilians and created a refugee crisis. The Russian alleged war crimes that are coming to light in the city of Bucha indicate the wanton brutality of the invasion and the social ills it cost.

Governance has also suffered from the invasion. Putin's decree shielding leased Russian commercial airplanes from seizure by their lawful owners as well as his public consideration of seizing the assets of departing western companies indicate a troubling situation on corporate governance. 

We are therefore troubled by ISS's apparent decision to leave Russia's ESG rating unchanged. 

We would like you to provide us with answers to the following questions:

Question 1
Has ISS has taken any money from Kremlin-affiliated public companies like Gazprom, Lukoil, and Rosneft? If so, how much and for what services?

Question 2
Have you or other ISS executives met with any Russian oligarchs or government officials? If so, what was discussed?

Question 3 
Can you explain why state owned or affiliated Russian companies are given better ESG ratings than western companies with seemingly far better ESG records? Gazprom, for example, has a "C Minus" rating while Rosneft has a "C" rating in spite of seemingly terrible environmental records and leadership who are currently under western sanctions. 

Question 4 
Have ISS parent companies Genstar Capital or Deutsche Boerse influenced, or attempted to influence, ISS ESG ratings of Russia or Russian companies? 

In light of the gravity of this crisis, we urge you to respond to these questions no later than Thursday April 14th. 


Ghada Salahuddin 
President & CEO
The Corporate Citizenship Project

Ghada Salahuddin, President &CEO of The Corporate Citizenship Project, issued the following statement regarding the letter:

"Putin's evil and cruel invasion of Ukraine has cost the lives of thousands of innocent people, a refugee crisis, and come close to causing a global environmental catastrophe. For ISS to apparently refuse to downgrade Russia's ESG rating and the rating of government-affiliated companies again calls into question the integrity of ISS's ESG ratings. Investors and corporate clients of ISS deserve answers from Gary Retelny on this seeming lapse in judgement."

Ghada Salahuddin
[email protected] 

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SOURCE Corporate Citizenship Project