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Assessing the ESG Performance of Global Infrastructure Companies


By Tom Abrams, CFA  |  December 20, 2022

This article examines how ESG scores have evolved over the past five years for a global listed infrastructure universe. Many asset allocation models recommend a ~5% weighting to infrastructure as these “real assets” are generally good hedges against inflation.

We review FactSet Truvalue Insight scores, Sustainalytics Risk scores, and Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB) scores in our assessment, which shows overall and relative improvement over time in several areas. While each scoring system considers different factors, we consider all three scoring viewpoints to paint a more complete picture of the evolving ESG situation for this asset class.

FactSet Truvalue

For our sample universe, we are using the FactSet Workstation to generate a list of 154 equities from the Global Listed Infrastructure Organization (GLIO). The Truvalue Insight score measures a company’s longer-term ESG track record, equivalent to an ESG rating. These scores are less sensitive to daily events and reflect the enduring performance record of a company over time.

Truvalue’s special sauce is to scrape over 100,000 vetted sources for commentary on ESG relevant topics. Its scores do not rely on what companies report about themselves but instead on topics discussed by stakeholders and published by local and national news, industry reports, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). One can imagine how certain material items rise in importance periodically and then fade while others continue rising. These items can be either positive or negative developments that indicate when a company may be improving or digressing in ESG performance.

The following figure summarizes FactSet’s Truvalue Insight scores for the past five years and 2022’s top infrastructure companies. Darker green means more positive scores in our infrastructure universe. Scores tend to be sticky in that firms remain more positive or more negative through time so noting score changes through time could be interesting. These scores can be downloaded into Microsoft Excel from the FactSet Workstation.

Truvalue Insight Scores for 2022’s Top 20 Scoring Infrastructure Companies
Source: FactSet, Truvalue (data as of December 12, 2022)

Again, the Truvalue Insight score is not a traditional ESG score based on company documents but instead uses external sources to measure the enduring performance record of a company over time. In this case, the score denotes that news on a firm relating to material ESG items is currently measuring positive. Sorting our sample infrastructure universe of 154 companies by country, region, sector, industry, and developing/emerging markets reveals several interesting points.

  • Global transportation firms (toll roads, airports, marine ports), energy pipelines, and communications infrastructure (towers, satellites) tend to reflect lower scores
  • Renewables tend to have higher scores
  • Utilities are slightly above average across all infrastructure though within utilities the scores are mixed with gas utilities lower on average
  • Of the 154 companies, 133 score above 50—the median for all companies—suggesting the infrastructure universe is scoring relatively well against all companies
  • The average score across all listed infrastructure companies has risen from 59.1 to 61.1, a small increase that indicates these companies are not losing any ground relative to the universe of all companies
  • The slight improvement in overall infrastructure Insight scores has been driven by improvements in the emerging markets rather than the developing markets
  • Across broad sectors, the improvement for all infrastructure has been driven primarily by better scores in the energy pipeline and renewables areas whereas utilities have had flat average scores over the past five years


A scan of the ESG Risk Indicator scores from Sustainalytics—which are accessible via the FactSet Workstation and based on company-reported progress and metrics—suggests the broad space has improved its performance over the past three years.

  • The percentage of firms in the negligible or low risk categories has improved from 30% to 56% over the past three years
  • The percentage of firms in the high or severe risk categories has declined from 41% to 29%
  • While the score distribution across utilities is broad, utilities do make up most of the high and severe risk scores
  • In the Sustainalytics Risk scores, transportation and energy pipelines and storage tend to score well


GRESB scores are focused on real assets (infrastructure and real estate) and seem tilted toward “E.” They also benefit from greater participation in ESG reporting and behavior transparency. We see a significant improvement over the past five years in the GRESB scores. Of the 154 companies in the GLIO universe, the number of companies receiving “A” or “B” grades (scale A to E) has increased from 33% five years ago to 67% based on 2021 company filings.

Top “A” and “B” Scorers in the GRESB Infrastructure Universe
Source: FactSet, GRESB (data as of December 12, 2022)

As noted, GRESB scores benefit when a company provides more information and transparency. In the overall infrastructure universe, GRESB scores have improved from 47.4 to 64.2 over the past five years as more companies respond to GRESB’s efforts to provide better information. In addition, many scores in the past two years have improved in part because the specific standards are more explicit in metric and materiality; companies simply have a better chance of measured progress when there’s consistency in the goal.

Key areas where there are more distinct goals to speak to recently are biodiversity, air pollution, and water quality metrics, for example. Offsetting progress in the overall score has been the entry of new companies into the aggregation, which have tended to pull down the averages slightly.

Unlike the other ESG scoring frameworks mentioned, in the GRESB framework, developed market companies have improved their scores on average from 47.4 to 64.2, while emerging market companies have not kept pace. Overall scores for emerging markets have improved but less significantly from 44.1 to 51.5. Emerging market companies tend to be smaller companies that have less developed ESG staffing and market standards, less money to do measurement, and generally less interest from managements and investors to date.

ESG is still seen by many in emerging economies as a developing world concept at the company level. The difference between developing and emerging markets in terms of participation and transparency leads the call for “entry level” standards for emerging countries that would differ from those for developed markets.

Within the GRESB scores on the GLIO universe, we have averaged the scores by broad industry subsets. The most improvement has been seen in the communication infrastructure, utility, and energy pipeline areas with renewables and transportation improved but less so.

Average GRESB Scores Overall and by Averaged Subset
Source: FactSet, GRESB (data as of December 12, 2022)

The GRESB scoring system has encouraged reporting and transparency to help its constituent infrastructure companies improve their awareness and measurement of material ESG topics. With general success in this effort, the GRESB standards will be modified in early 2023 to converge toward developing international standards primarily in Europe, which could make many scores in the 2023 survey decline as the bar is raised. Also, next year, GRESB is working with member companies to develop more understanding of ESG dynamics at the asset level and inviting more private infrastructure companies to participate in GRESB’s scoring system.


In the past few years, listed infrastructure companies have generally been able to improve their ESG scores in a variety of scoring regimes—both on an absolute basis and relative to the universe of all companies. The global transition to net zero will require between $3 trillion and $5 trillion of new investment per year, and the infrastructure area should see a healthy percentage of this spending. How the world handles changing ESG standards and the need to finance and spend large amounts of money should impact infrastructure scores for some time to come.

This blog post is for informational purposes only. The information contained in this blog post is not legal, tax, or investment advice. FactSet does not endorse or recommend any investments and assumes no liability for any consequence relating directly or indirectly to any action or inaction taken based on the information contained in this article.


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Tom Abrams, CFA

Associate Director, Deep Sector Content

Mr. Tom Abrams is the Associate Director for deep sector content at FactSet. In this role, he is responsible for integrating additional energy data onto the FactSet workstation, including drilling, production, cost, regulatory, and price information. Prior, he spent over 30 years working at sell- and buy-side firms, most recently as the sell-side midstream analyst at Morgan Stanley. He also held positions at Columbia Management, Dreyfus, Credit Suisse First Boston, Oppenheimer, and Lord Abbett. Mr. Abrams earned an MBA from the Cornell Graduate School of Business and holds a BA in economics from Hamilton College. He is a CFA charterholder and holds certificates in ESG investing, sustainable investments, and real estate analysis. 


The information contained in this article is not investment advice. FactSet does not endorse or recommend any investments and assumes no liability for any consequence relating directly or indirectly to any action or inaction taken based on the information contained in this article.