Tesla: Not An Automatic Addition To The S&P 500 ESG Index

Since S&P Dow Jones Indices announced that Tesla (TSLA) would be added to the S&P 500® on Dec. 21, 2020, many investors have contacted us asking when this transformative company will become a member of the S&P 500 ESG Index, the sustainable counterpart to the S&P 500. The answer, in brief, is that Tesla will not automatically join the S&P 500 ESG Index upon its addition to the S&P 500. Instead, Tesla will be assessed during the next annual rebalance of the S&P 500 ESG Index, taking place at the end of April 2021. But even then, inclusion into the index is not assured. Whether Tesla becomes an index constituent will be determined by its sustainability performance across many criteria relative to its peers.

Tesla’s ESG Score

The main driver of whether a company is selected to join the S&P 500 ESG Index is its S&P DJI ESG Score. This score is derived from the annual Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA), which is administered by SAM, a part of S&P Global. The CSA is a highly granular, industry-specific questionnaire based on financial material ESG metrics. Insights gathered from the CSA form the backbone of the ESG score that is used to select companies added to the S&P 500 ESG Index.

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For this current assessment year, Tesla’s S&P DJI ESG Score was 22 out of 100, up 8 points from 2019’s score. This is driven by its ESG Dimension Scores, including an Environmental score of 28 (up 1 point from last year), a Social score of 6 (up 2 points), and a Governance score of 49 (up 21 points). Tesla does not fill out the CSA, so its S&P DJI ESG Score is determined based on research using publicly available information.

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Many may be surprised to see such a low overall ESG score (and Environmental score) for Tesla, given its focus on electric vehicles. Specializing in “green” products, however, does not automatically ensure that companies will score well from an overall ESG perspective. The S&P DJI ESG Score is wide-ranging in what it encompasses, as it is meant to capture a company’s broad sustainability performance.

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