SPOTT provides assessments of palm oil, timber and pulp and natural rubber producers, processors and traders on the public disclosure of their policies, operations and commitments to environmental, social and governance (ESG) best practice.

The primary aim of SPOTT assessments is to provide a measure of a company’s transparency as it relates to ESG risks.

What is transparent information?

ZSL defines transparent information as information communicated by a company via publicly available materials that are freely and readily accessible to all stakeholders. ZSL considers transparency to be a vital first step towards sustainability.

We updated the SPOTT methodology in 2019 to reflect both the type of disclosure and the level of reporting and verification available. Together, this offers greater nuance to users and therefore supports more meaningful engagement between companies and their stakeholders.

What does a company’s score mean?

A higher score on SPOTT indicates that the company is being relatively transparent about its operations, policies and commitments to ESG best practice. Some SPOTT indicators also consider the quality of policies and commitments, with higher scores awarded for more comprehensive policies. Higher scores may also reflect company reporting and externally verified information on implementation

If a company receives a high score in its SPOTT assessment, this does not necessarily mean the company is itself environmentally responsible – just that it is being more transparent in its ESG reporting than other companies with a lower score.

We encourage all companies – not just those featured on SPOTT – to make their sustainability policies and commitments publicly available. Without such transparency it is impossible for third parties to evaluate their content, and thus, assess ESG risks or hold companies accountable. SPOTT also encourages companies to regularly report on their progress towards meeting their commitments.

However, a high level of company transparency does not necessarily mean that a company is sustainable in terms of its impacts on the ground. As such, SPOTT does not directly assess the implementation of policies and commitments. 

Genuine and non-genuine score changes

SPOTT assessments rely on publicly available information. Though we take every care to capture all available information, there may be instances where we discover new information or reassess data, resulting in a non-genuine* change to a company’s score. Providing reasons for these changes helps users to identify when a company is genuinely improving:

Genuine reasons:

  • New information publicly disclosed by the company
  • Clarifications made by the company through the engagement and feedback process since the previous assessment
  • Information that was publicly available is no longer accessible during the assessment period

Non-genuine reasons:

  • Information missed but publicly available during the previous assessment period
  • Reassessment of information originally provided by the company
  • Correction of indicator framework and/or scoring criteria since the previous assessment
  • Addition of new indicators within the framework

To track trends and score changes between assessments in more detail, visit the SPOTT Dashboard.

Going further: due diligence and verification

We urge SPOTT users to perform wider due diligence on companies, using SPOTT as the starting point. Such due diligence activities could include:

  • Direct engagement with companies on missing commitments, and/or whether existing commitments are being implemented on the ground and in line with time-bound plans. SPOTT assessments can be used to identify existing commitments – including self-reporting of progress against certain policies and commitments – and to identify gaps in company policy frameworks and reporting.
  • Review of the SPOTT media monitor, which gathers reports and stories from global media sources, covering specific company activities related to SPOTT indicator categories. The media monitor appears below the latest assessment on individual company pages.
  • Review of research reports and investigations by civil society on the impacts of company (own and supplier) operations. When applicable, review SPOTT scores, media stories and reports for the companies’ suppliers.
  • Inspection of external audit reports to identify areas of non-compliance, which may include second-party audit reports (usually conducted by consultants), and independent third-party audit reports of certification schemes (e.g. FSC, RSPO).
  • Consideration of available spatial data to identify environmental risks associated with company operations (e.g. fire, deforestation, proximity of protected areas).

*based on a methodology originally developed for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

Please read our FAQs or contact us if you have further questions.