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Linda-Eling Lee

Linda-Eling Lee

Head, MSCI Sustainability Institute

As Global Head of Research for MSCI’s ESG Research group, Linda-Eling Lee oversees all ESG-related content and methodology. She leads one of the largest teams of research analysts in the world who are dedicated to identifying risks and opportunities arising from significant ESG issues. Linda received her AB from Harvard, MSt from Oxford, and PhD in Organizational Behaviour from Harvard University. Linda has published research both in management journals such as the Harvard Business Review and MIT’s Sloan Management Review, as well as in top academic peer-reviewed journals.

Research and Insights

Articles by Linda-Eling Lee

    Women on Boards and Beyond

    Podcast | Mar 8, 2024 | Linda-Eling Lee, Christina Milhomem, Gabriela de la Serna

    We have been reporting on board’s gender diversity since 2009, and while progress has undoubtedly been made, the road ahead is still long. Linda-Eling Lee from MSCI’s Sustainability Institute tells us why we started compiling this report in the first place, and how it has managed to remain relevant in 2024. Then, our colleague Christina Milhomem tells us what the numbers say- what has or hasn’t changed, which regulations are coming our way- and why investors should think of diversity as an indicator of management oversight.

    COP28: Key Takeaways for Investors from the Global Climate Summit

    Research Report | Dec 14, 2023 | Oliver Marchand, Linda-Eling Lee, Sylvain Vanston, Chris Cote, Mathew Lee, Elchin Mammadov

    COP28 concluded with an agreement for countries to transition away from fossil fuels, marking a historic pivot away from the primary sources of energy that have powered society for nearly 200 years. How can countries — and investors — address these goals? 

    An Homage to Claudia Goldin (Gender Pay Gap)

    Podcast | Oct 13, 2023 | Linda-Eling Lee, Michael Disabato, Gillian Mollod, Laura Nishikawa, Yukie Shibano, Siyu Liu

    The Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences was awarded on Monday to Claudia Goldin, a Harvard professor, for her work to advance the world’s understanding of women in the work force. She made history by being the first woman to win the award solo rather than sharing in the prize. To honor her achievement, we discussed our own gender pay gap research that is in part informed by academics like Dr. Goldin, focusing on a new regulation in Japan that mandated companies disclose their pay gap data. And then, after we go through the numbers, we have a special part of this episode where colleagues come on to share their experiences of work before and after motherhood.

    What the War in Ukraine Could Mean for Net-Zero Investing

    Research Report | May 16, 2022 | Linda-Eling Lee, Guido Giese, Chris Cote

    Among the devastating effects of the Russia-Ukraine war is the potential to derail the world from its already difficult path to net-zero. We analyzed how the war could affect the world’s carbon emissions and decarbonization efforts — and investors.

    Coal Expansion and SEC's Big Climate Move

    Podcast | Mar 25, 2022 | Linda-Eling Lee

    Coal is a complex topic: it's the main factor driving up global energy-related carbon emissions, yet it is a cheap and stable fuel source millions rely on for their energy and livelihoods. So, why does it have such staying power? And why has 2022 seen so many planned coal expansion projects? We discuss such things in our first story. Then, we give you the MSCI ESG Research hot take on the new proposed requirement by the SEC that companies will need to reveal detailed information about their greenhouse gas emissions. This is a major development in how the SEC addressed climate disclosure in the financial markets.

    ESG Trends to Watch for 2022

    6 mins read Blog | Jan 7, 2022 | Linda-Eling Lee, Meggin Thwing Eastman

    As the world’s biggest companies work toward net-zero, corporations ask: What do we do about our suppliers? Meanwhile, ESG investing truly has gone mainstream (with the regulatory attention to prove it). We review these trends and emerging risks.

    2022 ESG Trends to Watch

    Research Report | Dec 7, 2021 | Linda-Eling Lee, Meggin Thwing Eastman

    ESG trends impacting investors in 2022 range from evolving regulation and the receding of greenwashing, to the push for change in energy production and the role of capital. Each presents risks, and opportunities, for investors in the years to come.

    The Glasgow Diaries

    Podcast | Nov 11, 2021 | Linda-Eling Lee, Meggin Thwing Eastman

    What’s it like to attend the UN’s 26th annual climate change conference? How have the commitments and pledges played out on the ground? Linda-Eling Lee, MSCI’s Head of ESG Research fills us in during her week in Glasgow, and ESG Research Editorial Director, Meggin Thwing Eastman joins us to provide additional insights and context.

    The SEC Welcomes Climate Disclosures and Wrongdoing at Toshiba

    Podcast | Jun 18, 2021 | Linda-Eling Lee, Moeko Porter

    After nearly a decade, the SEC has begun to update the reporting requirements for companies on climate change. But before they can do that, they need to hear what the public has to say. In March 2021 the SEC sent out a 15-question consultation that asked investors, data providers, companies, academia, and others what the most appropriate climate change disclosures would be. Comments were due this week, and we discuss what we wrote to the SEC and what we think is the best way forward. We also discuss the trouble that is brewing at Toshiba after a report was made public that said the company worked with the Japanese government to suppress shareholder votes. As its board chair refuses to step down and the Japanese government remains intransigent, we ask what is next for Toshiba and corporate Japan?

    Deconstructing ESG Ratings Performance: Risk and Return for E, S And G by Time Horizon, Sector and Weighting

    Research Report | Mar 30, 2021 | Linda-Eling Lee, Zoltán Nagy, Guido Giese

    How are environmental, social and governance (ESG) ratings constructed? Which indicators are the most important in assessing ESG characteristics? Does the answer vary by sector? This foundational paper examines the impact on financial performance of two types of ESG indicators: the individual E, S and G pillars scores and the underlying ESG Key Issue scores.  

    Measuring Climate Change: Why Can’t We Just Turn Down the Sun?

    Podcast | Feb 4, 2021 | Linda-Eling Lee, Michael Disabato, Arne Philipp Klug, Thomas Verbraken

    Regulations to increase transparency and new methods for quantifying climate change risks and opportunities have pushed the issue to the fore for many investors. We get on the road to COP 26 with Professor Robert Eccles of The University of Oxford, Linda-Eling Lee, Head of ESG Research, and other MSCI experts.

    2021 ESG Trends to Watch

    Research Report | Dec 7, 2020 | Linda-Eling Lee, Meggin Eastman, Philipp Klug

    Climate. ESG bubbles. Disclosure. Social inequality. Biodiversity. The topics don’t get much bigger — or more systemic. Here’s our analysis of the five ESG trends that will matter most to companies and their investors in 2021.

    2021 ESG Trends to Watch

    7 mins read Blog | Dec 7, 2020 | Linda-Eling Lee, Arne Philipp Klug, Meggin Thwing Eastman, Meggin Eastman, Philipp Klug

    Climate. ESG bubbles. Disclosure. Social inequality. Biodiversity. The topics don’t get much bigger — or more systemic. Here’s our analysis of the five ESG trends that will matter most to companies and their investors in 2021.

    Combining E, S, and G Scores: An Exploration of Alternative Weighting Schemes

    Research Report | Sep 2, 2020 | Linda-Eling Lee, Zoltán Nagy, Guido Giese

    How one combines environmental, social and governance scores into an overall ESG rating can have a significant impact on its usefulness to investors. We tested two approaches: equal weighting and backward optimization. The results suggest that investors proceed with caution. As published in The Journal of Impact & ESG Investing.

    ESG Ratings: How the Weighting Scheme Affected Performance

    Blog | Jun 29, 2020 | Zoltán Nagy, Linda-Eling Lee, Guido Giese

    Our recent research suggests that environmental and social issues were more industry specific and tended to show up in financial measures over a longer time frame compared to governance issues. How can E, S and G issues be combined?

    Which ESG Issues Mattered Most? Defining Event and Erosion Risks

    10 mins read Blog | Jun 22, 2020 | Guido Giese, Zoltán Nagy, Linda-Eling Lee

    Very different ESG issues can be material for different industries. Our research suggests that risks can be divided into two main types: “event” risks and “erosion” risks to companies’ long-term competitiveness. Which ones mattered most for E, S and G?

    Is ESG All About the ‘G’? That Depends on Your Time Horizon.

    10 mins read Blog | Jun 15, 2020 | Linda-Eling Lee, Guido Giese, Zoltán Nagy

    The conventional wisdom has it that governance is the most dominant of the three E, S and G pillars. But our analysis finds different results when looking at contribution to performance over different time horizons.

    #postCOVID19 Part Two

    Podcast | May 28, 2020 | Linda-Eling Lee

    We continue our conversation about ESG themes in a post-COVID world with Linda-Eling Lee, global head of ESG research.

    #postCOVID19 Part One

    Podcast | May 21, 2020 | Linda-Eling Lee

    Linda-Eling Lee, global head of ESG research discusses investor focus on ESG investing through the crisis and looks ahead to potential themes to watch when the world emerges out from under the pandemic.

    The Index Review Must Go On

    Podcast | May 14, 2020 | Linda-Eling Lee

    What guided MSCI's decision to proceed with the scheduled May semi-annual index review despite recent volatility? Craig Feldman, global head of index management research, shares his thoughts on the answers to these questions, the review’s key takeaways and the value of consistency.

    2020 ESG trends to watch

    7 mins read Blog | Jan 13, 2020 | Linda-Eling Lee, Ric Marshall, Meggin Thwing Eastman, Meggin Eastman

    ESG themes are long-term, but some can emerge with sudden force. We are watching five trends we believe will unfold in 2020 to catapult ESG investing into the new decade.

    2020 ESG Trends to Watch

    Research Report | Jan 13, 2020 | Linda-Eling Lee, Ric Marshall, Meggin Eastman

    We highlight five trends we believe will unfold over 2020: Climate change innovators: spotting the sleeping giants; new terms for capital: ready or not, here comes ESG; Re-valuing real estate: investing in the eye of the hurricane; the new human capital paradox: Juggling layoffs and shortages; and keeping score on stakeholder capitalism: looking for accountability in all the new places.

    ESG Trends to Watch in 2019

    Blog | Jan 22, 2019 | Matt Moscardi, Linda-Eling Lee

    The long haul many are bracing for has already started for ESG investors. Each of our five ESG trends to watch in 2019 contain potentially overlooked costs – and opportunities.

    Foundations of ESG Investing – Part 4: Integrating ESG into Factor Strategies and Active Portfolios

    Research Report | Jun 7, 2018 | Dimitris Melas, Linda-Eling Lee, Laura Nishikawa, Zoltán Nagy, Guido Giese

    How can ESG characteristics be integrated consistently across factor-based and active equity allocations? In Part 4 of the Foundations of ESG Investing paper, we discuss two approaches to applying ESG ratings to factor-based allocations – a one-step and a two-step approach – asking which has done a better job at combining the underlying strategy with ESG while maintaining exposure to target factors. We then investigate overlaying ESG ratings and ESG momentum on the historical holdings of...

    US Department Of Labor Guidance On ESG Investing Emphasizes Economic Relevance

    Research Report | May 17, 2018 | Linda-Eling Lee

    Investors are still digesting the U.S. Department of Labor’s new guidance on environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing. Our initial take: We think the guidance supports consideration of the financial merits of ESG investing.

    Foundations of ESG Investing – Part 3: Integrating ESG into Indexed Institutional Portfolios

    Research Report | May 16, 2018 | Dimitris Melas, Linda-Eling Lee, Laura Nishikawa, Zoltán Nagy, Guido Giese

    According to recent surveys, asset owners’ have shifted their main focus to ESG’s financial benefits, as opposed to social benefits. In the third part of this paper, we discuss how ESG can be integrated into indexed allocations using MSCI ESG Ratings, which provided better risk-adjusted returns from August 2010 to December 2017 than the MSCI ACWI Index. We used existing best-in-class selection-based index methodologies (the MSCI ESG Leaders Index) for the creation of hypothetical global and...

    2018 ESG Trends to Watch

    Research Report | Jan 16, 2018 | Matt Moscardi, Linda-Eling Lee

    Whether it is policy, technological or climactic change, companies face an onslaught of challenges that are happening sooner and more dramatically than many can anticipate.  Investors in turn are looking for ways to position their portfolios to best navigate the uncertainty. In 2018, investors will: use ESG signals to help navigate the evolving size and shape of the emerging markets universe; expand their view of portfolio climate risk to macro exposures across asset classes; accelerate...

    2018 ESG Trends to Watch

    Blog | Jan 16, 2018 | Linda-Eling Lee

    Bigger, faster, more. Whether due to policy, technological or climatic changes, companies face an onslaught of challenges that are happening sooner and more dramatically than many could have anticipated.

    Foundations of ESG Investing – Part 1: How ESG Affects Equity Valuation, Risk and Performance

    Research Report | Nov 29, 2017 | Dimitris Melas, Linda-Eling Lee, Laura Nishikawa, Zoltán Nagy, Guido Giese

    Many studies have focused on the relationship between companies with strong ESG characteristics and corporate financial performance.  However, these have often struggled to show that positive correlations — when produced — can in fact explain the behavior. This paper provides a  link between ESG information and the valuation and performance of companies, both through their systematic risk profile (lower costs of capital and higher valuations) and their idiosyncratic risk profile...

    Have Corporate Controversies Helped or Hurt Performance

    Research Report | Oct 17, 2017 | Linda-Eling Lee, Zoltán Nagy, Meggin Eastman

    A Study of Three Portfolio Strategies The broad effects of excluding entire business lines, typical of the more traditional values-aligned of a socially responsible portfolio, are generally understood. However, little research has been done on the performance implications of exclusions based on alleged corporate wrongdoing, though such exclusions are common. In this study, we investigate the risk and return impact of excluding companies involved in events negatively impacting stakeholders,...

    The USD 220 Billion Global Tax Gap: Implications for Institutional Investors

    Blog | Mar 2, 2017 | Linda-Eling Lee

    Buoyed by populist sentiment, regulators around the world are considering ways to close corporate tax loopholes and narrow the gap between the statutory tax rate and what companies actually pay. The effort could have significant consequences, both for corporations and for institutional investors who engage portfolio companies over the sufficiency of their tax-related disclosures with the goal of avoiding unforeseen risks.

    2017 ESG Trends to Watch

    Research Report | Jan 12, 2017 | Matt Moscardi, Linda-Eling Lee

    This year may usher in a fundamental rethink for investors. Underlying all the major trends we identified for 2017 is a strategic decision point – do we change the way we think about investing, or is this business as usual in a new order? In our annual trends to watch report, we highlight the six biggest ESG forces affecting institutional investors over the long haul. To read data from other years, please see our ESG Trends page.

    ESG Trends in 2017: A Fundamental Rethink?

    Blog | Jan 12, 2017 | Linda-Eling Lee

    This year may ring the bell on a fundamental rethink for investors. Underlying all the major trends we identified for 2017 is a strategic decision point – do we change the way we think about investing, or is this business as usual in a new order?

    The Tipping Point: Women on Boards and Financial Performance

    Blog | Dec 13, 2016 | Linda-Eling Lee

    msci women on boards 2016 A growing body of research shows that having three women on a corporate board represents a “tipping point” in terms of influence, which is reflected in financial performance. Our analysis from last year looked at a snapshot of global companies in 2015 with strong female leadership, finding that they enjoyed a Return on Equity of 10.1% per year versus 7.4% for those without such leadership.

    Your Portfolio’s Carbon Footprint May be Smaller Than You Think

    Blog | Sep 2, 2016 | Linda-Eling Lee

    In recent years, many institutional investors have committed to measure and lower exposure to carbon emissions in their portfolios. But that presents a challenge: how to estimate such exposure, given the lack of disclosure by most companies about their carbon emissions?

    Comparing Carbon Estimates Against Disclosures

    Research Report | Sep 1, 2016 | Linda-Eling Lee, Manish Shakdwipee

    In December 2015, we identified 277 companies that were constituents of the MSCI ACWI Investable Market Index (IMI) that had disclosed their 2013 scope 1+2 carbon emissions in 2015 for the first time. This provided a unique opportunity to test out carbon estimation models on which institutional investors have had to rely. We found that the methods that have been around the longest – which rely on Economic Input Output Life Cycle Analysis (EIO-LCA) models – were not very accurate when...

    Scenarios, Stress Tests and Strategies for Second Quarter 2016 - The Rise of Populism

    Research Report | Jul 14, 2016 | Linda-Eling Lee, Remy Briand, Carlo Acerbi, Raghu Suryanarayanan, Thomas Verbraken, Manish Shakdwipee

    The decision by a majority of U.K. voters to leave the European Union shines a light on fissures between perceived winners and losers from globalized markets and highlights for investors the importance of factoring the consequences of inequality and popular discontent into their views. The latest edition of MSCI’s “Scenarios, Stress Tests and Strategies” examines the potential impacts on institutional portfolios of a tide of populist sentiment across Europe and the U.S.

    The Crisis of Affordability in Real Estate

    Blog | Jun 8, 2016 | Linda-Eling Lee

    Two-thirds of the world’s population is expected to live in cities by 2050, up from 54% in 2014, according to the United Nations. Yet, as of the end of 2015, we found that housing for people in the middle of the income pyramid is unaffordable for most cities and countries that we studied.

    2016 ESG Trends to Watch: Opportunities and Risks

    Blog | Jan 11, 2016 | Linda-Eling Lee

    Environmental, social and governance concerns may play a growing role in investment matters in 2016. These trends reflect a softening economy, a long-term shift to a low carbon economy, a generational changeover and institutional forces.

    Raising Minimum Governance Standards

    Blog | Dec 4, 2015 | Linda-Eling Lee

    Institutional investors concerned with excessive investor and corporate focus on short-term results are seeking to improve minimum corporate governance standards of their portfolio companies.

    Women on Boards: Global Trends in Gender Diversity

    Blog | Nov 30, 2015 | Linda-Eling Lee

    Many institutional investors are increasingly focused on the gender composition of company boards, according to our research. Some studies show significant outperformance by companies with women on boards, though no one can show a direct link between the two.

    Re-Examining the Tax Gap for MSCI World Companies

    Blog | Jun 3, 2015 | Linda-Eling Lee

    Regulatory authorities are now taking a much tougher approach to corporate tax rates. Since we explored the topic in December 2013 (The ‘Tax Gap’ in the MSCI World), the regulatory outlook has shifted substantially.

    Beyond Divestment: Using Low Carbon Indexes

    Research Report | Mar 26, 2015 | Linda-Eling Lee, Remy Briand, Véronique Menou

    Winner of the 2015 IRRC Institute Investor Research Award for best practitioner paper. Approaches based on divesting certain sectors effectively can help asset owners communicate their concerns about the risks of climate change to stakeholders. However, they ignore short-term benchmark risk. Further, a focus on divesting reserves disregards fixed assets that are at risk of losing value because they depend on burning fossil fuel reserves. This paper provides a framework for evaluating ways to...