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Michael Disabato

Michael Disabato

Vice President, MSCI Research

Michael Disabato is the lead researcher for the airlines and aerospace and defense industries, serves on the MSCI ESG editorial board and is the host of the weekly podcast, ESG now. Previously, he was a freelance journalist covering the environment and worked as a member of the consultant relations team at Impax Asset Management. Michael also worked at a nonprofit impact investing fund focused on sustainable agriculture. He graduated with a B.A. from Indiana University with a concentration in economics and comparative literature.

Research and Insights

Articles by Michael Disabato

    Can Airlines Go Green?

    Podcast | May 17, 2024 | Michael Disabato, Gabriela de la Serna

    Airlines are part of a hard to abate industry for a reason, as there is not one straightforward path to decarbonization. In this episode, we discuss the options that airlines have to reduce their direct emissions in the coming decades – and we tell you which ones are more likely to be more viable.

    Spirits of Change: Alcohol in a Dry World

    Podcast | May 10, 2024 | Michael Disabato, Cole Martin

    Alcoholic beverage companies are trying to navigate through a changing world, one where tastes are evolving, and resources are getting scarcer. In this episode, delve into the significant challenges and innovative strategies the alcoholic beverage industry is employing to combat this shift in drinking trends.

    Children are still in the Cocoa Field

    Podcast | Apr 2, 2024 | Michael Disabato, Cole Martin

    This week we provide an update to our March 2022 episode titled Children in the Cocoa field that explored the growing problem of child labor in cocoa harvesting. And the attempt by Nestlé to use money and enhanced mapping technology to combat its prevalence. It sounds bleak, but it was a great story about how technology is allowing for better transparency in our world's supply chain.

    The SEC Tests out the Climate

    Podcast | Mar 15, 2024 | Michael Disabato, Zohir Uddin, Mathew Lee

    The SEC’s climate disclosure rule is finally here. It’s been a journey, one akin to a film drama full of plot twists, cliff hangers and edge of the seat moments. So in honor of the drama, this week we do a film review of sorts on this wide reaching regulation - going into the plot, the actors involved, and how the industry is likely to be affected by it.

    The Luxury of Love

    Podcast | Feb 16, 2024 | Michael Disabato, Liz Houston

    Valentine’s Day is replete with marketing by luxury brands attempting to capture the eyes of anxious lovers wanting to do right by their partners during the holiday. But what can you know about the product you’re buying from a luxury company? Can you know where its raw materials are sourced? Or where that material is produced? And who’re running these luxurious companies? We discuss all this and more on this week’s episode of ESG now.

    The Audit World on Fire

    Podcast | Feb 2, 2024 | Michael Disabato, Jonathan Ponder

    Audit firms have been under scrutiny lately after scandal and concern has led some to worry the vital industry is in trouble. To understand whether fears around an auditor are credible, one must understand how to assess auditor quality. In this episode, we teach you how to assess an audit firm, and answer the question that some are posing: is there a crisis in the audit industry?

    Going on a Boeing?

    Podcast | Jan 26, 2024 | Michael Disabato, Harlan Tufford

    One door plug blowout, one emergency landing and zero injuries. For Boeing, quality checks and tailored governance structures aren’t adding up to a great safety record. But looking at the underlying ESG data might shed light on where things might be going wrong.

    Carbon Credits in 2024

    Podcast | Jan 12, 2024 | Michael Disabato

    The carbon markets have been a provider of hope and despair in the fight against carbon emissions. In 2023, there were concerns around whether the carbon credits being sold actually abated the amount of carbon they claimed to. Yet the market still has promise and changes are being made to the methodologies of carbon credit assessment organizations to address the problems uncovered in 2023. For the first ESG now episode, we sat down with our head of Carbon Markets at MSCI, Guy Turner, to understand how carbon markets actually faired in 2023, what they might look like in 2024, and why carbon credits and offsets will remain an important part of our world’s attempts to decarbonize. 

    On the Ground at COP28

    Podcast | Dec 5, 2023 | Michael Disabato, Oliver Marchand

    We are on the ground at COP 28!! Right now, in the UAE, most of the world’s power brokers are gathered to talk about the climate emergency, the world’s plans for lowering emissions, and everything in between. For this episode, we interviewed our Global Head of Climate Research, Oliver Marchand, who is at COP 28: meeting folks and having talks. He told us what he has been seeing and how he thinks the talks are proceeding.

    The Future for Oil and Gas Producers

    Podcast | Nov 3, 2023 | Michael Disabato, Chris Cote

    Some say oil demand is soon to peak. Well, if that is true, why are some oil and gas producers growing their reserves? If there is uncertainty on how oil will perform in the future, how are oil and gas companies positioning themselves amid an ambiguous low-carbon transition? We try to answer these questions on this episode of ESG now.

    The Five Stories of ESG: A Recap Episode

    Podcast | Oct 20, 2023 | Michael Disabato, Harlan Tufford, Chris Cote, Yu Ishihara, Antonios Panagiotopoulos, Mathew Lee

    This week, we are returning to five stories we have already covered to see what progress has been made (if any!): The Adani Group and its attempt to address a short seller report that questioned the group’s governance that led to a massive loss in market share; the United Auto Workers strikes and the continued struggle in the auto industry; the Inflation Reduction Act and the trillions of dollars of capital is supports; what the EPA’s methane rule has done for the gas industry in the US; and how Exxon has changed after having three seats of its 12 member board taken by over by Engine No. 1, an activist investor worried about carbon emissions.

    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.

    The United Auto Workers of ESG

    Podcast | Sep 22, 2023 | Michael Disabato, Yu Ishihara

    The demands made by the United Auto Workers (UAW) to the big three auto companies in the US are varied and touch on every part of ESG. But what may loom largest is the ongoing transition to electric vehicles that will change how a massive industry operates and employs its millions of workers. We discussed what the strikes mean for the future of the auto industry, and why the UAW is fighting an uphill battle as its industry changes.

    Is European Sustainable Finance Green?

    Podcast | Sep 4, 2023 | Michael Disabato, Rumi Mahmood

    The EU has set up a number of regulations to define what is and is not sustainable. Part of those regulations touch investment funds as most assets under management in Europe (~EUR 7 trillion out of EUR 12 trillion) are invested in ESG funds or strategies with some sustainability-related focus. Is this episode we look at what the effect of these defining regulations has been on the fund investment landscape in Europe, and whether the EU has been successful in its intent. 

    A Turbulent Plan for Green Aviation

    Podcast | Jul 31, 2023 | Michael Disabato, Bentley Kaplan

    Airlines have been offering customers with the option to purchase carbon credits or to support sustainable aviation fuel as they are buying a plane ticket. The airlines claim in doing so, the customer can lower the emissions of their trip and thereby lessen its impact on climate change. Sounds great! But, is that true? Are your emissions really lowered by those carbon credits? And can airlines use the promise of abated emissions, or better yet, sustainable fuels, to claim they are already carbon neutral? On this episode, we discuss aviation’s ambitious climate plans, why some of the advertising around these plans has gotten the industry in to legal trouble, and what the future holds for airlines and passengers that are worried about their carbon emissions.

    Why we are still talking about women on boards

    Podcast | Feb 24, 2022 | Michael Disabato, Christina Milhomem

    Despite agreement on the value of gender diversity for companies, progress on that front has not been as rapid as it should be. We review the real-world impact of MSCI’s latest Women on Boards report findings, and what it may take to accelerate the pace.

    The SFDR’s Articles 8 and 9: The Funds Behind the Labels

    Research Report | Jul 6, 2021 | Michael Disabato, Nell Ng

    How do funds stack up against the EU’s Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR)? We looked at the ESG characteristics of 207 funds of the top 15 equity and mixed-asset fund managers to see which had disclosed information about their funds.

    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.

    Water Funds’ Exposure to Sustainable Water Solutions

    Research Report | Jan 5, 2021 | Michael Disabato

    Fickle weather patterns due to climate change and a global demand that outstrips supply have put one-fourth of the Earth’s population in areas of “extremely high” water stress. We found 122 equity funds that invest in companies providing a solution to the water crisis but far fewer are “pure” water plays.

    Is climate-change risk all about fossil fuels? Think again.

    Blog | Sep 19, 2019 | Michael Disabato

    When it comes to reducing greenhouse gases, investors tend to focus on fossil fuels and power generation. But other companies also need to adapt to a lower-carbon world. We look at the implications for five types of companies.

    Under the hood: Rating ESG funds

    Blog | Jul 10, 2019 | Michael Disabato

    Nearly $31 trillion in assets under management were invested in funds that consider ESG issues in their investing process as of January 2018, a 34% increase from two years previously. Transparency is key to understanding what this expansion means.