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If you’re reading this article we expect that you’ve read our research page and have questions on the specifics about how we work to estimate a company’s Humankind Value. Here, we will go into more detail on how we gather and digest the relevant information. To make this easier to understand, we’ll reference Giggle’s Humankind Value discussion on the research page and use hypothetical numbers to demonstrate the kinds of calculations that we do when estimating a company’s Humankind Value.
Humankind Investments calculates a single dollar value of a company’s Humankind Value, which is intended to capture the aggregate worth of a company based upon its economic impact on humanity, defined as investors, customers, employees, and society at large. It’s important to understand that this single dollar value of Humankind Value for a company is not a precise measurement of the economic impact that companies have on humanity – rather, it represents a best faith estimate based on our internal model of how these companies behave and what the estimated impact on humanity of their behavior is. In other words, we’ve created a simplified mathematical representation of the real world, and are using that to derive this single dollar value for a company. To try to make this clearer, we’re going to go through each of these four categories of value for Giggle (investor, consumer, employee and society), as described in “Step 1: Calculating Giggle’s Direct Humankind Value” and assign numbers in an effort to make our methodology clearer. Here we will simply assume the values of these various components of Giggle’s Humankind Value, but note that a great deal of internal research must be done to arrive at these dollar estimates when dealing with real companies.
Each company receives a credit for the value it is estimated to provide to its investors on the basis of multi-year profitability. In Giggle’s case, this is represented by a positive value. For the sake of illustration, let’s say Giggle’s investor value is $10,000,000.
Each company receives a credit for the value it is estimated to provide to its customers based on its offering of products and services. In Giggle’s case, there is positive value here too. Let’s say Giggle creates $20,000,000 of customer value.
Each company receives a credit for the value it is estimated to provide to its employees based on their salaries, bonuses, and benefits. There is positive value as well here for Giggle. Let’s say its employee value is $15,000,000.
Each company receives a number of debits and credits reflecting the value of the estimated external unaccounted costs or benefits to society from operating its business. Giggle has two demerits here, one for direct negative impact on people’s health, and a second through negative environmental impact. Let’s say the negative impacts here are $10,000,000 and $15,000,000 respectively.
Adding Them Up
In this case we would say that Giggle’s direct Humankind Value (assuming these are the ONLY impacts it is directly involved in) is $10M + $20M + $15M - $25M = $20M of positive net value.
Now we’ll go through “Step 2 – Calculating Giggle’s Indirect Value”. This calculation involves accounting for Giggle’s supply chain partners.
The Humankind Value for each company is adjusted on the basis of the company’s supply chain relationships. These supply chain links are inferred from the nature of the company’s business. Independent research drawing on a variety of sources is used to breakdown and appropriately classify a company’s business across industries and to establish the supply chain links between those industries. The North American Industry Classification System framework is used to subdivide the business segments in which a company participates and determine the supply chain links between industries.
Supply chain adjustments for US domiciled companies are based on an analysis of global supply chains. A proprietary algorithm transfers portions of investor, consumer, employee and societal value between companies all across the supply chain, resulting in an effort to assess Humankind Value based not only on the particular profile of the company but also incorporating the value of its business partners.
In Giggle’s case we identify their electricity provider as generating air pollution as well as greenhouse gas emissions. We also identify some of their manufacturers as violating international labor conventions.
So let’s say their electricity provider is creating -$100,000,000 of value (i.e. negative value) due to air pollution and -$200,000,000 due to greenhouse gas emissions (totaling $300,000,000 of negative value). We would work to estimate Giggle’s exposure to the electricity provider and adjust Giggle’s value based on the level of exposure that Giggle has to this electricity provider. Let’s say that once we’ve done this work, we’ve determined that Giggle is responsible for 4% of their electricity provider’s air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. That means Giggle will be assigned -$12,000,000 of indirect Humankind Value due to their association with their polluting electricity provider.
A similar calculation happens with Giggle’s manufacturers. Let’s say their manufacturers are creating net negative employee value to the tune of -$5,000,000. If Giggle is responsible for 20% of this negative value due to their level of exposure, it will be assigned -$1,000,000 of indirect Humankind Value because of this association.
In total, through its supply chain, assuming these are the only companies Giggle interacts with and that the impacts that we’ve discussed for its supply chain partners are the only impacts associated with those partners, Giggle will end up receiving -$12M + -$1M = -$13M of indirect Humankind Value.
When you add this together with Giggle’s initial direct Humankind Value, this results in $20M - $13M = $7M of net positive Humankind Value. On the whole, Giggle is creating positive Humankind Value. However, it can improve on this value by reducing its own pollution as well as by selecting better supply-chain partners.
There are a number of components of Humankind Value that aren’t addressed in the simple Giggle example provided on our research page. Here we will go into detail about some additional calculations done, issues addressed, and provide more resources for you to explore.
A further adjustment in Humankind Value is often made on the basis of information about equity holdings between parent companies and their subsidiaries. Companies that own a minority or majority interest in other companies receive the appropriate portion of investor, consumer, employee and societal value in accord with the size of their ownership stake. If Giggle had a subsidiary that it owned 100% of and that subsidiary’s equity had an unaccounted-for, independent Humankind Value of -$10,000,000, then this value would be deducted from Giggle’s Humankind Value.
Specific Factors Considered
While several issues that we consider were already integrated into the Giggle example, there are many others that were not mentioned. A list of examples of specific factors considered in conjunction with the four categories of value (investor, consumer, employee, and society) include, but are not limited to: food production and distribution; water and sanitation access; healthcare benefits; greenhouse gas emissions; free digital services; air pollution; tobacco; alcohol production; breastmilk substitute production; firearms manufacturing; consumer data harvesting; discrimination; food addiction; for-profit healthcare; gambling; internet addiction; noise pollution; nuclear power generation; opioid production; predatory lending; private prisons; plastic pollution; shelter; slave labor; travel-injuries; war; water pollution; workplace injuries; and adult entertainment.
We make these issues comparable by working to put all of their consequences into dollars and cents of human suffering or human benefit. We are able to do this by researching the dollar value of a year of life lived by a person in good health, and then analyzing how companies work to either heal and extend people's lives, or hurt and shorten them. This analysis is similar to what governments do when they judge the social cost/benefit of new legislation. For our purposes, when someone gets sick or dies as a result of a company’s actions (e.g., selling cigarettes) we can put a dollar value on how much damage was done to them. Similarly, if a company is extending people’s lives, or helping them get well (e.g., by providing them with a lifesaving vaccine), we can create a quantitative estimate of the dollar value of that too. For some examples of ways that economists work to estimate the value of a human life in dollars and cents, please see the references section of this article below. At Humankind Investments, we rely on peer-reviewed research articles like these to create our own proprietary estimate of the value of a human life. Our proprietary estimate of the value of a human life differs from those presented by the research we cite in the references section here. In particular, we do not judge the value of a human life based on the economy of the country that it is living in – this has the perverse effect of valuing the lives of people living in rich countries more than those living in poor countries – rather, we essentially average these to create a standard, global, value of a human life that is applied to all human beings regardless of which country they live in.
How We Assess Impact and Responsibility
Generally, you may be wondering how we do the research to get these quantitative human impact numbers and how we determine a company’s responsibility for them. Each company is assigned a Humankind Value based upon an analysis of how much value the company creates for humankind. The analysis consists of a quantitative approach that aims to calculate the comprehensive economic value of a company based not only upon its financial performance metrics but also on the costs and benefits to society from conducting its business. Humankind Investments determines the component values in this calculation by means of research that synthesizes a broad range of independent data sources such as external data providers, scientific and academic papers, data gathered by government agencies, NGOs, other research entities, as well as financial statements and other public disclosures released by companies (10-K, 10-Q, presentations, conference calls), etc. Again, it’s important to understand that our proprietary metric - Humankind Value – is not a precise measurement of the economic impact that companies have on humanity – rather, it represents a best faith estimate of that impact calculated by our internal simplified model of the real world.
Real World Examples
If you’d like to learn more about how Humankind Value is applied to real world companies, check out our Humankind 100 rankings. The Humankind 100 aims to rank the top 100 US companies that we believe provide with highest Humankind Values. You’ll find one hundred real world examples as well as graphics that explain how the different companies that make up the Humankind 100 impact humanity.
Viscusi, W. K., & Masterman, C. J. (2017). Income elasticities and global values of a statistical life. Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis, 8(2), 226-250.
Robinson, L. A., & Hammitt, J. K. (2013). Skills of the trade: valuing health risk reductions in benefit-cost analysis. Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis, 4(1), 107-130.