Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 157, Issue 4, pp 1067–1089 | Cite as

Going Beyond Climate Change Risk Management: Insights from the World’s Largest Most Sustainable Corporations

  • Evangeline O. Elijido-TenEmail author
  • Peter Clarkson
Original Paper


In this study, we investigate whether firms recognised as superior sustainability performers respond differently to climate change regulatory, physical and other risks/opportunities and examine whether such differences predict sustainability performance in subsequent years. Further, we seek to gain insights from climate change programs and strategies of both superior and inferior sustainability performers. Adopting mixed methods, we use a merged sample from the Top500 world’s largest firms and the Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations. Our quantitative analyses show that greater awareness of physical and other climate change opportunities is what sets superior performers apart, and that superior future sustainability performance is related to a firm’s stated awareness of these two types of opportunities. Qualitative content analysis of narrative disclosures confirm that superior performers provide more detailed description of climate change strategies that go beyond managing climate change risks. Our study contributes to the limited amount of research highlighting the value of proactively seeking opportunities rather than merely focussing on risk management.


Climate change risks and opportunities World’s largest firms Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations Carbon Disclosure Project Mixed methods 

JEL classification

G14 Q51 Q54 



The authors are grateful for the research funding provided by the Faculty of Business and Law, Swinburne University of Technology. They are indebted to Niamh Brennan, the participants of 2015 RMIT Accounting for Sustainability Conference, three anonymous reviewers and the section editor, Cory Searcy, for their valuable comments on the earlier version of this paper. They would also like to thank Barbara Bok for her most efficient research assistance.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Involvement of Humans and Animals and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal participants performed by any of the authors. Informed consent is not required as this study uses publicly available data only.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Swinburne Business School, Faculty of Business and LawSwinburne University of TechnologyHawthornAustralia
  2. 2.UQ Business SchoolThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  3. 3.Beedie School of BusinessSimon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada

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