Do ESG Controversies Matter for Firm Value? Evidence from International Data

Abstract

The aim of this paper is to investigate the relationship between environmental, social, and governance (ESG) controversies and firm market value. We use a unique dataset of more than 4000 firms from 58 countries during 2002–2011. Primary analysis surprisingly shows that ESG controversies are associated with greater firm value. However, when interacted with the corporate social performance (CSP) score, ESG controversies are found to have no direct effect on firm value while the interaction appears to be highly and significantly positive. Building on this evidence, we attempt to explore the channels through which CSP may enhance market value. Conducting sample split analysis indicates that higher CSP score has an impact on market value only for high-attention firms, those firms which are larger, perform better, located in countries with greater press freedom, more searched on the Internet, more followed by analysts, and have an improved corporate social reputation. Thus, our findings provide new insights on the role of firm visibility through which firms can profit from their CSP.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The majority of prior studies deal exclusively with environmental news, either disclosed by the firm itself or by other sources (Al-Tuwaijri et al. 2004; Barth and McNichols 1994; Clarkson et al. 2004; Moneva and Cuellar 2009).

  2. 2.

    For instance, as Da et al. (2011) point out, “…a news article in the Wall Street Journal does not guarantee attention unless investors actually read it.”.

  3. 3.

    Jiao (2010), El Ghoul et al. (2011) and Flammer (2013).

  4. 4.

    Since the dummy method would induce a loss of information, we have re-run our baseline models with the raw level of ESG controversies. The results remain unchanged and are available upon request.

  5. 5.

    Results are available upon request.

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Acknowledgments

We acknowledge the support of the “CSR & Value” Chair from the University of Auvergne Foundation and are grateful to Asset4-Thomson Reuters for providing ESG Data. We thank the participants of the CRCGM workshop and CIGE 2014 international conferences for their suggestions and comments. The ideas, methodology, and findings expressed in this paper are the sole responsibility of the authors.

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Correspondence to Amal Aouadi.

Appendices

Appendix 1

See Table 9.

Table 9 Example of an ESG controversy

Appendix 2

See Table 10.

Table 10 Distribution of controversies by type across years, geographical zone, and industry

Appendix 3

See Table 11.

Table 11 Press freedom index by country

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Aouadi, A., Marsat, S. Do ESG Controversies Matter for Firm Value? Evidence from International Data. J Bus Ethics 151, 1027–1047 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-016-3213-8

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Keywords

  • ESG controversies
  • Corporate social performance
  • Firm value
  • Firm visibility
  • Investors’ attention