Corporate Governance as a Key Driver of Corporate Sustainability in France: The Role of Board Members and Investor Relations

  • Patricia Crifo
  • Elena Escrig-Olmedo
  • Nicolas MottisEmail author
Original Paper


This paper examines the relationships between corporate governance and corporate sustainability by focusing on two main components of companies’ governance structure: boards of directors (BoDs) and investor relations officers (IROs). We propose an original empirical strategy based on the 120 biggest French capitalizations for the year 2013, allowing us to measure boards of directors’ independence and expertise, as well as investor relations officers’ convictions and communication on corporate sustainability. Our results show that corporate governance has an ambiguous impact on corporate sustainability because of opposing forces: internal, external and intermediate forces. On the one hand, the higher the proportion of inside directors, the higher the company’s environmental and governance performance, while the higher the proportion of general experts in the board room, the lower the company’s governance performance. On the other hand, investor relations officers’ beliefs that corporate sustainability is primarily driven by investors’ ethical values appear negatively related to companies’ governance performance. In sum, corporate sustainability appears positively related to internal forces (inside directors) and negatively related to external forces (general expert directors and investor activist engagement). The results of this study demonstrate the need to carry out efforts to train BoDs (specifically inside directors) and IROs to respond to corporate sustainability and to take more of a leadership role in this area.


Investor relations officers (IROs) Board of directors (BoDs) Environmental Social and governance (ESG) criteria Socially responsible investment (SRI) Corporate sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR) France 

JEL Classification

M14 G30 



We thank Vigeo and Ethics & Boards for granting us access to their data and the French Investor Relations Professional Association (CLIFF) for helping us in gathering the data on Investors Relations practices in the top French listed companies. Patricia Crifo acknowledges the support of the chair for Sustainable Finance and Responsible Investment (chair FDIR—Toulouse IDEI & Ecole Polytechnique) and Research program Investissements d’Avenir (ANR-11-IDEX-0003/Labex Ecodec/ANR-11-LABX-0047). Elena Escrig Olmedo acknowledges the support of Group SoGReS-MF (Sustainability of Organizations and Social Responsibility Management–Financial Markets) and the financial support provided by Grant E-2013-10 funded by Universitat Jaume I. Nicolas Mottis acknowledges the support of the chair for Energy and prosperity, finance and evaluation of energy transition.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This study does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patricia Crifo
    • 1
  • Elena Escrig-Olmedo
    • 2
  • Nicolas Mottis
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.University Paris Nanterre EconomixÉcole Polytechnique Department of Economics and CiranoPalaiseauFrance
  2. 2.Department of Finance and AccountingUniversity Jaume ICastellónSpain
  3. 3.Management of Innovation and Entrepreneurship DepartmentEcole PolytechniquePalaiseauFrance

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