Corporate Sustainable Practices and Profitability – Compatible?

  • Mitali Das International Monetary Fund, USA
Keywords: corporate social responsibility, climate change, ESG, financial performance, return on assets


Carbon risks and corporate social responsibility have emerged as top priorities in the global climate change agenda, leading shareholders to exert greater pressure on corporations to adopt environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices and policymakers to consider regulatory actions on carbon disclosures. Proponents stress that ESG strategies will improve financial performance, while detractors focus on their large upfront costs. The literature is inconclusive in part because it has focused predominantly on the environmental pillar alone, or ESG as a combined strategy without clearly delineating how social and governance strategies also affect corporate profitability. Distinguishing between the three pillars of ESG, this paper finds that each of these strategies individually as well as jointly are positively associated with corporate profitability. The findings are robust to firm-level controls for size and access to capital markets, as well as macroeconomic variables, and unobserved country and year fixed effects that may reflect differences in tax jurisdictions and disclosure stringency.


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