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Two Factors that Determine When ESG Creates Shareholder Value

The paper “Corporate Sustainability: First Evidence on Materiality,” published in 2016, marked a significant shift in perceptions of corporate sustainability. It demonstrated that focusing on financially material ESG (environmental, social, and governance) factors positively impacts portfolio returns and shareholder value. Despite its influence in popularizing ESG investing, the topic remains controversial with mixed academic consensus and political debate in the U.S. Recent research by the author has further explored this field, highlighting two critical aspects: the role of high-ability managers in selecting profitable ESG projects and the long-term value of ESG practices in supply chains. The study found that companies with high-ability CEOs and strong ESG investments outperform others, and firms with fewer supplier ESG incidents yield higher returns. These findings underscore the importance of ESG efforts in resource allocation and their potential to attract investment by demonstrating a tangible impact on shareholder value. The ongoing challenge lies in enhancing disclosure, transparency, and effective use of ESG information by investors and regulators.



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