The Wages of Social Responsibility
35 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2009
Date Written: December 26, 2008
Typical socially responsible investors tilt their portfolios toward stocks of companies with high scores on social responsibility characteristics such as community, employee relations and the environment. We analyze returns during 1992-2007 of stocks rated on social responsibility by KLD and find that this tilt gave socially responsible investors a return advantage relative to conventional investors. However, typical socially responsible investors also shun stocks of companies associated with tobacco, alcohol, gambling, firearms, military, and nuclear operations. We find that such shunning brought to socially responsible investors a return disadvantage relative to conventional investors. The return advantage of tilts toward stocks of companies with high social responsibility scores is largely offset by the return disadvantage that comes from the exclusion of stocks of 'shunned' companies. The return of the DS 400 Index of socially responsible companies was approximately equal to the return of the S&P 500 Index of conventional companies.
Socially responsible investors can do both well and good by adopting the best-in-class method in the construction of their portfolios. That method calls for tilts toward stocks of companies with high scores on social responsibility characteristics, but refrains from calls to shun the stock of any company, even one that produces tobacco.
Keywords: socially responsible investing, behavioral finance, market efficiency, sin stocks, environment, employee relations, governance
JEL Classification: G11, G12, G14
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