When Do Appointments of Corporate Sustainability Executives Affect Shareholder Value?
42 Pages Posted: 28 Apr 2017 Last revised: 17 Oct 2019
Date Written: March 28, 2017
Over the last two decades, firms have been appointing corporate sustainability executives (CSEs) to be part of their top management teams. Although there is a vast literature on sustainable practices and their relationships with various measures of firm performance, little is known about the nature of the empirical link between CSE appointments and financial performance. We add to the understanding of this link by estimating the stock market reactions to a sample of 115 announcements of CSE appointments made by firms during the period 2000–2018. Our findings using event study methodology, followed by regression analyses, suggest that although the stock market reaction to CSE appointments is not significantly different from zero, the stock market reacts more, or less positively under certain firm- and industry-specific conditions. We find that the stock market reaction is more positive in instances where the announcing firms faced a prior adverse sustainability-related incident, and less positive when announcing firms operate in industries that face relatively greater levels of regulatory sanctions. Also, we find that the stock market reaction is more positive when firms announce CSE appointments with focused as compared to broad responsibilities. Additionally, we find that CSE appointments are associated with subsequent improvements in operating performance – partly driven by a decrease in total costs and partly by an increase in sales. Overall, our findings support the strategy of appointing CSEs to top management teams and enable executives and stakeholders to more deeply understand the shareholder value and operating performance effects of appointing CSEs.
Keywords: corporate sustainability executives; sustainability leadership; prior adverse incident; regulatory sanctions; stock market reaction; event study
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