ESG Didn’t Immunize Stocks During the COVID-19 Crisis, But Investments in Intangible Assets Did
Journal of Business Finance & Accounting, 48, 433-462. Open Access: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jbfa.12523
46 Pages Posted: 18 Aug 2020 Last revised: 22 Aug 2021
Date Written: March 1, 2021
Environmental, social, and governance (“ESG”) scores have been widely touted as indicators of share price resilience during the COVID-19 crisis. Contrary to this conventional wisdom, we present robust evidence that, once industry affiliation, market-based measures of risk, and accounting-based measures of performance, financial position, and intangibles investments have been controlled for, ESG offers no such positive explanatory power for returns during the COVID crisis. Specifically, ESG is insignificant in fully specified returns regressions for each of the Q1 2020 COVID market crisis period, and for the full COVID year of 2020. By contrast, a measure of the firm’s stock of investments in internally generated intangible assets is an economically and statistically significant positive determinant of returns during each of the Q1 market implosion and full 2020 COVID year periods. Our results are robust to alternative measures of returns, as well as to using Refinitiv, Refinitiv II, and MSCI data to capture ESG performance. We conclude that ESG did not immunize stocks during the COVID-19 crisis, but that investments in intangible assets did.
Keywords: ESG, COVID-19, CSR, Corporate Social Responsibility, Share Price Resilience, Crisis, Intangibles, Market Crash
JEL Classification: G01, G32, M14, M41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation