Why is Corporate Virtue in the Eye of the Beholder? The Case of ESG Ratings
The Accounting Review, https://doi.org/10.2308/TAR-2019-0506
64 Pages Posted: 12 Apr 2021 Last revised: 19 Aug 2021
Date Written: February 26, 2021
Despite the rising use of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) ratings, there is substantial disagreement across rating agencies regarding what rating to give to individual firms. As what drives this disagreement is unclear, we examine whether a firm’s ESG disclosure helps explain some of this disagreement. We predict and find that greater ESG disclosure actually leads to greater ESG rating disagreement. These findings hold using firm fixed effects, and using a difference-in-differences design with mandatory ESG disclosure shocks. We also find that raters disagree more about ESG outcome metrics than input metrics (policies), and that disclosure appears to amplify disagreement more for outcomes. Lastly, we examine consequences of ESG disagreement and find that greater ESG disagreement is associated with higher return volatility, larger absolute price movements, and a lower likelihood of issuing external financing. Overall, our findings highlight that ESG disclosure generally exacerbates ESG rating disagreement rather than resolving it.
Keywords: ESG Ratings, Rating Agency Disagreement, ESG Disclosure, Corporate Social Responsibility, Sustainability
JEL Classification: G24, M14, M41, Q56
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation