The Evolution of ESG Reports and the Role of Voluntary Standards
64 Pages Posted: 23 Sep 2022 Last revised: 27 Aug 2023
Date Written: August 11, 2023
We examine how Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) reports evolved over time and market forces that are related to this evolution. Relying on industry-specific voluntary standards that define financially material ESG issues, we train a machine learning algorithm to quantify the content in ESG reports and find that firms increase the disclosure of financially material ESG issues over time. We use a staggered difference-in-differences approach around the introduction of these standards and find a significant increase in material disclosures after the release. Firms participating in the standard setting process had high levels of material disclosures prior to the release of those standards, whereas firms not involved in this process increased material disclosures following the issuance of the standards. Overall, our findings support the claim of ESG reports as a source of financially material information and provide valuable insights into the influence of market forces in advancing corporate transparency.
Keywords: ESG Reports, SASB, Voluntary Disclosure, Textual Analysis, Topic Modelling
JEL Classification: M14, M40
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation