Studies show that companies that take steps to operate more sustainably outperform their peers in terms of shareholder return. In a recent study from the Henley Business School, researchers examined the relationship between carbon emission disclosures and financial performance for UK companies. They found that the mere act of disclosure results in improved share price performance, and that there is “a significant positive relation between corporate carbon disclosure and corporate financial performance”.
In another study, Harvard researchers examined the future financial impact of material and immaterial sustainability investments. Using SASB’s framework for materiality, they were able to determine that firms with strong ratings on material sustainability issues outperform their peers with inferior ratings. Specifically, they found that top performers achieved an estimated annualized alpha of positive 4.83%, while firms that made no investments had an estimated annualized alpha of negative 2.20%.
In October, Boston Consulting Group released a report that agreed – “investors rewarded top performers in specific ESG topics with valuation multiples that were 3% to 19% higher… than median performers”. In addition, they found that top performers had margins that were up to 12.4% higher. It is irrelevant whether this is due to correlation (executive teams that understand the need for sustainable business operations are better managers overall), or causation (because of their superior sustainability efforts, these executives are creating brand value and customer allegiance that enables them to financially outperform); there is credible evidence that sustainability disclosure can help investors make better decisions.