Study: Mandatory Sustainability Reporting Improves Behavior

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Requiring that companies report on their environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives leads to broad improvement in socially responsible management practices, according to new academic research.

The Consequences of Mandatory Corporate Sustainability Reporting by Ioannis Ioannou of the London Business School and George Serafeim of the Harvard Business School – concludes “that sustainability reporting not only increases transparency but can also change corporate behavior.”

According to the researchers, “mandatory disclosure of sustainability information leads to a) an increase in the social responsibility of business leaders, b) a prioritization of sustainable development, c) a prioritization of employee training, d) more efficient supervision of managers by boards of directors, e) an increase in the implementation of ethical practices by firms, e) a decrease in bribery and corruption, and f) an improvement of managerial credibility within society.”

The working paper concludes: “An implication for regulators is that if they want companies to perform better on ESG metrics then reporting could be a useful means to achieve this objective. An implication for companies is that reporting could change the way they conduct business. If better ESG performance provides a competitive advantage and leads to higher economic value, as it has been argued…then reporting could enhance the economic value produced by a firm.”

The working paper is available to download from the Harvard Business School website.