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The influence of the country governance environment on corporate environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance

The influence of the country governance environment on corporate environmental, social and... The purpose of this study is to investigate whether the corporate environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance of companies is influenced by the barriers and opportunities created by three factors characterising a country’s governance landscape: democracy, political stability and regulatory quality. Additionally, this study separately explains the influence of the three country governance factors on the ESG performance of companies and how they are affected by the profitability of the company.Design/methodology/approachFixed effects multiple linear regression is performed on 6,035 firm-year observations drawn from 27 countries relating to 1,207 unique constituents of the S&P Global 1200 index for a five-year period from 2015 to 2019. Clustered standard errors robust to heteroscedasticity and serial correlation are estimated for a specification that includes Refinitiv ESG scores as the dependent variable, selected Worldwide Governance Indicators as the independent variables and several country- and firm-level controls.FindingsThe study finds that companies’ ESG performance is higher in countries with a lower level of democracy and political stability, and corporate governance performance is higher in countries with higher regulatory quality. A component-level analysis finds significant variation in the results across the different ESG pillars. Firm profitability moderates the relationship between country-level governance factors and companies’ ESG performance.Practical implicationsThe study reveals that national governments can prompt companies to enhance their governance performance, invariably leading to greater engagement in sustainability by improving their regulatory environment and enforcement mechanisms. Thus, the implementation of regulations targeting corporate environmental and social performance is not always needed to prompt better corporate ESG performance.Social implicationsThis study shows that internationalised companies proactively work towards achieving sustainability in countries where the country governance landscape is ineffective and inadequate to enable it.Originality/valueThis study addresses the association between country-level governance and firm-level ESG performance, in contrast to firm-level corporate social responsibility disclosure that has been the focus of prior research. As disclosures can be symbolic and may not reflect actual ESG performance, the results of prior studies examining the relationship between country-level governance performance and corporate social responsibility disclosure is inappropriate to explain the factors affecting the ESG performance of companies. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal Emerald Publishing

The influence of the country governance environment on corporate environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance

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Publisher
Emerald Publishing
Copyright
© Emerald Publishing Limited
ISSN
2040-8021
eISSN
2040-8021
DOI
10.1108/sampj-07-2021-0298
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

The purpose of this study is to investigate whether the corporate environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance of companies is influenced by the barriers and opportunities created by three factors characterising a country’s governance landscape: democracy, political stability and regulatory quality. Additionally, this study separately explains the influence of the three country governance factors on the ESG performance of companies and how they are affected by the profitability of the company.Design/methodology/approachFixed effects multiple linear regression is performed on 6,035 firm-year observations drawn from 27 countries relating to 1,207 unique constituents of the S&P Global 1200 index for a five-year period from 2015 to 2019. Clustered standard errors robust to heteroscedasticity and serial correlation are estimated for a specification that includes Refinitiv ESG scores as the dependent variable, selected Worldwide Governance Indicators as the independent variables and several country- and firm-level controls.FindingsThe study finds that companies’ ESG performance is higher in countries with a lower level of democracy and political stability, and corporate governance performance is higher in countries with higher regulatory quality. A component-level analysis finds significant variation in the results across the different ESG pillars. Firm profitability moderates the relationship between country-level governance factors and companies’ ESG performance.Practical implicationsThe study reveals that national governments can prompt companies to enhance their governance performance, invariably leading to greater engagement in sustainability by improving their regulatory environment and enforcement mechanisms. Thus, the implementation of regulations targeting corporate environmental and social performance is not always needed to prompt better corporate ESG performance.Social implicationsThis study shows that internationalised companies proactively work towards achieving sustainability in countries where the country governance landscape is ineffective and inadequate to enable it.Originality/valueThis study addresses the association between country-level governance and firm-level ESG performance, in contrast to firm-level corporate social responsibility disclosure that has been the focus of prior research. As disclosures can be symbolic and may not reflect actual ESG performance, the results of prior studies examining the relationship between country-level governance performance and corporate social responsibility disclosure is inappropriate to explain the factors affecting the ESG performance of companies.

Journal

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy JournalEmerald Publishing

Published: May 25, 2022

Keywords: Country governance; Democracy; Environmental; Social and governance (ESG) performance; Political stability; Regulatory quality

References