Do high-ability managers choose ESG projects that create shareholder value? Evidence from employee opinions

Kyle Welch, Aaron Yoon

2020 | Academic | ESG Ratings, Risk & Performance

Firm managers are facing increasing external pressure to allocate firm resources to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) efforts. Given that ESG activities are frequently perceived as in opposition to shareholder value, however, managers may find it difficult to decide which projects they should select and how much they should invest. Using MSCI ESG Ratings and Glassdoor employee ratings of senior managers as signals for firm ESG efforts and high managerial ability, we find evidence that high-ability managers allocate resources to ESG in a way that enhances shareholder value. Specifically, we implement a calendar-time portfolio regression design and find that firms with highly rated managers and high ESG exhibit significantly higher future stock returns than firms with low ratings on both. The results are robust to using different fixed effect structures as well as controlling for more covariates in a panel regression. Overall the results highlight the importance of senior managers in allocating resources to ESG efforts.