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Transparency among S&P 500 companies: an analysis of ESG disclosure scores

Nabil Tamimi (Department of Operations and Information Management, Kania School of Management, University of Scranton, Scranton, Pennsylvania, USA)
Rose Sebastianelli (Department of Operations and Information Management, Kania School of Management, University of Scranton, Scranton, Pennsylvania, USA)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Article publication date: 18 September 2017

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore the state of S&P 500 companies’ transparency by analyzing their Bloomberg ESG (Environmental-Social-Governance) disclosure scores. Additionally, the effects of industry sector, firm size, and governance practices on transparency are examined.

Design/methodology/approach

Data were retrieved from Bloomberg using the financial analysis environmental, social and governance function for companies comprising the S&P 500 index. Descriptive statistics are provided on each of the three components separately (ESG). Nonparametric procedures are used to test for significant differences in transparency within each of these three areas based on industry sector. Additionally, nonparametric tests are used to determine the impact of firm size (market capitalization) and governance factors (board size, board gender diversity, chief executive officer (CEO) duality, and linking executive compensation to ESG disclosure) on the composite ESG score.

Findings

Descriptive statistics reveal that S&P 500 companies differ in their level of disclosure across the three areas (ESG). The highest level of transparency is found on Governance and the lowest on Environmental. Moreover, there is much variability in the percentage of S&P 500 companies disclosing information about specific Social policies (e.g. child labor). Significant differences in transparency on both the Social and Governance dimensions are found between certain industry sectors. The results also reveal that large-cap companies have significantly higher ESG disclosure scores than mid-cap companies and that governance factors impact ESG disclosure. Significantly, higher ESG disclosure scores are observed for S&P 500 firms with larger boards of directors, with boards that are more gender diverse, that allow CEO duality, and that link executive compensation to ESG scores.

Originality/value

This study focuses on corporate transparency through a granular analysis of ESG disclosure scores when most other studies have been primarily conducted at the macro level. Stakeholders, analysts, and shareholders are increasingly scrutinizing firms’ sustainability disclosures in their assessment of management quality, as it reflects on the practices/policies that are employed to improve firms’ environmental and social footprints.

Keywords

Citation

Tamimi, N. and Sebastianelli, R. (2017), "Transparency among S&P 500 companies: an analysis of ESG disclosure scores", Management Decision, Vol. 55 No. 8, pp. 1660-1680. https://doi.org/10.1108/MD-01-2017-0018

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited