The purpose of this paper is to examine whether socially responsible firms behave differently from other firms in terms of financial risk using US-based firms from 1991 to 2012.
The authors used the KLD social performance rating scores as the measure of corporate social responsibility (CSR) performance and obtained an initial sample of 38,158 firm-year observations from 1991 to 2012. The authors obtained the monthly consensus earnings forecast for fiscal year one and the monthly dispersions for these earnings forecasts from I/B/E/S, and the bond spread from DataStream database. Specifically, the authors question whether firms that exhibit CSR obtain market approval to reduce financial risk, thereby providing investors and regulators with more reliable and transparent financial information, as opposed to firms that do not meet the same criteria.
The authors find that social responsible firms usually perform better in terms of their credit ratings and have lower credit risk, in terms of loan spreads when compared to corporate bond spreads, and in terms of distance to default. The results control for various measurements for CSR and time periods, consider various CSR dimensions and components, and use alternative proxies to improve the quality of financial risk estimates.
The findings demonstrate the importance of considering both positive and negative CSR performance. Positive CSR ratings are associated with reduced financial risk while negative CSR performance scores lead to increased financial distress. Investors respond to positive CSR ratings.
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