Rating agencies disagree substantially about how they assess individual firms. Without agreement on what constitutes good ESG performance, market participants can be misled by these ratings.
The authors of this paper found ESG disagreement is most pronounced for firms with high levels of ESG disclosure, contrary to the argument that disclosure reduces disagreement. While thousands of companies now claim to integrate ESG issues in their business strategy and operations, it is not clear whether those claims are merely cheap talk.
Ratings could help investors and other stakeholders to choose companies that exhibit their preferred ESG outcomes. Having rating agencies focus on ESG outcomes could motivate companies to show real outcomes in their disclosures rather than highlighting the adoption of policies or initiatives that might not generate any real effects.
Lot of work still needs to be done to develop rules and norms that determine what characterises good ESG performance.
Authors of the research paper:
Dane Christensen, @GeorgeSerafeim, @AnywhereSikochi . More on https://bit.ly/3ooKChi
Christensen, Dane M. and Serafeim, George and Sikochi, Anywhere, Why is Corporate Virtue in the Eye of the Beholder? The Case of ESG Ratings (February 26, 2021). The Accounting Review. DOI: 10.2308/TAR-2019-0506