Despite the rising use of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) ratings, there is substantial disagreement across rating agencies regarding what rating to give to individual firms. As what drives this disagreement is unclear, we examine whether a firm’s ESG disclosure helps explain some of this disagreement. We predict and find that greater ESG disclosure actually leads to greater ESG rating disagreement. These findings hold using firm fixed effects and using a difference-in-differences design with mandatory ESG disclosure shocks. We also find that raters disagree more about ESG outcome metrics than input metrics (policies), and that disclosure appears to amplify disagreement more for outcomes. Last, we examine consequences of ESG disagreement and find that greater ESG disagreement is associated with higher return volatility, larger absolute price movements, and a lower likelihood of issuing external financing. Overall, our findings highlight that ESG disclosure generally exacerbates ESG rating disagreement rather than resolves it.
Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG).
CPAs and accounting professionals.
Understand why is corporate virtue in the eye of the beholder. The case of ESG ratings.
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