Socially Responsible Firms

Source: Allen Ferrell, Hao Liang, Luc Renneboog, Tilburg University – Department of Finance; European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI); Tilburg Law and Economics Center (TILEC), TILEC Discussion Paper No. 2014-029, July 29, 2014

From the abstract:
In the corporate finance tradition starting with Berle & Means (1923), corporations should generally be run so as to maximize shareholder value. The agency view of corporate social responsibility (CSR) generally considers CSR as a managerial agency problem and a waste of corporate resources, since corporate insiders do good with other people’s money. We evaluate this agency view using large-scale datasets with global coverage (59 countries) on firm-level corporate engagement and compliance with respect to environmental, social, and governance issues. Using an instrumental variable approach, we document that CSR ratings are higher for companies with fewer agency problems (using standard proxies such as having lower levels of free cash flow and higher dividend payout and leverage ratios). Moreover, certain aspects of CSR (e.g., environmental, labor and social protection) are associated with increased executive pay-for-performance sensitivity and the maximization of shareholder value.