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Can responsible investment induce sustainable corporate behavior? Evidence from the worlds largest equity investor

Alternativ tittel: Can responsible investment induce sustainable corporate behavior? Evidence from the worlds largest equity investor

Tildelt: kr 4,7 mill.

Med ansvarlige investeringer menes at man tar hensyn til miljø, sosiale forhold og eierstyring (ESG) i bedriftens beslutninger. Det har vært en økende interesse for slike ansvarlige investeringer de siste årene. Mange investorer og kapitalforvaltere avstår nå fra å kjøpe aksjer i selskaper som blant annet har høye karbonutslipp, har brutt menneskerettigheter eller ikke har overholdt grunnleggende etiske normer. Til tross for den økende interessen vet vi veldig lite om hvordan denne investeringsstrategien faktisk fremmer selskapenes ESG-adferd. Er det virkelig slik at ansvarlige investeringer faktisk forandrer bedriftenes forretningsadferd? Dette er kjernespørsmålet i forskningsprosjektet vårt.

Responsible investment refers to the strategy and practice of incorporating environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors in investment decisions and active ownership. As ESG issues rise to the top of the agendas of many investors and asset managers, research on whether and how responsible investment actually impacts real-world corporate behavior has become more relevant. For example, can responsible investing help to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals? This question remains unsettled in the academic and policy discourse, and it lies at the crux of our research project. INVESTINGIMPACT is an empirical microeconomic study of the effect of responsible investment on investee firms’ ESG performance. We focus on the sustainability and ethically motivated divestitures by Norway’s US$ 1.4 trillion Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG or the 'Oil Fund’). Our premise is that the Oil Fund's standing as the world’s largest equity investor and a market leader in responsible investment makes it different from other investors. While divestments are often thought to be ineffective, the Fund's position means that its divestment can significantly and negatively influence companies' stock prices. This fall in stock price, in turn, may affect companies' behavior as they seek to decrease their capital cost. While there is a large, related literature on corporate governance (among other fields), this will be the first economics study of the impact of GPFG divestments on firms' real-world behavior. Using a difference-in-differences design, the project will examine: 1) the direction of the average causal effect; 2) the heterogeneity of effect by divestment rationale (i.e., product vs. conduct); and 3) the adjustments that firms make to their environmental footprint in response to divestment. Through these analyses, our project aims to expand our knowledge of the role that responsible investment and financial markets can play in promoting sustainable development.