ESG Investing In Nordic Countries : An analysis of the Shareholder view of creating value
Abstract: ESG ratings have become a recognised sustainability performance measurement throughout the world. The Nordic countries Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Norway are ranked top four in the world when it comes to ESG ratings. However, do investors in these countries recognise the sustainability performance of the firms in their investment decisions? The purpose of this study was to see if Nordic investors value ESG factors, by testing for a relationship between high ESG ratings and corporate financial performance. To be able to fulfil this purpose, several multiple regression models were conducted on data for a time-span between 2007-2017 on 108 firm observations and 995 firm-year observations. Corporate financial performance was represented by the dependent variables Tobin’s Q and Return on Assets as measurements for market and accounting performance respectively. The results showed a significant positive relationship between several ESG ratings and market performance, while no significantly positive, nor negative, relationship could be found between accounting performance and ESG ratings. Based on the results from the tests, conclusions were drawn that Nordic investors do value ESG ratings when choosing their investments, indicating that companies can benefit from having good sustainability policies. This thesis challenges the classical view of profit maximisation being the ultimate interest of shareholders, as it shows a positive relationship between ESG and financial market performance. The results indicate that investors take more factors into consideration in their investment decisions than only financial accounting returns. Therefore, conclusions have been made that the Stakeholder theory better explains value creation than the Shareholder theory does. This because the Stakeholder theory emphasises that firms maximise value by taking all stakeholders affected by their business cycle into account, not only the shareholders. Furthermore, based on the results, this thesis concludes that Nordic investors’ interests are in line with the society’s interests as they do value ESG ratings when investing. No previous study on the topic has been conducted on the Nordic market, thus this study fills a research gap on the relationship between financial performance and corporate sustainability.
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