Study Finds Poor ESG Performance Leads to Increased Credit Risk

Media Coverage August 9, 2019

Full article available on ETF Stream
By Tom Eckett


Academics from the University of Pennsylvania have found a connection between poor environmental, social, and governance (ESG) scores and increased credit risk.

The study, entitled ESG, Material Credit Events and Credit Risk, argues companies whose ESG performance is strong are less prone to changes in their credit rating. This link, the research noted, was certainly the case for companies which experienced black swan events such as the Volkswagen emissions scandal in 2015. When it was discovered Volkswagen had been installing software on diesel vehicles that allowed them to pass emission tests, the company’s credit spreads widened 187% to 2.16%.


In the study, co-authors Witold Henisz and Janes McGlinch, both of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, looked to demonstrate these patterns observed in case studies are “generalisable”. To do this, the duo extended the same process to a broader sample of 342 companies across 13 industries, excluding financials, between 2009 to 2017.

Using Truvalue Labs data, the study found “clear evidence” that higher-performing companies on ESG criteria experienced a lower number of material events.