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Triangulating Environmental Performance: What Do Corporate Social Responsibility Ratings Really Capture?


The emergence of Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) has led to the development of a large number of methodologies for rating corporate social responsibility and to a growing body of research exploring the link between environmental and financial performance. Increased availability of information potentially generates an abundance of riches upon which to base investment decisions, but also raises issues of commensurability, information overload and confusion. Using a unique dataset combining environmental ratings from three leading purveyors, we identify the principal components of corporate environmental performance. We find that two distinct factors explain 80% of the variance of the data: the environmental processes and practices implemented by firms, and the environmental outcomes they generate. We also find corporate financial performance to be associated to process but not to outcome measures.