September 20, 2014

News Release

Socially Responsible Investing Research Finds CSR-Related Shareholder Wins Get Bottom Line Results

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Jo Mackness, Center for Responsible Business Executive Director
510-642-6099 | mackness@haas.berkeley.edu

2013 Moskowitz Prize Winner for Socially Responsible Investing Unveiled at the 24th Annual SRI Conference 

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY'S HAAS SCHOOL OF BUSINESS -Adopting corporate social responsibility (CSR) shareholder resolutions leads to large increases in shareholder value and operating performance, according to the study winning the 2013 Moskowitz Prize for Socially Responsible Investing.

The award was presented today at the 24th annual SRI Conference in Colorado Springs to researcher Caroline Flammer for a paper titled, "Does Corporate Social Responsibility Lead to Superior Financial Performance? A Regression Discontinuity Approach.”  See paper here.

The Moskowitz Prize is awarded annually by the Center for Responsible Business at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business. The only global award recognizing outstanding quantitative research in the field of sustainable and responsible investing, the prize was named for Milton Moskowitz, one of the first investigators to publish comparisons of the financial performance of screened and unscreened portfolios.

In her winning paper, Flammer found that corporate financial performance improved sharply in the immediate wake of shareholder-sponsored CSR proposals that were “close calls” – those passing by a small margin of votes. Studying close call proposals is appealing since the outcome of the vote is as good as randomized and cannot be anticipated prior to the vote.

Specifically, Flammer’s results show that the stock market reacts positively to the passage of close call CSR proposals (e.g., reducing CO2 emissions, implementing equal employment opportunities policies, etc.). She further documents a significant increase in the company’s return on assets (ROA) and net profit margin (NPM).  Flammer’s method of research, comparing outcomes just above and below a discontinuous threshold, is known as “regression discontinuity design”. 

Lloyd Kurtz, chief investment officer at Nelson Capital Management and lecturer at Berkeley-Haas, and Nadja Guenster, visiting professor at Berkeley-Haas, serve as the Faculty Co-Chairs of the Moskowitz Prize. They lead the prize selection committee, an expert panel of judges from both academic and investment circles. Commenting on the winner, Guenster said: "Dr. Flammer's study is an outstanding and unique contribution to the large amount of literature on the link between CSR and financial performance. Her innovative approach allows her to overcome the endogeneity problems that affect most previous studies. She can provide convincing empirical evidence that advance our understanding of the value of active ownership and show that companies adopting CSR proposals have seen financial benefits as well."

Caroline Flammer, PhD is an assistant professor in general management at Ivey Business School at Western University in London, Ontario.  She specializes in CSR research, social entrepreneurship and international business and teaches business strategy and sustainability for Ivey’s Honors Business Administration (HBA) program. Before joining Ivey, Flammer was a postdoctoral researcher at MIT Sloan School of Management. She holds a PhD in economics from the University of St. Gallen, located in St. Gallen, Switzerland. For more information on the winner, go to: http://www.ivey.uwo.ca/faculty/directory/caroline-flammer/.

Steve Schueth, producer of The SRI Conference and president of First Affirmative Financial Network said: “The entire Sustainable, Responsible, Impact investment industry is both pleased and proud that the academic research continues to bolster the business case for responsible corporate citizenship and our long-held belief that CSR is a proxy for good management and a way to identify good investment opportunities.”

In the 18-year history of the Moskowitz Prize, 2013 set a record for the number of award submissions. Kurtz remarked: “The Moskowitz Prize and the recognition afforded to the winner each year have gained a lot of traction among academics working in the field of sustainable investing. This past summer was a busy time for us, with 11 judges reviewing 49 studies to select a winner. Dr. Flammer can take credit for a strong research effort that impressed us all.”

Since its inception in 1996, the Moskowitz Prize has been awarded annually at The SRI Conference, the largest and longest running conference serving investors and investment professionals in the sustainable, responsible, impact (SRI) investment industry in North America. The SRI Conference is produced by First Affirmative Financial Network.

The 2013 Moskowitz Prize sponsors are Calvert Group, First Affirmative Financial Network, Nelson Capital Management, Rockefeller and Co., Neuberger Berman, and Trillium Asset Management. More information about the prize is available at: http://responsiblebusiness.haas.berkeley.edu/programs/moskowitzresearchprogram.html.

About the Center for Responsible Business at the Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley

The Center for Responsible Business (http://responsiblebusiness.haas.berkeley.edu) is an “action tank” that builds on the Haas School of Business’ (http://www.haas.berkeley.edu) culture of innovation and UC Berkeley’s tradition to run–not walk–towards social progress. Building on a decade of research, teaching and industry engagement, the Center for Responsible Business brings together students, company leaders, and forward-thinking faculty to redefine business for a sustainable future.

About The SRI Conference

The 24th annual SRI Conference (http://www.SRIconference.com), the leading North American forum for investors and investment professionals involved in sustainable, responsible, impact (SRI) investing, is October 28-30, 2013 at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colorado (http://www.broadmoor.com/). For more information about the conference or about supporting the conference as a sponsor, please contact Krystala Kalil, at 888-774-2663 or Krystala@SRIconference.com.

About First Affirmative Financial Network

First Affirmative Financial Network, LLC (http://www.firstaffirmative.com) is an independent Registered Investment Advisor (SEC File #801-56587) offering investment consulting and asset management services through a nationwide network of investment professionals who specialize in serving socially conscious investors. First Affirmative produces The SRI Conference (http://www.SRIconference.com).