Financial Constraints on Corporate Goodness
NBER Working Paper No. 18476
An influential thesis, dubbed “Doing well by doing good,” argues that corporate social responsibility is profitable. But heterogeneity in firm financial constraints can induce a spurious correlation between profits and goodness even if the motives for goodness are non-profit in nature. We use two identification strategies to show that financial constraints are indeed an important driver of corporate goodness. First, during the Internet bubble, previously constrained firms experienced a temporary relaxation of their constraints and their goodness temporarily increased relative to their previously unconstrained peers. Second, a constrained firm's sustainability score increases more with its idiosyncratic equity valuation and lower cost of capital than a less-constrained counterpart. In sum, firms are more likely to do good when they do well.
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