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Accountancy NEWS

ND Sustainability Research: What carbon emissions say about firm value

by Carol Elliott

March 1, 2011


Do firms reporting higher carbon emissions have lower firm value?

The answer is yes, according to Accountancy Professor Sandra Vera-Muñoz.

In new research, “Voluntary Disclosures of Carbon Emissions, Carbon Emission Levels, and Firm Value,” Vera-Muñoz and her co-authors studied 2006-2008 data reported voluntarily by Standard and Poor’s 500 firms to the Carbon Disclosure Project. “We found the higher the carbon emissions levels reported, the lower the firm value,” she says.

The results have significant implications, says Vera-Muñoz, as federal regulation requiring companies to pay for their carbon emissions continues to be debated. “Although regulation has yet to be adopted, our results suggest that the markets are already anticipating the effects of the costs of emissions on firm value,” she adds.

Bear in mind, however, that disclosure of carbon emissions is a voluntary act. So the researchers asked, “Who chooses to disclose carbon emissions?” They found that companies that have strong overall environmental performance are more likely to voluntarily disclose carbon emissions. Some informed observers interpret this as a proactive strategy to signal actions to reduce carbon emissions, explains
Vera-Muñoz.

Their ongoing research also suggests that various stakeholders, such as institutional investors and NGOs, are exerting pressure for firms to make these disclosures.