Does it Really Hurt to be Responsible?

Journal of Business Ethics 122 (3):375-386 (2014)
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Prior literature on socially responsible investment has contended that excluding “sin stocks” from a portfolio will reduce performance and increase risk. Further, incorporating stocks of firms with positive social responsibility scores will improve performance and reduce risk. We simulate portfolios designed to mimic typical equity mutual funds’ holdings and investigate these propositions. We remove the potentially confounding influences of differences in manager skill, transaction costs and fees, and conduct a clean experiment on the effect of positive and negative portfolio screening. We find no difference in the return or risk of screened and unscreened portfolios. We conclude that a typical socially responsible fund will neither gain nor lose from screening its portfolio.



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