Journal of Business Ethics 155 (3):763-786 (2019)

Voluntary disclosures of sustainability information have recently received considerable attention by investors, regulators, and public companies in improving reliability and integrity of corporate reporting. We examine the association between the quantity and quality of sustainability disclosures and earnings quality in the context of corporate ethical value and culture. We posit that sustainability disclosures of environmental, social, and governance performance reports are linked to earnings quality, because of the importance of both earnings quality and ESG sustainability disclosures to investors and trustworthiness of corporate reporting. We collect our sample of 35,110 firm-year observations between 1999 and 2015. Using both difference-in-difference tests and OLS regression, we find that sustainability disclosure quantity is positively associated with innate earnings quality and negatively correlated with discretionary earnings quality in mitigating managerial earnings manipulation and unethical opportunistic reporting behavior. Further tests illustrate that sustainability disclosure quality can strengthen the positive relation between innate earnings quality and sustainability disclosure quantity and mitigate the negative relation between discretionary earnings quality and sustainability disclosure quantity. Finally, additional tests suggest that the relation between earnings quality and sustainability disclosure quantity is moderated by corporate structure and prior-year sustainability performance. Our results provide policy, practical, and research implications as ESG sustainability reporting is being integrated into corporate culture and business models.
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DOI 10.1007/s10551-017-3546-y
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