Do Firms Adjust Corporate Social Responsibility Engagement After a Focal Change in Credit Ratings?

Business and Society 61 (6):1684-1722 (2022)

Abstract

This study revisits the relation between corporate performance and corporate social responsibility in the context of a major shift in firms’ credit risk status. Relying on corporate credit rating as a performance indicator, we examine whether firms under the scrutiny of rating agencies trade-off CSR engagement for credit quality improvement. To explore whether firms adjust their CSR engagement after a focal rating change, we focus on the investment–speculative grade threshold because of its importance in accessing the public debt market. We find that firms that lose the investment grade rating subsequently increase CSR engagement. We also uncover that improving CSR engagement helps firms restore their credit ratings ex post. Our findings support the view of CSR engagement as a valuable risk management strategy.

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