Financial materiality pertains to crucial and pertinent data that a company is obligated to reveal in its financial statements. It provides companies with the insights necessary to discern elements influencing their performance and profitability, thereby enabling them to mitigate risks and captivate potential investors. There have been conflicts between shareholders and stakeholders regarding issues that are not directly related to finances, like environmental and social concerns. However, ignoring these factors like ESG (environmental, social and governance) could pose risks to both companies and investors.
Researchers at Kyushu University found that investors consider a company’s response to material environmental issues as a significant risk when deciding whether to invest in it. This highlights the importance of providing information that promotes communication between companies and investors for sustainable investment.
The more people become interested in sustainable investing, the concept of financial materiality is being closely examined. The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) has developed standards specifically for different industries to help companies disclose sustainability information that is financially relevant.
The study analyzed data from 1,766 companies listed in the US between 2011 and 2020. By incorporating financial materiality into environmental performance assessments, this study provides new evidence of sustainability investments from the perspective of shareholders. The researchers made three important findings:
・The importance of each evaluation criterion for sustainable investment varies depending on the characteristics of each company.
・Shareholders see a lack of consideration for financial materiality in management strategies as a significant risk.
・Evaluating a company’s environmental performance based on financial materiality provides a better perspective for investors to understand the environmental risk involved. (See the reference figure)
With the growing interest in sustainable investing, there is a need to reevaluate how environmental information is reported by companies. Considering ESG factors in investment strategies provides scientific evidence for the importance of including financial materiality to achieve a sustainable and resilient economy. Using the financial materiality standards provided by SASB could be an effective way to assess and manage corporate environmental risks.
This research was supported by Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Grant/Award Numbers: 20H00648, 22K20176; New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization, Grant/Award Number: P14026
For more information about this research, see Xie, J., Tanaka, Y., Keeley, A. R., Fujii,H., & Managi, S. (2023). Do investors incorporate financial materiality? Remapping the environmental information in corporate sustainability reporting. Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, 1–29. https://doi.org/10.1002/csr.2524
About Kyushu University
Kyushu University is one of Japan’s leading research-oriented institutes of higher education since its founding in 1911. Home to around 19,000 students and 8,000 faculty and staff, Kyushu U's world-class research centers cover a wide range of study areas and research fields, from the humanities and arts to engineering and medical sciences. Its multiple campuses—including one of the largest in Japan—are located around Fukuoka City, a coastal metropolis on the southwestern Japanese island of Kyushu that is frequently ranked among the world’s most livable cities and historically known as Japan’s gateway to Asia. Through its Vision 2030, Kyushu U will ‘Drive Social Change with Integrative Knowledge.’ Its synergistic application of knowledge will encompass all of academia and solve issues in society while innovating new systems for a better future.
Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management
Do investors incorporate financial materiality? Remapping the environmental information in corporate sustainability reporting
Article Publication Date