Lower Your Firms Cost of Capital by Managing Environmental Riskss Cost of Capital by Managing Environmental Risks

Lower Your Firms Cost of Capital by Managing Environmental Risks

Tirath Sandhu August 29, 2010
This study shows that a firm's improved environmental performance reduces the firm's cost of capital. The researchers found that investors perceive a firm's risk more favourably when the firm actively manages its environmental risks. In turn, this improved perception leads to the willingness of financial markets to accept lower risk premiums on equity, or higher levels of leverage, both of which can result in an overall reduced cost of capital.


Many firms view "green" activities as a cost to be minimized. But according to recent research, a firm's environmental activities enable more efficient use of resources, resulting in better economic performance. Firms can manage their environmental risks by choosing strategic investments that reduce emissions and pollution and, in doing so, mitigate risks from litigation and reduce the potential for expensive environmental claims, settlements, and compliance. 


Implications for Managers

Managers can reduce their firm's cost of capital by managing environmental risks. Firms that invest in environmental risk management incur higher costs of debt, but are able to carry higher debt loads and to reap greater tax benefits from their debt financing. Short-term costs of environmental improvements must be absorbed to generate longer-term gains. 

Implications for Researchers

The researchers looked beyond the correlation between internal environmental investments and economic performance to also consider institutional and other external factors. Future work could apply structural equations modelling to further examine the cost of debt findings of this research and assess whether the results will hold for firms under greater pressure to improve their environmental risk management.


The researchers examined 267 U.S. firms from the S&P 500. The authors' measure of environmental risk management was obtained using KLD environmental scores and the US EPA TRI data taken from the Investor Responsibility Research Center. The authors tested hypotheses by using hierarchical regression and controlling for financial leverage, firm size, and industry membership. 
P. Sharfman, Mark, and S. Fernando, Chitru. (2008). Environmental Risk Management and the Cost of Capital. Strategic Management Journal, 29: 569-592. 

additional resources

Research Insight

How social activism can make stakeholders worry, and turn into real financial loss—to the tune of tens of millions.

Lauren Turner
Research Insight

If your sustainability strategy is weak, don't be surprised if your firm has to jump through hoops to secure funds. A strong strategy breaks down barriers.

Lauren Turner
Topic Blog

One year after one of the worst mining strike in South Africa’s history, has South African business learned the importance of social capital?

Ralph Hamann