We conduct an experiment to examine investment professionals’ use of corporate social responsibility (CSR) disclosures when making personal investment decisions or investment recommendations to clients.

We predict and find that investment professionals are more willing to personally invest and recommend investment to a client when a firm discloses positive CSR performance than when it makes no CSR disclosures. Investment professionals’ decisions and recommendations are influenced by CSR disclosures both because, on average, they believe that better CSR performance results in better current and longer-term financial performance and because they value the societal benefits of CSR activities.

We also find that investment professionals’ general beliefs regarding whether CSR activities benefit society affect how they assess firms’ CSR performance and their view of the relation between CSR performance and financial performance.

Finally, investment professionals’ experience appears to protect them from the potential biasing effect of appealing pictures that accompany many CSR disclosures.

By: Markus C. Arnold, University of Bern – Institute for Accounting, Christoph Hörner, University of Bern, Managerial Accounting, Students, Patrick Martin, Indiana University – Kelley School of Business, and Donald V. Moser, University of Pittsburgh – Accounting Group

See the full SSRN paper here