The Linkage between ESG Performance and Credit Ratings: A Firm-Level Perspective Analysis

  •  Alain Devalle    
  •  Simona Fiandrino    
  •  Valter Cantino    


This paper investigates the effect of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance on credit ratings. We argue that ESG factors should be considered in the credit analysis and the creditworthiness evaluation of borrowers because they affect borrowers’ cash flows and the likelihood of default on their debt obligations. Consequently, we develop our research by firstly reviewing the literature regarding ESG commitments within financial decision-making processes and then addressing the relation between ESG performance and the cost of debt financing. We reveal no unanimous results and no clear-cut boundaries on this matter yet. Secondly, to disentangle this relationship, which is not well defined by scholars, we empirically investigate the nexus between ESG performance and credit rating issues on a sample of 56 Italian and Spanish public firms for which ESG performance in 2015 was achieved. Our final sample includes 15 variables for 56 observations: 840 items are under analysis. Our findings suggest that ESG performance, especially concerning social and governance metrics, meaningfully affects credit ratings. We do not sort out significant results referring to environmental scores, so further research is needed to investigate this ever-growing matter and strengthen this considerable nexus.

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