Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) refers to the three central factors that help to measure the sustainability and societal impact of a company or business and thereby its long-term economic value, beyond mere short-term profitability to shareholders. In recent years this new theory has gained ground, contrary to the earlier belief espoused by economists like Milton Friedman who had argued that social responsibility adversely affects a firm's financial performance and that regulation and interference from government will always damage the macro-economy. The foundations for this thinking were laid when in 1988 James S. Coleman wrote an article in the American Journal of Sociology titled Social Capital in the Creation of Human Capital, challenging the dominance of the concept of 'self-interest' in economics and introduced the concept of social capital into the measurement of value. In 1998 John Elkington, co-founder of the business consultancy SustainAbility, published Cannibals with Forks: the Triple Bottom Line of 21st Century Business in which he identified the newly emerging cluster of non-financial considerations which should be included in the factors determining a company or equity's value. He coined the phrase the "triple bottom line", referring to the financial, environmental and social factors included in the new calculation. Two other journalists Robert Levering and Milton Moskowitz brought out the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For, initially a listing in the magazine Fortune, then a book compiling a list of the best-practicing companies in the United States with regard to corporate social responsibility and how their financial performance fared as a result. Of the three areas of concern that ESG represented, the environmental and social had received most of the public and media attention, not least because of the growing fears concerning climate change. Moskowitz brought the spotlight onto the corporate governance aspect of responsible investment. His analysis concerned how the companies were managed, what the stockholder relationships were and how the employees were treated. He argued that improving corporate governance procedures did not damage financial performance; on the contrary it maximised productivity, ensured corporate efficiency and led to the sourcing and utilising of superior management talents. In 2011, Alex Edmans, a finance professor at Wharton, published a paper in the Journal of Financial Economics showing that the 100 Best Companies to Work For outperformed their peers in terms of stock returns by 2–3% a year over 1984–2009. There has been uncertainty and debate as to what to call the inclusion of intangible factors relating to the sustainability and ethical impact of investments. Names have ranged from the early use of buzz words such as "green" and "eco", to the wide array of possible descriptions for the types of investment analysis—"responsible investment", "socially responsible investment" (SRI), "ethical", "extra-financial", "long horizon investment" (LHI), "enhanced business", "corporate health", "non-traditional", and others. But the predominance of the term ESG has now become fairly widely. Corporate governance covers the area of investigation into the rights and responsibilities of the management of a company—its board, shareholders and the various stakeholders in that company. ESG Corporate Governance also covers matters such as Business ethics, anti-competitive practices, corruption, tax and providing accounting transparency for stakeholders. Today, ESG has become less a question of philanthropy than practicality and a key driver of investments. Sources: Various, Britannica, Wikipedia.


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