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The Link between Firm Financial Performance and Investment in Sustainability Initiatives

Cornell Hospitality Quarterly

Published online on


While sustainability initiatives by firms are increasingly encouraged by customers, investors, and the government, the economics of sustainable decisions remains in question. The study described in this paper examines the link between sustainability and economic performance for the hospitality industry, as compared with other businesses. Using data spanning 1991 through 2011 from MSCI’s Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Indices and credit ratings from Standard and Poor’s representing 16,325 firm-years, the analysis finds that hospitality firms on average invest more in environmental programs than do businesses in other industries; that hospitality firms have significantly fewer environmental concerns; that strong financial performance leads to increased investments; and that going green, in turn, pays off in future periods, creating a virtuous cycle. One implication is that hospitality firms should go forward confidently in establishing their sustainability programs, as it appears that customers support the effort financially.