Time Horizons of Environmental Versus Non-Environmental Costs: Evidence from US Tort Lawsuits
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One explanation for a positive correlation between environmental and financial performance at the firm level is a bias in firms’ investment evaluation processes caused by systematic differences between environmental and other investment opportunities. One of these systematic differences, often hypothesized but still unverified, is that environmental costs occur farther in the future than other costs. We empirically test this hypothesis, and find statistically significant support for it. In our data set the mean time lag for environmental costs was more than ten years, compared with five years for the control set costs. Such a difference could induce managers to accept too much environmental liability if they evaluate investments using discounted cash flow methods with a discount rate based on the firm-wide cost of capital.
The article of record as published may be found at http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/bse.494
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