CSB Announces 2021 Faculty Research Grants Awardees

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NYU Stern’s Center for Sustainable Business (CSB) envisions a better world through better business. This year CSB issued a research grant program to complement CSB research and to expand beyond our projects. CSB offers faculty and Ph.D. research grants related to our mission: to ensure current and future business leaders develop the knowledge and skills to embed sustainability in core business strategy so they can reduce risk; create competitive advantage; develop innovative services, products, and processes; while building value for society and protecting the planet. To learn more about the CSB Research Grant program, click here. Next year’s deadline is January 31, 2022. We are pleased to announce the following awardees:
  • Does Financial Impact Sway Public Opinion on Climate Change, Shan Ge, Assistant Professor of Finance 
  • The Psychology of Improving Sustainability, Joshua Lewis, Assistant Professor of Marketing
  • Does Mandatory HCM Disclosure Promote Sustainability?, Yongoh Roh, PhD Student of Accounting, and Yanting (Crystal) Shi, PhD Student of Accounting
  • The Equilibrium Effects of Fossil Fuel Divestment, Daniel Stackman, PhD Student of Economics, and Christopher Conlon, Assistant Professor of Economics
Please find the project descriptions for the proposals below:

Does Financial Impact Sway Public Opinion on Climate Change? by Shan Ge (Assistant Professor of Finance) 
This project studies if direct monetary impact households experience can affect their opinions towards climate change by examining the effect of homeowners’ insurance rate increases. Public opinions are critical in combating climate change. They are important for gathering political support for policies combating climate change. Public opinions are also important to motivate individuals and communities to undertake actions and efforts to counter the force of climate change. Despite the importance of public opinions, we know little about what shapes them. Understanding what influences people’s views about climate change can help policymakers and relevant organizations more effectively sway public opinion.

The Psychology of Improving Sustainability by Joshua Lewis (Assistant Professor of Marketing)
I am examining the decision-making processes that govern whether managers invest resources to improve environmental sustainability. My previous work suggests that decision-makers would invest more resources in improving a company’s sustainability from good to better than from bad to less bad – even when the change in the company’s sustainability would have the same value. This is because decision-makers focus on, and seek more information about, a potential improved situation that would follow any investment than the unimproved situation that would follow a failure to invest. Thus, if an investment would lead to a very good level of sustainability, a decision-maker would make that investment even if the company’s sustainability would otherwise still have been good. Yet, if the same investment leads merely to a poor level of sustainability, then the decision-maker would not make that investment even if the company’s sustainability would otherwise be even worse.  

Does Mandatory HCM Disclosure Promote Sustainability? By Yongoh Roh (PhD student in Accounting) and Yanting (Crystal) Shi (PhD student in Accounting)
Current accounting rules treat all human capital-related costs as expenses and only require disclosure of the aggregate employee headcount in financial reports, potentially discouraging companies from investing in the sustainability of human capital. In this paper, we examine whether the SEC’s new rule, which requires public firms to include a description of their human capital management (HCM) practices in financial reports, promotes firm investment in sustainability. The new rule induces firms to exert considerable effort to track their HCM practices and generate relevant information annually. We hypothesize that this internal measurement of HCM practices increases managers’ awareness of their HCM practices, thereby improving the quality of firms’ overall HCM practices. We intend to exploit multiple sets of novel datasets that track HCM practices of both public and private firms on a daily basis. We intend to compare the extent and quality of HCM practices in public firms with those of private firms around the implementation of the rule. Further, we intend to examine whether affected firms were more likely to take socially responsible actions to safeguard employees’ health during the Covid-19 pandemic. Overall, our analyses provide evidence regarding whether financial disclosure regulation helps promote business sustainability.

The Equilibrium Effects of Fossil Fuel Divestment by Daniel Stackman (PhD student in Economics) and Christopher Conlon (Assistant Professor of Economics)
University endowments, sovereign wealth funds, and even some of the largest private asset managers in the world, have declared their intentions to divest from companies whose business activities directly contribute to CO2 emissions and climate change. Divestment is, at least in part, aimed at changing the incentives of managers at CO2-emitting companies, by putting downward pressure on their stock price. Since managers at large publicly traded companies are largely compensated through equity and equity options, a fall in the stock price of a CO2-emitting company driven by CO2 divestment will encourage managers to reorient their businesses away from CO2-emissions heavy activities. In this paper, I evaluate the effectiveness of a large-scale divestment policy, by quantifying the extent to which such a policy would lower the stock price of emitting companies, and the cost of the policy to divestors in terms of foregone expected returns.

Information about the application process for next year will be available in Fall 2021, with a deadline of January 31, 2022, for the next funding cycle. Additional information about the CSB Research Grant program is available here.