Study Finds That Stakeholder-Oriented Companies Yield Higher Returns

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Boston, January 18, 2022—FCLTGlobal, a not-for-profit research organization, and the ESG Analytics Lab at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, today published a new study that finds that companies that prioritize a multi-stakeholder approach generate higher returns than those who do not.

The study, Walking the Talk: Valuing a Multi-stakeholder Strategy, analyzes the annual reports of over 3,000 global companies (drawn from MSCI’s All Country World Index) to look for stakeholder-oriented language, and compares the presence of that language with financial, environmental, social and governance (ESG) outcomes.

The data shows that if all the companies in the study performed like the top tercile, they would have generated a collective $2.9 trillion in additional firm value between 2010-2020.

“The impact of stakeholder-oriented strategies has been an emerging topic of interest, but competing definitions, inconsistent priorities, and lack of proof have led to skepticism,” said Ariel Babcock, Managing Director and Head of Research at FCLTGlobal. “This research presents empirical facts about the behaviors and outcomes of multi-stakeholder-oriented firms for the first time. Our hope is that companies use this study to frame their stakeholder strategies, and to communicate those decisions to investors and other key stakeholders.”

Furthermore, the study finds that firms that paired strong stakeholder language with strong performance on material ESG measures also:

  • Generated 4% higher returns over a three-year period as measured by return on invested capital (ROIC).
  • Delivered 1.5% higher sales growth over a three-year period.
  • Delivered more stable returns resulting in 9% lower predicted ROIC volatility over three years.
  • Invested twice as much in R&D as a percentage of sales.
  • Were 50% more likely to issue long-term guidance.

“There has been too much focus on the question of whether ESG outcomes contribute to financial performance and not enough on how, when, and where that contribution occurs. This research highlights the importance of a firm’s stakeholder orientation and its presentation thereof (i.e., its walk and talk) for the level and stability of its return on invested capital (ROIC) especially over a 2–3-year time horizon,” said Witold (Vit) Henisz, Deloitte & Touche Professor of Management and Founder of the ESG Analytics Lab at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. “Our hope is that the results of our joint analysis aid ESG integrators among corporates and investors in supporting win-wins between stakeholder and shareholder value strengthening the case that attention to ESG factors is motivated by economics not ideology.”

FCLTGlobal conducted this research in full collaboration with the ESG Analytics Lab, part of the Wharton School’s Analytics at Wharton group. The ESG Analytics Lab originated the methodology and conducted the analysis alongside FCLTGlobal’s research staff. Henisz and Rachelle Sampson of the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business led a team that included Nathan Barrymore, Christopher Bruno, James McGlinch, Ernest Ng, and Xuchong Shao, in partnership with members of FCLTGlobal staff, led by Allen He.

To learn more, read the full report at

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About FCLTGlobal

FCLTGlobal’s mission is to focus capital on the long term to support a sustainable and prosperous economy. We are a non-profit organization whose members are leading companies and investors worldwide that develops actionable research and tools to drive long-term value creation for savers and communities. Please visit to learn more.

About the Wharton School

Founded in 1881 as the world’s first collegiate business school, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania is shaping the future of business by incubating ideas, driving insights, and creating leaders who change the world. With a faculty of more than 235 renowned professors, Wharton has 5,000 undergraduate, MBA, executive MBA, and doctoral students. Each year 13,000 professionals from around the world advance their careers through Wharton Executive Education’s individual, company-customized, and online programs. More than 100,000 Wharton alumni form a powerful global network of leaders who transform business every day. For more information, visit