Corporate Sustainability and Working Capital : A panel data analysis of the relationship in Swedish-listed firms
Sammanfattning: The theoretical and practical importance of working capital management (Sharma & Kumar, 2011) and its strong link with the firm’s financial stability (Wang et al., 2020, p. 2; Kamel 2015, p. 35) make it one of the most important functional areas of corporate finance. Although literature and the corporate world recognize corporate sustainability mainly through corporate social responsibility (CSR), ESG emerged in the recent past and quickly made its strong footfall as an indicator of corporate sustainability. Literature is evident that studies have mainly focused on studying both working capital management (WCM) and corporate sustainability in relation to firm financial performance (FFP), while scant research has assessed the relationship between WCM and corporate sustainability (Barros et al., 2022, p. 1). The primary purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between corporate sustainability and WCM in the Swedish market to fill this gap in the literature and contribute to the existing body of knowledge on the subject matter through its findings, especially with reference to the use of ESG rating scores. The relationship was examined through the quantitative approach. Sample data was comprised of 418 firm-year observations retrieved from Refinitiv Eikon on 38 firms listed on Nasdaq Stockholm between 2010-2020. ESG rating scores were used to measure corporate sustainability, while two proxy measures; cash conversion cycle (CCC) and working capital requirements (WCR) were for WCM. Stata software was used to find the results of the study by running the pertinent regression models using robust standard errors. Various statistical tests were performed to satisfy all the OLS classical assumptions. The empirical results of our study revealed mixed findings. The findings connected to CCC indicated no statistically significant relationship between ESG scores and CCC which allowed us to conclude that sustainable firms in Sweden do not operate with a shorter CCC (or cash cycle). The findings connected to WCR indicated a significant negative relationship of WCR with the environmental and social score, however no relationship with ESG and governance scores. These results allowed us to conclude that sustainable firms in Sweden are able to operate with WCR (or cash requirements), however, these effects entirely come from the environmental and social pillars, which indirectly implies more sustainable firms can operate with lower levels of debt than their counterparts. Since we found no significant effect from the ESG scores for both CCC and WCR, our findings were partially in line with the shareholder theory, the stakeholders’ theory, and the legitimacy theory we used as theoretical references in our study. The overall findings of our study allow us to suggest sustainable firms in Sweden reconsider their working capital policy decisions to achieve working capital efficiency (a shorter cash cycle) while staying aligned with their sustainability goals.
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