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How do Firms Embrace the Rising Opportunities of Sustainable Businesses?

Does Corporate Transparency Advance ESG Performance? Why and Where?

My research stream on corporate sustainability reflects my long-held passion for topics at the intersection of business and society, which was developed before embarking on my academic journey. In particular, my work experience at the World Bank--which involves managing development projects in pollution-intensive infrastructural sectors in East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa--has elevated my appreciation of the complex interplay among multiple stakeholders tangled in the business-environment conflicts. This experience directly shapes the way I approach issues related to corporate social impacts and sustainable businesses.

In my ongoing dissertation work, I study how firms transform to meet the growing market for sustainable businesses. Stakeholder pressures, technological innovations, and economic incentives have enabled ample market opportunities for sustainable businesses, yet we know little about how firms go about seizing such opportunities and what barriers they face during the transformation. Both questions are particularly pressing among incumbent firms with legacy businesses in traditional markets: despite foreseeable challenges they may face if were to break away from their existing operations, these firms are the ones that could benefit the most from--and contribute the most to--a vibrant market for sustainable businesses. In the two empirical chapters I developed, I examine (1) the systematic barriers faced by brown-industry firms in acquiring sustainability-related talent (which is also my job market paper), and (2) how firm expansion in sustainable product markets affects consumer evaluations on incumbent products to show intended and unintended consequences of the transformation.

Tall Reflecting Office Buildings

In a separate area of research on corporate sustainability, I study the connection between ESG information disclosure and corporate performance. In a paper in collaboration with Shipeng Yan and Lisha Liu, I examine the effectiveness of disclosure mandates in emerging markets where stakeholder scrutiny is known to be weak yet market opportunities for growth are abundant. Using China's Green Credit Initiative as a context, I identify the adoption of standardized metrics as a novel mechanism in promoting corporate pro-environmental change. This paper has won the Best Paper Award at the 2019’ Ivey/ARCS Ph.D. Sustainability Academy and the Best Paper Award at the 2019’ ASAC Annual Conference for Social Responsibility Division. In another paper where I leverage the context of the U.S. "fracking boom" around the 2010s, I find that firms are more forthcoming on their ESG performance where a local community has experienced more damages, but less so if the firms are responsible for more such damages. This research, in collaboration with Glen Dowell, has won the Best Paper Award at the 2019’ ASAC Annual Conference for Organization Theory Division

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