Special Issue "New Economic and Financial Challenges for Social and Environmental Sustainability"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 November 2020.

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Roy Cerqueti
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Economics and Law, University of Macerata, Italy
Interests: quantitative methods for economics and finance; sustainability in economics and finance
Prof. Massimo Biasin
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Economics and Law, University of Macerata, Italy
Interests: real estate investment vehichles; financial regulation; asset management fee structures
Prof. Emanuela Giacomini
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Economics and Law, University of Macerata, Italy
Interests: banking; corporate finance; real estate finance; social impact finance
Prof. Nicoletta Marinelli
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Economics and Law, University of Macerata, Italy
Interests: institutional investors; social network; behavioral finance; alternative investments
Prof. Anna Grazia Quaranta
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Economics and Law, University of Macerata, Italy
Interests: risk management; asset pricing; asset allocation via robust approaches; financial business models
Prof. Luca Riccetti
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Economics and Law, University of Macerata, Italy
Interests: agent-based macroeconomic models; monetary policy; financial regulation; asset allocation; behavioral finance

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Over the last few decades, the concept of social and environmental sustainability has become increasingly relevant. Sustainability aims to describe and understand political and economic decisions in terms of their environmental, social, and governance impact. The embedded risks are among the most complex perspective threats worldwide. In this contest, the financial sector has been recognized as having a crucial role in fostering sustainable development, by re-orienting resources towards more sustainable targets and businesses. The rapid growth of structures and vehicles to support social and environmental sustainability has stimulated financial and economic studies. However, many areas of sustainability-related issues deserve further investigation.

This Special Issue aims at bridging this gap by collecting cutting-edge original papers that will improve the actual understanding of the sustainability universe in all of its sub-areas (sustainable investing, impact investing, green finance, ethical investing, positive finance, social return and sustainability measurement, ESG criteria, circular economy, etc.). We encourage submissions from scholars, practitioners, and policymakers addressing sustainable and measurable solutions to meet social and environmental (i.e., societal) needs of society at large. This Special Issue also welcomes contributions from a broad range of fields related to economics and finance at large, including the address of regulatory and institutional issues connected to the topic. Both theoretical and empirical papers are welcome.

The selected papers will contribute to describing the state-of-the-art in this field, as well as provide new directions for research on the topic of social and environmental sustainability.

Prof. Roy Cerqueti
Prof. Massimo Biasin
Prof. Emanuela Giacomini
Prof. Nicoletta Marinelli
Prof. Anna Grazia Quaranta
Prof. Luca Riccetti
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • social and environmental sustainability
  • social impact finance
  • socially responsible investments
  • ESG criteria
  • climate risk
  • green finance
  • ethical investing
  • financial and nonfinancial performance
  • circular economy
  • environmental and ecological economics
  • intellectual capital

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle
Integrating ESG Analysis into Smart Beta Strategies
Sustainability 2020, 12(22), 9351; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12229351 - 11 Nov 2020
Abstract
Smart beta strategy is an increasingly frequent approach to investment analysis for portfolio selection and optimization and it can be combined with environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations. In order to verify the impact of the integration between ESG and smart beta analysis, [...] Read more.
Smart beta strategy is an increasingly frequent approach to investment analysis for portfolio selection and optimization and it can be combined with environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations. In order to verify the impact of the integration between ESG and smart beta analysis, first we apply a portfolio rebalancing based on ESG scores on securities selected according to different smart beta strategies (ex-post ESG rebalancing approach). Secondly, we apply different smart beta approaches to sustainable portfolios, screened according to the issuers’ ESG scores (ex-ante ESG screening approach). We find that ESG rebalancing and screening are able to impact both on return and risk statistics, but with a different level of efficiency for each smart beta strategy. ESG rebalancing proves to be particularly efficient when it is applied to a “Value” portfolio. On the other hand, when smart beta is applied to ESG-screened portfolios, “Growth” is the strategy which shows the highest increase in risk-adjusted performance, particularly in the US. Minimum volatility proves to be the most efficient smart beta strategy for sustainable portfolios. In general, the increase in the level of sustainability does not deteriorate the risk-adjusted performances of most smart beta strategies. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Synergies and Trade-Offs in Reaching the Sustainable Development Goals
Sustainability 2020, 12(20), 8729; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12208729 - 21 Oct 2020
Abstract
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted in 2015 integrate diverse issues such as addressing hunger, gender equality and clean energy and set a common agenda for all United Nations member states until 2030. The 17 SDGs interact and by working towards achieving one [...] Read more.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted in 2015 integrate diverse issues such as addressing hunger, gender equality and clean energy and set a common agenda for all United Nations member states until 2030. The 17 SDGs interact and by working towards achieving one goal countries may further—or jeopardise—progress on others. However, the direction and strength of these interactions are still poorly understood and it remains an analytical challenge to capture the relationships between the multi-dimensional goals, comprising 169 targets and over 200 indicators. Here, we use principal component analysis (PCA), an in this context novel approach, to summarise each goal and interactions in the global SDG agenda. Applying PCA allows us to map trends, synergies and trade-offs at the level of goals for all SDGs while using all available information on indicators. While our approach does not allow us to investigate causal relationships, it provides important evidence of the degree of compatibility of goal attainment over time. Based on global data 2000–2016, our results indicate that synergies between and within the SDGs prevail, both in terms of levels and over time change. An exception is SDG 10 ‘Reducing inequalities’ which has not progressed in tandem with other goals. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Capabilities of Corporate Volunteering in Strengthening Social Capital
Sustainability 2020, 12(18), 7482; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12187482 - 11 Sep 2020
Abstract
Corporate volunteering is becoming increasingly popular among the ways that companies manifest their social responsibility. Its popularity is due to the variety of benefits it brings to all parties. Among other things, it is capable of strengthening social capital, although specific phenomena and [...] Read more.
Corporate volunteering is becoming increasingly popular among the ways that companies manifest their social responsibility. Its popularity is due to the variety of benefits it brings to all parties. Among other things, it is capable of strengthening social capital, although specific phenomena and processes related to this remain largely unexplored. The aim of the paper is to identify how the frequency and intensity of contacts between volunteers and beneficiaries affect social capital building. The empirical study was based on a qualitative research approach and conducted in the form of individual semi-structured interviews with employees responsible for corporate volunteering in their companies. The results of the study suggest that corporate volunteering strengthens social capital regardless of the extent to which volunteers have contact with the beneficiaries of their volunteering work. However, the frequency and intensity of this contact may affect specific dimensions of social capital, leading to the strengthening of bonding social capital and/or bridging social capital. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Exploring Determinants of Innovation Capability in Manufacturing Companies Operating in Poland
Sustainability 2020, 12(17), 7101; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12177101 - 31 Aug 2020
Abstract
The innovation capability of a company is considered the determinant of its competitiveness in the long-term. Therefore, it is of increasing importance to understand the critical variable behind a firm’s innovation capability. The paper explores these issues and contributes to the research on [...] Read more.
The innovation capability of a company is considered the determinant of its competitiveness in the long-term. Therefore, it is of increasing importance to understand the critical variable behind a firm’s innovation capability. The paper explores these issues and contributes to the research on the factors that drive a company’s innovation capability. The aim of the paper is to identify which factors determine the innovation capability of manufacturing enterprises operating in Poland. In the theoretical part, it provides an overview of recent contributions to the literature on a company’s innovation capability enhancers. The empirical contribution of the paper refers to recognising the relationship between the certain practices pursued by Polish manufacturing enterprises and their innovation capability measured by innovation output. Using a model for panel data, the study finds that that the factors driving innovation capability of manufacturing enterprises operating in Poland are the following: inter-organisational cooperation, hiring employees in research and development (R&D) activities as well as firms’ internal expenditures on R&D. The study is based on the data from publications of the Central Statistical Office of Poland, which contain information on the activities of manufacturing enterprises and reports presenting the results of research on the innovation capability of enterprises. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Classification of Sustainable Activities: EU Taxonomy and Scientific Literature
Sustainability 2020, 12(16), 6460; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12166460 - 11 Aug 2020
Abstract
In March 2020, the European Commission published the EU Taxonomy, a classification system of economic activities that can be considered environmentally sustainable. Motivated by this policy initiative, we propose a bibliometric analysis, based on the Web of Science database for the period January [...] Read more.
In March 2020, the European Commission published the EU Taxonomy, a classification system of economic activities that can be considered environmentally sustainable. Motivated by this policy initiative, we propose a bibliometric analysis, based on the Web of Science database for the period January 1990–March 2020, regarding the extant scientific production related to the EU Taxonomy environmental objectives and macro-sectors. We find that a considerable number of scientific works—161,595 publications—have investigated Taxonomy-related areas, showing that the EU Taxonomy defined a working method, based on the cooperation among regulators, academics, and industry, representing a valuable example of evidence-based policy making. Furthermore, topic modelling analysis shows that extracted papers focused on improvements in production processes, innovation, and environmental performance. Thus, exploiting time and geographic patterns of the scientific publications, we perform a multivariate analysis to investigate its relationship with subsequent levels of pollution. Our evidence shows that, for the past, a higher level of EU Taxonomy-related publications is associated with a lower level of CO2 emissions, supporting the view that scientific production has a societal impact in terms of environmental sustainability. Accordingly, now that EU Taxonomy-related topics have been incorporated into policy measures, further positive environmental effects are expected from here on out. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
The Determinants of ESG Rating in the Financial Industry: The Same Old Story or a Different Tale?
Sustainability 2020, 12(16), 6398; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12166398 - 08 Aug 2020
Cited by 2
Abstract
Corporate social performance (CSP) and, in particular, environmental, social and governance (ESG) ratings became a focal point for scholars, practitioners and policy makers over the last decade. In order to better understand the dynamics underlying CSP within the financial industry, we investigate its [...] Read more.
Corporate social performance (CSP) and, in particular, environmental, social and governance (ESG) ratings became a focal point for scholars, practitioners and policy makers over the last decade. In order to better understand the dynamics underlying CSP within the financial industry, we investigate its determinants. Adding to the debate regarding CSP antecedents, we draw on a world-wide sample of 727 financial firms operating in twenty-two countries within the period 2006–2017 and look for firm, country and temporal factors that affect CSP. The main results of our empirical analyses provide evidence that financial firms’ ESG scores are growing on a linear trend over time, and such tendency is enhanced by their size and profitability, together with the economic and social development of the country within which they operate. Our findings also show that the environmental, social and governance pillars follow independent patterns. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Sustainability Practices and Stability in the Insurance Industry
Sustainability 2020, 12(14), 5530; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12145530 - 08 Jul 2020
Abstract
While the concept of sustainability is receiving growing attention from investors, firms, regulators, and researchers, little is known about its role in the insurance industry. As institutional investors and risk-absorbers from businesses and individuals, insurers adopt an operating model that is more inclined [...] Read more.
While the concept of sustainability is receiving growing attention from investors, firms, regulators, and researchers, little is known about its role in the insurance industry. As institutional investors and risk-absorbers from businesses and individuals, insurers adopt an operating model that is more inclined to target long-term objectives; they should be among the firms benefiting the most from engaging in sustainable practices. The existing literature provides evidence of the positive impact of sustainability on commercial stability, but this is the first study to examine this relationship for the insurance sector. Focusing on American listed insurers, we found that sustainability, proxied by Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) scores, enhances the stability of insurers, and that this relationship is driven by environmental and social dimensions. We did not observe a significant contribution from the governance dimension. Finally, we found a stronger association for life insurers. Our results are shown to be robust to endogeneity, enterprise heterogeneity and potential sample selection biases. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Intellectual Capital Disclosure: Some Evidence from Healthy and Distressed Banks in Italy
Sustainability 2020, 12(8), 3174; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12083174 - 15 Apr 2020
Abstract
The article investigates the intellectual capital disclosure of Italian banks over the years 2016–2017, applying the specific lens of healthy and distressed banks. To this end, we used content analysis and encoding techniques. The main results point out that intellectual capital (IC) disclosure [...] Read more.
The article investigates the intellectual capital disclosure of Italian banks over the years 2016–2017, applying the specific lens of healthy and distressed banks. To this end, we used content analysis and encoding techniques. The main results point out that intellectual capital (IC) disclosure is generally poor and that the intensity of disclosure varies slightly between healthy and distressed banks. Regarding the quality of disclosure, healthy banks present a higher, albeit modest, tendency to disclose non-qualitative and forward-looking information, maybe due to the fact that they are more focused on the strategies and the relationships with stakeholders as opposed to a more short-term approach of the distressed banks. To complement our study on healthy and distressed banks, we repeated the analysis focusing on bank size and independent directors. In this case, results do not show relevant differences in terms of IC disclosure. Hence, our findings suggest the need to consider banks’ IC disclosure as a strategic asset for increasing, among others, transparency and reputation. Full article
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Review

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Open AccessFeature PaperReview
Mapping Research on Sustainable Supply-Chain Management
Sustainability 2020, 12(10), 3987; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12103987 - 13 May 2020
Cited by 2
Abstract
The aim of the paper is to map the thematic landscape of the sustainable supply-chain management (SSCM) research field and contribute to exploring “relationships among specific constructs” in the field. The use of bibliometric methodology and the focus given to relationships among topics [...] Read more.
The aim of the paper is to map the thematic landscape of the sustainable supply-chain management (SSCM) research field and contribute to exploring “relationships among specific constructs” in the field. The use of bibliometric methodology and the focus given to relationships among topics categorized into thematic clusters within the field are the features which differ the study from other reviews in the research field. The operational objectives of the study are as follows: (1) to profile the development of the SSCM research field and its scientific output, (2) to identify leading thematic areas in the field and explore their composition and relationships among them, (3) to identify ‘hot’, emerging topics in the field. The analysis of change in the number of publications and citations related to the SSCM concept supports the study of research productivity in the field. General publication profiling focuses on the identification of subject areas and leading contributors to the research field, i.e., countries, research institutions, source titles and authors. Keywords co-occurrence analysis is employed to identify and explore leading and emerging topics. The study points out that the main thematic areas in the SSCM research field are: (1) economy and management in the context of the environment, (2) supply chain in the context of sustainability, (3) sustainable supply chains—process approach, (4) decision making for SSCM, (5) the practice context of supply-chain management, and (6) competition and social responsibility (SR) issues. The most up-to-date topics of scientific inquiry in the field focus around the following issues: (1) human aspects, (2) sustainable supplier selection, (3) manufacturing, (4) circular economy, (5) efficiency, (6) sustainable practices, (7) commerce, (8) costs, (9) environmental impact, and (10) the textile industry. Full article
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