Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Business Administration

First Advisor

Xiaolu Xu

Second Advisor

Lucia Silva-Gao

Third Advisor

Tyler Hull


This dissertation is composed of three related essays that investigate firms’ board-level commitment to sustainability and their impact on corporate risk-taking, strategy, CSR performance, and Financial Reporting Quality.

The first essay examines whether board-level commitment to sustainability reduce deviations from optimal risk taking. I find that sustainability committees reduce fluctuations from optimal risk taking (excessive risk taking and excessive risk avoidance), using a modified version of Bargeron et al. (2010) regression model and a sample of 2,583 firm years from 2002 to 2012. The second essay examines whether the type of business strategy firms follow, along with the stakeholder focus of their sustainability committee, could have an important effect on their CSR performance. The findings suggest that firms with a prospector business strategy are associated with more CSR performance that is driven by their direct and internal stakeholders’ related CSR activities, whereas firms following a defender strategy are negatively associated with CSR performance because of their worse direct and internal stakeholders’ related CSR activities. However, firms with a third-party focused sustainability committee have better CSR performance, while firms with an internal stakeholder focused sustainability committee have worse CSR performance. In addition, as a group, defenders are associated with more CSR concerns, but board-level sustainability committee focused on third-party stakeholders mitigates these concerns and increases their overall socially responsible performance.

The third essay explores firms’ board-level commitment to sustainability and their impact on CSR performance and financial reporting quality. Specifically, two characteristics of board-level sustainability committees are examined: committee focus and directorship overlapping. The findings are two-folded. On one hand, sustainability committees with a community focus and employee (diversity) focus are not associated with CSR community strength and employee strength respectively, sustainability committee with an environment focus and product focus are significantly and positively associated with CSR environment and product strength, respectively. On the other hand, sustainability committees that focus on community and environment have a lower level of discretionary accruals. Regarding directorship overlapping, the findings suggest that sharing directors between sustainability committees and audit committees is beneficial to both corporate social performance and financial reporting quality, which supports the argument that having the same directors serving in both sustainability committees and other board committees could better allocate corporate resources and align shareholder value maximization objectives with stakeholder shared value considerations.


Free and open access to this Campus Access Dissertation is made available to the UMass Boston community by ScholarWorks at UMass Boston. Those not on campus and those without a UMass Boston campus username and password may gain access to this dissertation through resources like Proquest Dissertations & Theses Global or through Interlibrary Loan. If you have a UMass Boston campus username and password and would like to download this work from off-campus, click on the "Off-Campus UMass Boston Users" link above.