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137% Increase in S&P 500 Companies Citing “ESG” on Earnings Calls in Q4 vs. Q3


By John Butters  |  March 9, 2020

During each corporate earnings season, it is not unusual for companies to comment on their ongoing corporate goals and initiatives. Given the growing focus on environmental, social, and governance factors by investors, did companies in the S&P 500 comment on these factors during their earnings conference calls for the fourth quarter?

To answer this question, FactSet searched for the term “ESG” in the conference call transcripts of all the S&P 500 companies that conducted earnings conference calls from December 15 through March 5.

Of these companies, 71 cited the term “ESG” (in reference to environmental, social, and governance factors) during their earnings calls. Although this number is only 14% of the companies in the index, it reflects a 137% increase compared to the number of companies citing “ESG” in the previous quarter (30) and is the highest overall number of companies going back at least four years.

S&P 500 Cos Citing ESG on Earnings Calls

What drove the substantial increase in citations for “ESG” during in earnings calls in Q4 relative to Q3? At the sector level, all 11 sectors recorded an increase in the number of companies citing “ESG” on a quarter-over-quarter basis. However, the Utilities (+13) and Energy (+10) sectors witnessed the largest increases in the number of companies citing “ESG” on earnings calls in Q4 compared to Q3. These two sectors accounted for more than half (23) of the total increase (41) for the index. In addition, the Utilities and Energy sectors had the highest number of companies citing “ESG” during earnings calls in Q4 at 17 and 14, respectively.

S&P 500 Cos Citing ESG on Earnings Calls Q419 vs Q319

Of the 31 companies in the Utilities and Energy sectors that cited “ESG” on Q4 earnings calls, 19 (61%) discussed reducing their carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, nine companies also discussed ESG reporting and transparency.

ESG Topics on Q4 Earnings Calls for Energy and Utility Cos

It will be interesting to track the number of S&P 500 companies that cite “ESG” in their earnings calls going forward to see if the large increase in the number of companies discussing this topic continues in future quarters.

Comments from companies in the Utilities and Energy sectors that discussed ESG on their Q4 earnings calls can be found in the full FactSet Earnings Insight report, which can be downloaded at the link below.

Download the latest Earnings Insight

John Butters

Vice President, Senior Earnings Analyst

Mr. John Butters is Vice President and Senior Earnings Analyst at FactSet. His weekly research report, “Earnings Insight,” provides analysis and commentary on trends in corporate earnings data for the S&P 500 including revisions to estimates, year-over-year growth, performance relative to expectations, and valuations. He is a widely used source for the media and has appeared on CNBC, Fox Business News, and the Business News Network. In addition, he has been cited by numerous print and online publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, The New York Times, MarketWatch, and Yahoo! Finance. Mr. Butters has over 15 years of experience in the financial services industry. Prior to FactSet in January 2011, he worked for more than 10 years at Thomson Reuters (Thomson Financial), most recently as Director of U.S. Earnings Research (2007-2010).


The information contained in this article is not investment advice. FactSet does not endorse or recommend any investments and assumes no liability for any consequence relating directly or indirectly to any action or inaction taken based on the information contained in this article.