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Key Finding

ESG metrics and targets could enhance a cultural shift towards sustainable practices within business organizations


Executive remuneration has traditionally attracted the attention of scholars, regulators, and public opinion. In recent years, especially after epochal corporate scandals and financial crises, executive remuneration has polarized the political debate, leading to consequences for the way it was theorized, structured, and ultimately quantified within corporations. This article specifically examines the relationship between executive compensation and sustainability, with a focus on the influence of Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) metrics in the context of European companies. The article provides a qualitative analysis of the historical debate on executive remuneration and considers the different theories informing corporate law. Furthermore, it offers a qualitative and empirical analysis of how executive compensation policies of the 300 largest companies by target capitalization in Europe – listed in the FTSE EuroFirst300 – take ESG parameters into account. Lastly, this article presents some policy considerations, particularly questioning whether executive remuneration is the right incentive for ESG compliance, and emphasizing the importance of a shift in corporate culture to effectively make corporate practices more sustainable.

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