Date of Award

Spring 2023

Degree Type


Director of Thesis

Adam Steinbach

First Reader

Lori Ziolkowski

Second Reader

Lori Ziolkowski


Sustainability is one of the issues at the forefront of society. Sustainability reports and ESG scores are used to help understand the performance of companies in relation to sustainability issues. The current literature on sustainability reporting makes it clear that there is not a uniform framework for metrics to include in sustainability reports and how those reports should appear. My project uses a case study analysis of nine publicly-traded companies headquartered in South Carolina to examine how companies are portraying their sustainability efforts and asks if there are certain indicators in sustainability reports that are good predictors of the ESG scores from Refinitiv, a 3rd party providing ESG scores. The 9 companies examined are largely from different industries and of varying sizes. The results confirm that there is a lot of variability in the types of content included in sustainability reports. The predicted environment scores had a correlation value of 0.67 with the Refinitiv environment scores, while predicted social scores had a correlation value of 0.39 with the Refinitiv social scores. Environmental information was more centralized in the sustainability reports, compared to social information which was spread across different documents that were not analyzed in this project. Overall, there were large differences in the sustainability reports, performance, and scores of the companies examined. The length of reports was a decent starting point for predicting the scores of companies, but longer reports were not guaranteed the highest scores. The Miscellaneous Environmental Issues category and the Energy Efficiency and Climate Change category were the best environmental indicators for environmental and overall ESG scores respectively. The Community Advisory Panels category was the best social indicator of both social and overall ESG scores. Overall, there is a pressing need for increased standardization of these sustainability reports and a demystifying of what ESG scores mean for the general public.

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© 2023, Gwyneth K Waddington