Winning research paper at BNPP AM-sponsored GRASFI conference focuses on what drives ‘cheap talk’ by companies

September 27, 2022

Sponsored by BNP Paribas Asset Management (‘BNPP AM’), the fifth annual conference of the Global Research Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Finance (‘GRASFI’) took place at the University of Zurich on 5-7 September.  GRASFI brings together almost 30 universities that are committed to producing high-quality interdisciplinary research and teaching curricula on sustainable finance and investment.  Through its sponsorship, BNPP AM can benefit from leading research, helping to inform the broader debate as well as its own methodologies and investment approaches.

This year’s overall winning paper by Julia Bingler, Mathias Kraus, Markus Leippold and Nicolas Webersinke is entitled Cheap talk in corporate climate commitments: the role of active institutional ownership, signalling, materiality, and sentiment.

The researchers analysed the link between ‘cheap talk’[1] – otherwise interpreted as companies engaging in greenwashing – and three elements: stewardship; public support for the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (‘TCFD’) or joining the Science-based Targets Initiative (‘SBTi’); and material climate exposure or disclosures focused on downside risks.  Their study analysed 14,584 annual reports of MSCI World index constituent companies between 2010 and 2020.  They found that active institutional ownership and targeted engagement strategies, as well as climate risk exposed sectors and downside risk-focused disclosures suppress ‘cheap talk’.  In contrast, publicly voiced support for the TCFD was associated with more ‘cheap talk’.

BNPP AM believes the paper underscores the value of stewardship activities.  It shows that engagement by institutional investors such as BNPP AM can raise the quality and decision-relevance of climate risk disclosures and commitments by investee companies.  Additionally, the paper’s findings regarding TCFD support is a useful signal for our future analysis and discussions with companies.

Jane Ambachtsheer, Global Head of Sustainability at BNPP AM, comments:

“This conference is a reminder of the importance of the partnership with academic researchers in the current environment where there is a strong push being made against greenwashing.  We rely on credible academic research to help shine a light on new and emerging research, and to be clear about the science-driven methodologies that we, as practitioners, can apply in a consistent and coherent way.”

The winning paper is the first of the 42 most compelling papers presented at this year’s conference; it can be downloaded here: and a summary will be available in due course.  BNPP AM also congratulate the winners of the other conference prizes, including the best paper awards for Transparency for Stakeholders; Climate Finance Research; Impactful Research; and PhD.  Full details are available here:

Further information about GRASFI is available at and details about the GRASFI 2022 Conference are available at

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  1. ^ [1] Defined by the authors as “the share of precise versus imprecise climate commitments”.

The Global Research Alliance for Sustainable Finance and Investment was founded in 2017 to promote multi-disciplinary academic research on sustainable finance and investment, and consists of global research universities, each with expertise in this emerging field.  It aims to: organise the major annual academic conference on sustainable finance and investment internationally; develop academic collaboration between researchers working on sustainable finance and investment; and nurture the growth and development of graduate students and junior academics working on sustainable finance and investment.  BNPP AM has been the asset management sponsor of GRASFI’s annual academic conference since 2018.  Member universities are:

University of California, Berkeley
University of Cambridge
Central University of Finance and Economics, Beijing
City, University of London
Columbia University
École Polytechnique – ENSAE
EDHEC Business School
Frankfurt School of Finance and Management
University of Hamburg
Imperial College London
London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
Maastricht University
Macquarie University
University of Otago
University of Oxford
PSL Université Paris-Dauphine
Queen’s University, Canada
Singapore Management University (SMU)
SOAS, University of London
Stanford University
Stockholm School of Economics
University of Toronto
Tsinghua University
University College London
University of Waterloo
Yale University
University of Zurich