Objective: The aim of this study was to map and analyze the main basic and frontier theoretical currents about international research in Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG). Additionally, we also analyzed which authors, journals and countries are most active in international ESG research.
Method: We performed a bibliometric analysis focused on co-citation and bibliographic coupling analysis, with exploratory factor analysis techniques and graphic mapping through clustering. Our sample included 405 articles published until December 2021 and indexed in the Web of Science database.
Results: Through co-citation analysis, we identified 5 research streams, being a) Influence of Organizational Theories on ESG; b) Organizational competitiveness; c) Impact of ESG on financial performance; d) Corporate Social Responsibility; and e) Stakeholder Theory. Through the pairing analysis, we identified 6 theoretical frontier currents, namely: a) sustainable investments; b) Transparency and administrative council; c) Effects of ESG; d) Relationships between financial performance and corporate social performance; e) Relationship between shareholders and ESG; and f) Risks and ESG.
Originality: As far as we know, this is the most complete bibliometric study on ESG research, covering both basic and frontier theoretical currents.
Theoretical/methodological contributions: We identify in this work 5 theoretical currents that helped to found and develop ESG research as a scientific (historical) field and point out 6 emerging theoretical currents that help to understand where ESG research is advancing today (border).
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