An efficiency perspective on carbon emissions and financial performance

Arjan Trinks*, Machiel Mulder, Bert Scholtens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


International policy actions to constrain carbon emissions create substantial risks and opportunities for firms. In particular, production processes that are relatively high emitting will be more sensitive to uncertain costs of emitting carbon dioxide and might further reflect productive inefficiencies. We employ a productive efficiency model to evaluate firms’ carbon emission levels relative to those of best practice (efficient) peers with comparable production structures. By accounting for total factor productivity and sector-relative performance aspects, this measure of carbon efficiency helps to quantify and rank firms’ relative dependency on carbon in the production process. We investigate the impact of carbon efficiency on various financial performance outcomes, and evaluate the role of general resource efficiency in explaining these impacts. Using an international sample of 1,572 firms over the years 2008-2016, we find superior financial performance in carbon efficient (best-practice) firms. On average, a 0.1 higher carbon efficiency is associated with a 1.0% higher profitability and 0.6% lower systematic risk. While carbon efficiency closely relates to resource efficiency, it also has distinct financial performance impacts, particularly lowering systematic risk. Overall, our findings suggest that carbon efficient production can be valuable from both operational and risk management perspectives.
Original languageEnglish
Article number106632
Number of pages12
JournalEcological Economics
Early online date2 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020


  • Carbon efficiency
  • Financial performance
  • Total factor productivity
  • Data envelopment analysis
  • Directional distance function


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