Sustainable Corporate Governance: A Review of Research on Long‐term Corporate Ownership and Sustainability

Nikolaos Kavadis*, Steen Thomsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Research Question/Issue: Short-termism is increasingly seen as a problem for developing sustainable and responsible business. We posit that a long-term ownership horizon is an enabling but not sufficient condition for sustainability and propose owner stewardship as an important contingency.

Research Findings/Insights: We review 161 articles on the relationship between corporate ownership and sustainability/CSR, published during 2017–2021 and not covered by previous reviews. We find (1) in most cases, a positive effect of institutional ownership on sustainability, particularly for long-term institutional investors; (2) in most cases, a positive effect of state ownership, seen as long-term-oriented; and (3) mixed results regarding family ownership, also seen as long-term-oriented. We also observe considerable heterogeneity in how prior research defines and measures the key constructs of our review.

Theoretical/Academic Implications: Long-term ownership appears to be an enabling but not sufficient condition for corporate sustainability, and stewardship at the ownership level may be an important missing link. Furthermore, the wide variety of terminology and measures in the literature poses a challenge for knowledge accumulation. Efforts towards convergence and standardization seem important.

Practitioner/Policy Implications: An exclusive focus on short-termism may be misleading. Business leaders and policymakers ought to consider other parameters, such as steward ownership.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCorporate Governance: An International Review
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)198-226
Number of pages29
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Published online: 12 September 2022.


  • Corporate governance
  • Investment horizon
  • Ownership
  • Stewardship
  • Sustainability

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