Shifting from short-term profit maximizing strategies to more sustainable long-term ones, the corporate world has been exerting extra effort to adopt environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performances. However, the loop question remains unsolved: is ESG financially-driven or is financial performance (FIN) ESG-driven? Building on the slack resources theory and bridging three management literatures, this analysis relies on a six-year panel dataset of multinational organizations from different industries. A distributed lag regression model is proposed to empirically investigate the impact of FIN performance on ESG and to test the moderator effect of total quality management (TQM). The findings reveal a stimulus effect between free cash flow (FCF) and ESG scores. While the interaction between TQM and FCF has a negative effect on ESG, the interaction between TQM and Tobin’s Q reveals a positive relationship with ESG. This study sheds further insights for both research and practice towards the operationalization of sustainability management.