Many investment firms that create mutual and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) incorporate ESG criteria into their analysis of public companies, while also taking into account individual investors’ ESG beliefs.
As such, they include not investing in companies involved with tobacco or gun production and screening for carbon emissions, worker safety protocols and diversity among company management.
1. Investing for the Long Term
ESG investing provides an effective way to align financial goals with environmental and social impact goals, contributing towards creating a more sustainable world. ESG also encourages long-term thinking among both investors and businesses despite short-term financial pressures.
Companies that prioritize environmental (or “E”) concerns strive to lower their carbon footprint and use natural resources efficiently and sustainably. Furthermore, such businesses may place emphasis on employee safety, diversity and inclusion initiatives and governance issues such as board structure, executive compensation and transparency as part of their agendas.
Social, or “S” factors, include interactions among employees, customers and communities. Businesses which prioritize racial justice, community engagement and worker satisfaction often experience increased employee loyalty as well as brand reputation enhancement.
2. Investing for Social Impact
Consider investing in businesses that put the environment first, respect employees and value diversity and equity. This might involve cutting carbon emissions, supporting reforestation projects and biodiversity conservation, setting energy efficiency goals or providing safe workplaces.
Investors are increasingly pushing companies for more disclosure on issues ranging from their carbon footprint to how they address racial inequity in their workplaces. Furthermore, investors are voting their dollars through shareholder resolutions and proxy votes in order to force corporate management’s hand on crucial topics like gender pay gap and board diversity issues.
Sustainable investing comes in many forms – mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs), individual stocks and bonds, etc. As numerous studies show, ESG investments often offer superior financial returns while simultaneously creating positive social impacts.
3. Investing for Sustainability
Many investors are lobbying companies to disclose more on their environmental impact, human rights compliance and governance practices. Investors are demanding increased disclosure on carbon emissions, safety protocols and the number of women and people of color holding leadership roles within organizations. Furthermore, more voters are voting consciously at annual shareholder meetings.
Global challenges such as climate risk, privacy and data security concerns, demographic shifts, and regulatory pressures present investors with new risks that they may not recognize through traditional analysis. Blowups such as the BP oil spill and VW emissions scandal demonstrate that companies operating unethically or in poor working environments may incur substantial financial costs as a result.
Education initiatives targeted towards both investors and companies can foster an environment conducive to responsible investing, while regulatory frameworks that foster sustainable financing may make accessing low-cost capital easier for businesses. Products like sustainability-linked debt may offer businesses incentives for improving their ESG performance by linking interest rate payments directly with meeting agreed targets.
4. Investing for You
ESG investing can be an excellent way to align your financial planning and investment decisions with what matters to you. Investors can explore products tied to long-term trends like renewable energy, circular economies and sustainability reporting; or select funds with specific rating systems.
ESG factors encompass everything from a company’s carbon and nature footprints, employee and customer treatment policies and diversity management procedures, all the way to their diversity management policies – policies which can help companies reduce risks while simultaneously building brand equity and increasing bottom line performance.
Critics contend that too many investors oversimplify the impact of ESG investing, with an emphasis on environmental or social issues such as climate change, racial equity and gender diversity. Critics point out that such investments may include investments with lesser companies in their industry or those involved in recent scandals such as BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill or Volkswagen emissions scandal.