Higher ESG rating, higher return
Indeed the ultimate goal of any investment is to earn a maximum return. But as the focus has increased on sustainability, investors worldwide are resorting to smart investing strategies. In the current investment scenario—where environmental sustainability and corporate social responsibility are driving business decisions—investors place a great deal of emphasis on the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) rating of a company they wish to invest in.
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ESG criteria are becoming increasingly popular amongst investors to evaluate the ability of companies to be stewards of nature, managers of social relationships, and trailblazers of excellent leadership. Now, ESG companies that uphold the principles of smart investing while catering to the needs of socially conscious investors are seen outperforming their peers in a big way, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2020, the year of extreme and dramatic changes trigged by the pandemic, the median total return on equity funds of ESG companies focused on sustainability exceeded that of their peer funds by 4.3 percentage points. Funds of such companies provided better returns almost every month of the year. Their focus on sustainability is essentially indicative of the quality of their board and management.
Low beta, high quality
The companies with higher ESC ratings fell and rose less dramatically as the markets collapsed and recovered sharply in April 2020 than those with lower ESG ratings. The pattern suggests that stocks of such companies also have a low-beta-high-quality factor. Such funds are also less affected by volatility in the larger market.
There’s been a significant rise in the popularity of ESG investing. It is mainly triggered by fears of the global community over climate change. As such, socially conscious investors, especially millennials, now consider the impact of their funds as they have started investing. It’s crucial to note and understand that ESG risk is an investment risk; those firms that meet ESG standards are more unlikely likely to be sustainable enterprises.
Similar trends were observed when fixed income ESG stocks were analyzed from January to September 2020. The bonds of ESG companies with high ratings performed better on average than their lower-rated peers. The stocks of companies with an A-rated ESG score lost around 0.5 percent on average during the period compared to low-rated stocks, which lost 4.6 and 4.4 percent.
A peek into the future.
ESG and smart investing with a focus on sustainability are expected to grow. The attitude of retail investors towards sustainable investment has also been shifting. In the U.S., close to half of individual investors adopt sustainable investing. Also, 80 percent of asset-owner institutions are seen incorporating sustainability factors in their investment processes.
It’s also worth noting that the Institute for Sustainable Investing, in 2019, found that sustainable funds had larger market capitalizations on average and hold more stocks in companies that are considered growth stocks. Let’s not forget. Evolving regulations also lead companies to disclose their sustainability practices, providing investors with more data to understand ESG-related risks and growth opportunities. We can hope that the future of sustainability investing delivers on its promises and make a positive global impact in the times to come.
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