In Focus: Sustainable investing  

Impact trumps returns for 14% of ESG investors

Impact trumps returns for 14% of ESG investors

There is an apparent shift towards impact in sustainable investing, with 14 per cent of ESG investors now investing with conviction, as opposed to purely for returns.

Boring Money's Sustainable Investing Report 2022 found 14 per cent of investors were so committed to ESG that they put ESG first and performance second when it came to selecting their investments.

Of these 9 per cent were concerned about environmental impacts, and 5 per cent wanted their investments to affect change on social issues.

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For the majority of investors, 8 out of 10 people, performance was still the main reason to invest even when it came to ESG assets.

Boring Money said ESG investing was becoming more about active involvement with positive ideas, as opposed to just screening out the negatives.

Jag Alexeyev, head of ESG insights at Broadridge, which has conducted its own research into ESG investing habits, also said there was more money going into impact strategies, suggesting investors were becoming more concerned about the changes their investments were making.

Alexeyev said: "It's clear that in the last few years and very rapidly, there's evidence in the flows into ESG overall, but also the shift and flows from traditional socially responsible investments to ESG as a financial materiality lens, which asset managers use to manage risk and target better long term risk adjusted returns, to outcomes, sustainable outcomes...and measurable impact. So we see more money going into sustainable impact strategies.

"And this is a reflection of a growing awareness of investors on multiple issues and challenges that are facing them and their children, their grandchildren, and they want their investments to take that into account."

He said ESG had held strong amid the recent rotation to value and the market turmoil seen this year, which has dented investor sentiment overall.

ESG stocks by nature are traditionally growth stocks, suffering when the market turns to value, which has been the case in the past year. However both Boring Money and Broadridge found appetite in sustainable investing was consistently high despite investor sentiment being low.

In the UK, about a fifth on investors said they still intended to buy ESG assets, while in the US general awareness of the asset class has grown by about 10 percentage points in the past year, and four in ten investors claimed they were now familiar with ESG, with two thirds considering ESG at least some of the time when investing.

Alexeyev said an estimated six to seven out of ten advisers currently incorporated ESG into their advice process but there was evidence that many found the space confusing.

"It's a huge challenge, and it's up to asset managers to do what they can to help [advisers and investors] through education, through new tools through technology," he said.