InvestmentsJan 27 2023

Responsible investing is set to become even more popular

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Responsible investing is set to become even more popular

Market turbulence was a defining feature of 2022 and punch-drunk investors, reeling from a combination of market sell-offs and the cost of living crisis, responded by withdrawing record sums from their investments.  

In September, the Investment Association registered the eighth consecutive month of net outflows from investment funds, with investors cashing in some £7.6bn from funds.  Responsible investment funds, however, have been much more resilient and have only experienced one month of negative flows so far this year.

Although they have continued to attract investors over the course of 2022, the performance of many RI funds has been hit this year and the headwinds they have faced have been well-documented. 

Many of the world’s largest companies are now working towards net-zero carbon emissions, and pressure is mounting for others to follow.

Those areas of the market that performed strongly in 2022, such as oil-producers, are generally excluded from RI portfolios. At the same time, the growth-oriented technology companies, where RI funds may have greater exposure than their peers, have fallen back, having led markets for several years.

Investing is a long-term game, and no investment strategy should be judged on 12 months’ isolated performance. However, there are strong indications that we are at the cusp of a secular shift whereby the way in which a business conducts itself is of equal importance to investors as the profits it generates. 

This shift in mindset is likely to tilt whole sectors towards supporting a more sustainable future.  

Take carbon emissions as an example. The recent Cop27 conference saw governments around the world reaffirm commitments to combatting climate change. Geopolitics also plays its part: the war in Ukraine has demonstrated the need for energy security with renewable energy being touted as part of the solution to this problem.

Many of the world’s largest companies, meanwhile, are now working towards net-zero carbon emissions, and pressure is mounting for others to follow their lead. Regulators are adding further impetus to this. 

To negate any accusations of greenwashing, it is essential that a manager clearly states how their fund sets out to combat climate change.

A combination of these factors should mean that future capital flows will favour those sectors and companies that emit less carbon into the atmosphere or help capture it, while polluters are punished.

Over time, this trend should provide a boost to sustainable investment portfolios, which are likely to have a bias towards cleaner companies. However, there is a distinction between benefiting from a secular trend such as this and hardwiring an objective into a fund’s mandate to make a positive impact on the climate.