Socially And Environmentally Conscious Investments

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It Involves Investing In A Specific Investment Strategy Or Product

Socially responsible investing and ESG
  • Responsible investment does not necessarily require investing in a specific strategy or product. It simply involves including ESG information in investment decision-making and stewardship practices, to ensure that all relevant factors are accounted for when assessing risk and return. Exactly how an investor practices responsible investment varies widely.

What Are Esg Principles

ESG means using Environmental, Social and Governance factors to evaluate companies and countries on how far advanced they are with sustainability. Once enough data has been acquired on these three metrics, they can be integrated into the investment process when deciding what equities or bonds to buy.

A Quick Guide To Socially Conscious Investing

Socially conscious investing is booming. According to the latest biennial report from the United States Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment , total U.S.-domiciled assets under management employing sustainable investing strategies increased 42 percent over the past two years to $17 trillion in 2020. ESG investing now makes up 33 percent of total U.S. assets under management.

As millennials and Gen Zers transition into prime investing years , the demand for socially conscious investment optionsthose that do well financially and do good for societywill undoubtedly increase.

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That said, potential impact investors can be spooked quickly when confronted by all the terms and definitions in this relatively new area.

Socially conscious investing is the general term for an investment that has both financial and social/environmental objectives. Its important to note that socially conscious investing is not an asset class but a philosophical approach to investing across all asset classes.

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But the field of socially conscious investing has a lot of nuance, and thus, a lot of names to describe slightly different approaches. For someone new to the field, the seemingly never-ending assortment of acronyms, terminology and definitions associated with social investing can be confusing and leave potential investors on the sidelines, not sure about what action to take, if any.

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What Is Socially Responsible Investment

Socially responsible investment, or SRI, is a strategy that considers not only the financial returns from an investment but also its impact on environmental, ethical or social change.

Identifying which ventures to put their hard-earned money into can be difficult for potential investors. It is why such investors consider factors such as diversification, dividends, rate of return, inflation, taxes, and risks.

Nowadays, socially responsible investors are going one step further. Apart from the aspects mentioned above, they choose to factor in whether a particular investment positively impacts society.

Risks Of Esg Investing

Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Criteria in 2020

Lack of universal ESG standards.

There are no agreed-upon standards for evaluating ESG performance. That creates inconsistencies in ESG portfolios and funds. You may be surprised to find some ESG funds hold tobacco stocks, for example.

No long-term data on the financial performance of ESG companies.

Longer-term data could show that ESG companies arent as resilient as once thought. If that happened, investors who are wholly focused on financial returns would likely shift away from the ESG sector.

Companies could stop reporting on ESG issues.

Companies could stop voluntarily reporting sustainability data. Any broad deprioritization of ESG attributes would reduce the supply of high-quality, investable ESG companies.

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Ways To Make Socially Responsible Investments

An SRI encompasses many other types of investments, the similarity between them being that they have a positive social impact. To be specific, investors looking to make such investments focus on three key aspects environmental, social, and corporate governance . Investors use the three factors to assess the sustainability or social impact of an investment.

Now, socially responsible investors use various approaches to ensure their ventures achieve social goals, namely:

1. Negative Screening

As implied in the name, the technique involves screening a companys practices and products and/or services before deciding to invest in it. So, if a potential investor discovers that a particular company produces harmful products such as cigarettes or engages in unethical practices, then they wont put their money into it.

2. Positive Investing

Here, an investor chooses to invest in companies whose practices they approve of. For example, lets say that an individual really cares about the environment. Then, their portfolio will probably comprise investments theyve made in green energy.

It can also mean that the only companies theyre willing to collaborate with are those that adhere to sustainable practices. Examples of such green practices include:

  • Developing a recycling program at the workplace
  • Conserving water
  • Purchasing energy-efficient equipment
  • Enforcing eco-friendly work policies, such as asking individuals to switch off lights in rooms that are not in use.

Jay Lipman: How To Talk About Esg With Clients

The idea was philosophy will give me the kind of moral compass to understand what one should do. Politics is how you change the systems from a regulatory perspective. And then economics was really the driver of systemic change because its how money flows.

Jay Lipman, co-founder and President of Ethic, uses data to help companies understand how to utilize their resources to impact their clients and society as a whole. He has an interesting perspective on commoditizing what should be the most essential things in life human ethics, human life and natural resources.

During this episode, Jay talks about how to broach the subject of ESG with clients and how ESG strategies can impact companies and their investors.

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The Socially Responsible Investing Heart Rating

You, or your financial advisor or asset management firm if you have one, can screen stocks, mutual funds, and other investments on the issues that matter to you.

For additional information on socially responsible mutual funds, including financial performance, visit USSIF’s Mutual Fund Performance Chart.

Myth: Socially responsible investments make less money than conventional ones.

Fact: The evidence, amassed through hundreds of studies, shows that historically, SRI products have performed as well as or better than their conventional counterparts.

Before buying shares, read the prospectus to understand the risks.

Need help investing? Consider using a financial planner or advisor who is dedicated to socially and environmentally responsible investing. Find financial planners and advisors who are certified members of our Green Business Network here.

Esg As An Indicator Of Strong Leadership

The push toward socially responsible investing

Why ESG companies perform better isnt clearcut. One theory is that a corporate ESG focus requires exemplary leadership. ESG initiatives are long-term programs, and a leadership teams ability to realize long-term outcomes — while running the core business well — is a competitive strength.

Research increasingly shows that ESG investing can reduce portfolio risk and generate competitive investment returns.

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Edgar Villanueva: Decolonizing Wealth And Wealth Management

We have an obligation toward each other, as people of color, to support each other in this space and to find ways to support those coming after us and to make space for the brilliance of other people.

Edgar Villanueva, founder of the Decolonizing Wealth Project and the bestselling author of Decolonizing Wealth, is a well-known expert on social justice philanthropy. In this episode, Edgar talks about how decolonization can help build wealth and the importance of socially conscious investing based on personal ethics.

If, after listening to these episodes, youd still like to learn more about ESG investing, Ana and I were joined by Zach Conway of Seeds, Corrine Merriman of Ethic and Gabe Rissman of YourStake for an ESG-focused webinar. You can watch it

Ethics Might Become More Important Than Performance

Youve probably considered this point by now. When you limit your investment options and potentially pay more to invest in companies that practice social and ethical responsibility, you may give up on your return on investment. Lets not forget the reason were investing in the first place–obtaining the highest return on investment possible. When socially responsible investing becomes the primary objective, the financial side of the equation will likely suffer–at least part of the time.

For example, one financial advisor writing for Seeking Alpha pulled some data and showed that on a 3, 5, and 10-year comparison basis, funds that were considered socially responsible underperformed standard indices. Marketwatch columnist Vitaly Katsenelson also wrote an in-depth opinion piece on why socially responsible investing can be a money pit.

Now, there is some data to validate this claim, but some of it is opinion. My advice is to do your research and find stocks that align with your values, but also dont go outside of your guidelines for picking any other stock. For example, if you take a value investing approach and only want stocks that pay a dividend and dont carry debt, dont break that rule just because a company considers itself to operate ethically.

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The Case For Sustainable Investing

  • Global ESG assets are on track to exceed $53 trillion by 2025, representing more than a third of the $140.5 trillion in projected total assets under management.1
  • 68% of ESG indices beat their local benchmarks on a global basis, reaching the highest hit rate in recent five years in 2021.2
  • 69% of U.S. consumers are actively using their wallets to support brands or industries that benefit the environment or society. And a further 20% say they are interested in learning more.3
  • 77% of investors want their advisors to ensure that their investment strategy is aligned with their personal values.4
  • 73% of U.S. consumers see sustainable investing as an opportunity, 72% see sustainable investing as innovative and 69% agree that sustainable investing is the future.5

You May Be Leaving A Lot Of Great Investments On The Table

Socially Responsible Investing

Building off of the point above, if you focus solely on socially responsible stocks and funds, you could be leaving strong investments on the table. Lets say you find a new company with below average performance regarding social responsibility, but a history of creating innovative products and services that improve lives and generate jobs. If you pass on this attractive investment opportunity because of the social responsibility factor, you may lose out.

The converse of this is true as well. If you choose not to invest in a company because you dont consider them ethically responsible, you might be missing out on a perfect investment. An excellent example of this is Microsoft, which isnt included in one of the largest and most successful socially responsible funds–the Parnassus Core Equity Fund. Todd Ahlsten, one of managers of the fund, said in an interview that they dont invest in Microsoft because of its competitive dynamics.

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Where To Go From Here

Given that Im conscious of those environmental and social issues, investing in hard commodities makes sense.The valuations for commodity based stocks are cheap compared to technology stocks.And its a good way to hedge against inflation.

The last 18 months proved that mere monetary stimulus isnt enough to keep the economy going.Fiscal policy must also be used.

Infrastructure projects are a popular use of government spending. As more cash is created, base metals such as copper and nickel as well as iron ore will be in high demand.

This is why I have written a put option on Rio Tinto , one of the worlds largest mining companies.My put has a strike price of $55. The stock is trading at $61/share today.

Additionally I have recently bought some Copper Mountain Mining stock as well as Ivanhoe Mines . Both are on the TSX.

Copper Mountain primarily produces copper and gold in Canadian mines. The stock has fallen from its highs earlier this year, and insiders have been buying on the way down. Thats usually a good sign that the executives running the company are confident in its future growth.

Out of 10 analysts the lowest expected 12 month price target is $4.25/share. Thats a 15% positive return from todays price of $3.70/share. And Morningstars research report calculates the fair value of the stock should be at $6.02/share today. CMMCs 5 year average P/E ratio is 12. But its currently trading at only 10.

What Does Social Conscience Mean In Business

Social conscience is tied to business through the disagreeableness or agreeableness that might be imposed on someone by the actions of a corporate entity. These differing opinions may lead one, or both parties, to develop a social conscience or set of ideals that dictates what they consider to be morally correct.

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Our Dedication To Responsible Investing

Vanguard has been managing ESG investment products for over 20 years, starting with our FTSE Social Index Fund, which launched in 2000. It’s now the largest ESG-screened index fund in the United States.*

For more than 45 years, we’ve taken a stand for all investors while advocating for improved corporate governance in the market. As a signatory to the United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment, we encourage companies to conduct business in a socially conscious way.

Many Companies Claim To Be Socially Responsible But They Arent

Improving Socially Responsible Finance – investing for a better world with Martin Oehmke, LSE

Putting a marketing spin on anything for sale is part of modern business culture. In many cases, its more important to craft the image of being socially responsible than to actually be socially responsible. As the saying goes, its not the truth, but what the people believe that counts. With the right marketing campaign, people will believe nearly anything.

Volkswagen is an excellent example of this. Their commercials and general image portray social responsibility. For a long time, they put a hefty amount of marketing into their clean diesel cars–marketing them as safer for the environment. This led to a scandal, which later began to unravel Volkswagens image of being an ethical company. Even recently, Audi CEO Rupert Stadler resigned amid criminal investigations related to the scandal.

The lesson here is that just because a company says its socially or ethically responsible, doesnt mean it is. This can be blatant or, as Ill discuss below, much more subjective.

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What’s The Best Approach

The wide-ranging definition and inherently subjective nature of the term “ESG” means there are plenty of critics of this methodology. Some investors say that fossil fuel companies, for example, have no place in socially conscious funds. Others argue that since companies are going to be producing oil no matter what, investors should reward the best actors.

Given the sheer volume of information required to judge a company’s environmental, social, and governance profile, a number of research firms have sprung up that score companies on these factors, including Sustainalytics, As You Sow and MSCI.

Simon MacMahon, head of ESG research at Sustainalytics said that the main focus of the rating is to evaluate the degree to which companies face ESG issues that lead to unmanaged ESG risk, and therefore potentially negative economic outcomes.

“It’s a two-dimensional rating in that it looks at exposure on the one hand, so the degree to which companies are exposed to issues and how much. And then the degree to which they are managing those issues, and what is the gap between those two components,” he said to CNBC. “We take as much as possible a data-driven approach, and it’s a very structured approach,” he added.

But some say that too much credence is given to these ratings, given that significant investment decisions can be made based on them, and also since scores can differ drastically between research providers.

Investing In Capital Markets

Social investors use several strategies to maximize financial return and attempt to maximize social good. These strategies seek to create change by shifting the cost of capital down for sustainable firms and up for the non-sustainable ones. The proponents argue that access to capital is what drives the future direction of development. A growing number of rating agencies collects both raw data the ESG behaviour of firms as well as aggregates this data in indices. After several years of growth the rating agency industry has recently been subject to a consolidation phase that has reduced the number of genesis through mergers and acquisitions.

ESG integration

ESG integration is one of the most common responsible investment strategies and entails the incorporation of environmental, social and governance criteria into the fundamental analysis of equity investments. According to the non-profit Investor Responsibility Research Center institute , approaches to ESG integration vary greatly among asset managers depending on:

  • Management: Who is responsible for ESG integration within the organization?
  • Research: What ESG criteria and factors are being considered in the analysis?
  • Application: How are the ESG criteria being applied in practice?

Negative screening

Negative screening excludes certain securities from investment consideration based on social or environmental criteria. For example, many socially responsible investors screen out tobacco company investments.

Divestment

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Sustainable Investing With Fidelity

Where appropriate and aligned with a funds investment objectives, we apply an ESG perspective directly to the products we offer our clients. Fidelity sustainable funds prioritize one or more of these ESG factors in their fundamental research and investment disciplines*:

  • Environmental themes, such as investing in companies that are responding to consumer demand for sustainable practices
  • Social themes, such as investing in companies committed to a diverse and inclusive workplace
  • Governance themes, such as investing in companies committed to diverse board composition, strong oversight, and shareholder friendly policies

Two-thirds of retail customers say social impact is key to their investing decisions1, according to Fidelity research.

181 CEOs from some of Americas largest companies have committed to lead their companies for the benefit of ALL stakeholders customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders.2

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