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Mapped: Where Are the World’s Most Sustainable Companies?

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The Most Sustainable Companies

Where Are the World’s Most Sustainable Companies?

Everywhere you look, sustainability is permeating social, political, and business agendas.

In recent years, an impressive number of companies have stepped up to take a more active role in shaping a more sustainable future—not just in the environmental sense, but also by taking social and governance factors into consideration.

Today’s chart draws from the Corporate Knights Global 100, an annual ranking of the 100 most sustainable companies, to visualize exactly how many are located in each corner of the world. The companies on the list are clear winners not only because they aim to leave the world a better place, but because their stocks have also outperformed the market on average.

How is Corporate Sustainability Measured?

The researchers rely on readily available data for all publicly-listed companies with at least $1 billion in gross revenue (in PPP), as of the financial year 2018.

Companies are then screened for several key performance indicators (KPIs), including but not limited to the following categories and examples:

  • Resource management
    Example: GHGs and other emissions such as NOx and SOx emissions
  • Financial management
    Example: Innovation capacity, or the percentage of R&D spending against total revenue
  • Employee management
    Example: Women in executive management and/or on boards
  • Clean revenue
    Example: The percentage of total revenue derived from “clean” products and services

The concentration of the most sustainable companies also varies greatly depending on where you look. Here’s a closer view of every region.

Europe: 49/100 Sustainable Companies

Europe is front-and-center in the tidal shift towards more sustainable business, driven by far-reaching regulations. With this in mind, it’s perhaps not surprising to see that Europe is a hotbed of activity.

Nearly half the world’s most sustainable companies are located in Europe. France paves the way with nine sustainable companies in the ranking, followed by Finland with six companies of 100.

RankCompanyIndustryCountry
#1Ørsted A/SWholesale Power🇩🇰 Denmark
#2Chr. Hansen Holding A/SFood and other chemical agents🇩🇰 Denmark
#3Neste OyjPetroleum Refineries🇫🇮 Finland
#6Novozymes A/SSpecialty and Performance Chemicals🇩🇰 Denmark
#7ING Groep NVBanks🇳🇱 Netherlands
#8Enel SpAWholesale Power🇮🇹 Italy
#11Osram Licht AGElectrical Equipment and Power Systems🇩🇪 Germany
#13Storebrand ASAInsurance🇳🇴 Norway
#14Umicore SAPrimary Metals Products🇧🇪 Belgium
#17Iberdrola SAWholesale Power🇪🇸 Spain
#18Outotec OyjMachinery Manufacturing🇫🇮 Finland
#20Accenture PLCTechnology Consulting Services🇮🇪 Ireland
#21Dassault Systemes SESoftware🇫🇷 France
#23Kering SAApparel and Accessory Products🇫🇷 France
#24UPM-Kymmene OyjForestry and Paper Products🇫🇮 Finland
#27H & M Hennes & Mauritz ABApparel and Accessories Retail🇸🇪 Sweden
#28Sanofi SABiopharmaceuticals🇫🇷 France
#29Schneider Electric SEIndustrial Conglomerates🇫🇷 France
#31BNP Paribas SABanks🇫🇷 France
#32Kone OyjMachinery Manufacturing🇫🇮 Finland
#33Verbund AGWholesale Power🇦🇹 Austria
#34Valeo SAConsumer Vehicles and Parts🇫🇷 France
#35ERG S.p.A.Wholesale Power🇮🇹 Italy
#37Vestas Wind Systems A/SElectrical Equipment and Power Systems🇩🇰 Denmark
#38bioMérieuxDiagnostics and Drug Delivery Devices🇫🇷 France
#39Intesa Sanpaolo SpABanks🇮🇹 Italy
#40Koninklijke KPN NVWireless and Wireline Telecomm. Services🇳🇱 Netherlands
#41Siemens AGIndustrial Conglomerates🇩🇪 Germany
#45Koninklijke DSM NVFood and other chemical agents🇳🇱 Netherlands
#46Unilever PLCPersonal Care and Cleaning Products🇬🇧 UK
#52EricssonCommunications Equipment🇸🇪 Sweden
#55Adidas AGApparel and Accessory Products🇩🇪 Germany
#56AstraZeneca PLCBiopharmaceuticals🇬🇧 UK
#59Commerzbank AGBanks🇩🇪 Germany
#61Abb LtdIndustrial Conglomerates🇨🇭 Switzerland
#64Pearson PLCPersonal Professional Services🇬🇧 UK
#65BT Group PLCWireless and Wireline Telecomm. Services🇬🇧 UK
#66Metso OyjMachinery Manufacturing🇫🇮 Finland
#69Assicurazioni Generali SpAInsurance🇮🇹 Italy
#70Acciona SAFacilities and Construction Services🇪🇸 Spain
#71Novo Nordisk A/SBiopharmaceuticals🇩🇰 Denmark
#73Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken ABBanks🇸🇪 Sweden
#76Ucb S.A.Biopharmaceuticals🇧🇪 Belgium
#79GlaxoSmithKline PLCBiopharmaceuticals🇬🇧 UK
#87BASF SESpecialty and Performance Chemicals🇩🇪 Germany
#94Industria de Diseno Textil SAApparel and Accessories Retail🇪🇸 Spain
#98L'Oreal SAPersonal Care and Cleaning Products🇫🇷 France
#99Kesko CorporationFood and Beverage Retail🇫🇮 Finland
#100Amundi SAInvestment Services🇫🇷 France

Denmark’s Ørsted A/S claims the top of the leaderboard in 2020. Within a decade, the company has completely transformed its business model—shifting away from the Danish Oil and Natural Gas (DONG) company into a pure play renewable energy company. The company recognized the importance of this transition:

Running the company just for profit doesn’t make sense, but running it just for a bigger purpose is also not sustainable in the long term. Doing good and doing well must go together.

—Henrik Poulsen, CEO

Just 10 years ago, DONG was 85%-fossil fuel based, and only 15%-renewables based. Today, Ørsted has flipped these proportions. The company attributes its dramatic transformation to the societal demand for green energy, and aims to be carbon-neutral by 2025.

North America: 29/100 Sustainable Companies

In this region, the U.S. alone is responsible for 17 of the top 100 sustainable companies in the world. What’s more, of the 28 new companies to the 2020 Ranking, Canada is the homebase for nine of these entrants.

RankCompanyIndustryCountry
#4Cisco Systems IncCommunications Equipment🇺🇸 U.S.
#5Autodesk IncSoftware🇺🇸 U.S.
#10Algonquin Power & Utilities CorpElectric Utilities🇨🇦 CA
#15Hewlett Packard Enterprise CoComputer Hardware🇺🇸 U.S.
#16American WaterWater Utilities🇺🇸 U.S.
#22McCormick & CompanyFood and Beverage Production🇺🇸 U.S.
#26Prologis IncReal Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)🇺🇸 U.S.
#44Bombardier IncAerospace and Defense Manufacturing🇨🇦 CA
#47Sims Metal Management LtdPrimary Metals Products🇺🇸 U.S.
#48Bank of MontrealBanks🇨🇦 CA
#49Cascades IncContainers and Packaging🇨🇦 CA
#53Danaher CorporationMedical Devices🇺🇸 U.S.
#54Canadian National Railway CoCargo Transportation and Infrastructure Services🇨🇦 CA
#57Stantec IncFacilities and Construction Services🇨🇦 CA
#58HP IncComputer Peripherals and Systems🇺🇸 U.S.
#60Sun Life Financial IncInsurance🇨🇦 CA
#62Alphabet IncInternet and Data Services🇺🇸 U.S.
#67Comerica IncorporatedBanks🇺🇸 U.S.
#74Tesla IncConsumer Vehicles and Parts🇺🇸 U.S.
#77Workday IncSoftware🇺🇸 U.S.
#78Merck & Co IncBiopharmaceuticals🇺🇸 U.S.
#81Intel CorporationSemiconductor Manufacturing🇺🇸 U.S.
#82Analog Devices IncSemiconductor Manufacturing🇺🇸 U.S.
#83IGM Financial IncInvestment Services🇨🇦 CA
#84Canadian Solar IncElectrical Equipment and Power Systems🇨🇦 CA
#88Cogeco Communications IncWireless and Wireline Telecomm. Services🇨🇦 CA
#91Teck Resources Ltd.Metal Ore Mining🇨🇦 CA
#93Campbell SoupFood and Beverage Production🇺🇸 U.S.
#96Telus Corp.Wireless and Wireline Telecomm. Services🇨🇦 CA

Cisco Systems comes in fourth worldwide, partly as a result of its clean revenues worth a stunning $25 billion. Not far behind is Autodesk, which rose an impressive 43 places since 2019. The main factor behind this leap? The software corporation now operates its cloud platforms using 99% renewable energy.

Asia: 16/100 Sustainable Companies

Over in Asia, Japan is a clear leader, boasting six sustainable companies in the list. Interestingly, the companies are from a wide range of industries, from computers (Panasonic) to cars (Toyota).

RankCompanyIndustryCountry
#12Sekisui ChemicalsOther Materials🇯🇵 Japan
#25Taiwan SemiconductorSemiconductor Equipment and Services🇹🇼 Taiwan
#36City Developments LtdReal Estate Investment and Services🇸🇬 Singapore
#43Shinhan Financial GroupBanks🇰🇷 South Korea
#50AdvantechComputer Hardware🇹🇼 Taiwan
#63Capitaland LimitedReal Estate Investment and Services🇸🇬 Singapore
#68Takeda PharmaceuticalBiopharmaceuticals🇯🇵 Japan
#72Konica MinoltaComputer Peripherals and Systems🇯🇵 Japan
#80SamsungElectrical Equipment and Power Systems🇰🇷 South Korea
#85BYD Co.Consumer Vehicles and Parts🇨🇳 China
#86Kao Corp.Personal Care and Cleaning Products🇯🇵 Japan
#89Panasonic Corp.Computer Hardware🇯🇵 Japan
#90VitasoyFood and Beverage Production🇭🇰 Hong Kong
#92Toyota Motor Corp.Consumer Vehicles and Parts🇯🇵 Japan
#95SingtelWireless and Wireline Telecomm. Services🇸🇬 Singapore
#97Lenovo GroupComputer Peripherals and Systems🇨🇳 China

Japanese plastics manufacturer Sekisui Chemicals comes in first in Asia, after an immense improvement of 77 positions in just one year. The company builds environmentally-friendly housing, and 28% of its revenue aligns with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Rest of the World: 6/100 Sustainable Companies

There are a few notable mentions in other regions, too. Brazil’s Banco do Brasil remains in the top ten list, and is one of the three most sustainable companies in all of South America.

RankCompanyIndustryCountry
#9Banco do Brasil SABanks🇧🇷 Brazil
#19CEMIGElectric Utilities🇧🇷 Brazil
#30Natura Cosmeticos SAPersonal Care and Cleaning Products🇧🇷 Brazil
#42National Australia Bank LtdBanks🇦🇺 Australia
#51Standard Bank Group LtdBanks🇿🇦 South Africa
#75Westpac Banking CorpBanks🇦🇺 Australia

More than half of the companies in these remaining regions are banks. Incidentally, financial services are the biggest group in the Global 100 overall.

The Best of Both Worlds

As it turns out, you can have your cake and eat it, too.

Altogether, the Global 100 most sustainable companies have consistently outperformed*, and outlasted the average company in the MSCI ACWI (All Country World Index):

MetricG100MSCI ACWI
Annualized Return7.3%7.0%
Average Company Age83 years49 years

*Between 2005-Dec. 31 2019

Corporate sustainability is a significant driving force for urgent climate action, and the sustainable companies on this list acknowledge the triple bottom line of not just making profit, but also creating a lasting impact on people and the planet.

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Visualizing the Climate Targets of Fortune 500 Companies

A growing number of companies are taking climate action, but when will they meet their goals? This timeline provides a holistic overview.

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Visualized: The Climate Targets of Fortune 500 Companies

View the high-resolution version of this infographic by clicking here
The Fortune Global 500 is a ranking of the world’s 500 largest companies by revenue. In 2019, this influential group employed 70 million people and generated revenues of over $33 trillion.

Given their size and influence, many of these companies are taking climate action quite seriously. For example, 30% of the group have either achieved a climate goal or are publicly committed to doing so by 2030—a significant increase from just 6% in 2016.

In this infographic, we’ve used data from Natural Capital Partners to provide a holistic view of when Fortune Global 500 companies plan to meet their stated climate goals.

Climate Action Takes Several Forms

When taking climate action, businesses have a variety of targets they can pursue. Three of the most common ones include carbon neutrality, RE100, and science based targets (SBT).

Climate target typeDescription
Carbon neutralAchieved when a company completely offsets its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
RE100Achieved when a company relies on 100% renewable energy.
Science based targets (SBT) Emissions are reduced in line with the need to keep global warming below 2ºC.

After choosing a target, businesses can also set a date for when they intend to achieve it. As the above graphic shows, many companies are targeting 2030, a year that is frequently touted as a deadline for meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement.

A fourth target known as “net zero emissions” is also used, though its exact definition tends to vary. For the purposes of this infographic, we’ve considered a commitment to net zero emissions to be the same as achieving carbon neutrality.

A Complete Overview

The following table summarizes the climate actions of Fortune Global 500 companies. Firms that made commitments without a target date have been noted in the table with a “C”.

Company NameHeadquartersCarbon Neutral (target date)RE100 (target date)SBT (target date)
Commonwealth Bank of Australia🇦🇺Australia2030
Westpac Banking🇦🇺Australia20132025
Woolworths Group🇦🇺AustraliaC
Anheuser-Busch InBev🇧🇪Belgium20252025
Banco Bradesco🇧🇷Brazil2019
Banco do Brasil🇧🇷Brazil2019
Caixa Econômica Federal🇧🇷Brazil2018
Vale🇧🇷Brazil2050
Bank of Montreal🇨🇦Canada2010
Royal Bank of Canada🇨🇦Canada2017
Toronto-Dominion Bank🇨🇦Canada2010
Lenovo Group🇨🇳China2030
Xiamen ITG Holding Group🇨🇳ChinaC
Maersk Group🇩🇰Denmark2050
Nokia🇫🇮Finland2030
Auchan Holding🇫🇷France
AXA🇫🇷France2025
BNP Paribas🇫🇷France2017
Carrefour🇫🇷France2030
CMA CGM🇫🇷France2050
Crédit Agricole🇫🇷FranceC
Danone🇫🇷France205020302030
Electricité de France🇫🇷France2050
Engie🇫🇷France2030
L'Oréal🇫🇷France20202027
La Poste🇫🇷France201220202025
Michelin🇫🇷France2030
Orange🇫🇷France2040
Renault🇫🇷France2030
Saint-Gobain🇫🇷France2025
Sanofi🇫🇷France2030
Schneider Electric🇫🇷France202520302030
Siemens🇫🇷France2030
Société Générale🇫🇷FranceC
Veolia Environnement🇫🇷France2034
Vinci🇫🇷France2050
Adidas🇩🇪Germany2050
Allianz🇩🇪Germany20122023
Bayer🇩🇪Germany2030
BMW Group🇩🇪Germany2050
Bosch Group🇩🇪Germany2020
Continental🇩🇪Germany20402030
Daimler🇩🇪Germany2039
Deutsche Bahn🇩🇪Germany20502030
Deutsche Bank🇩🇪Germany2013
Deutsche Post DHL Group🇩🇪Germany2050
Deutsche Telekom🇩🇪Germany205020212030
E.ON🇩🇪Germany2040
Metro🇩🇪Germany2030
Munich Re Group🇩🇪Germany2015
SAP🇩🇪Germany202520142025
ThyssenKrupp🇩🇪Germany2030
Uniper🇩🇪Germany2035
Volkswagen🇩🇪Germany2050
ZF Friedrichshafen🇩🇪Germany2040
State Bank of India🇮🇳India2030
Tata Motors🇮🇳India2030
Accenture🇮🇪Ireland20232025
CRH🇮🇪Ireland2050
Johnson Controls International🇮🇪IrelandC
Enel🇮🇹Italy20502030
ENI🇮🇹Italy2030
AEON🇯🇵Japan205020302027
Dai-ichi Life Holdings🇯🇵Japan2050
Daiwa House Industry🇯🇵Japan20402030
Fujitsu🇯🇵Japan20502030
Hitachi🇯🇵JapanC
Mitsubishi Electric🇯🇵Japan2030
NEC🇯🇵Japan20502030
Nissan Motor🇯🇵Japan2050
Panasonic🇯🇵Japan20502030
Sompo Holdings🇯🇵JapanC
Sony🇯🇵Japan20402020
Sumitomo Electric Industries🇯🇵Japan2050
Takeda Pharmaceutical🇯🇵Japan20192025
Tokio Marine Holdings🇯🇵Japan2011
Toshiba🇯🇵Japan
Toyota Motor🇯🇵Japan2050
América Móvil🇲🇽Mexico2050
Achmea🇳🇱Netherlands2011
Aegon🇳🇱Netherlands2016
Heineken Holding🇳🇱NetherlandsC
ING Group🇳🇱Netherlands20072020
Equinor🇳🇴Norway2030
Anglo American🇿🇦South Africa2040
Hyundai Motor🇰🇷South Korea2050
LG Electronics🇰🇷South Korea2030
Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria🇪🇸Spain20202030
Banco Santander🇪🇸Spain2020
Iberdrola🇪🇸Spain20502030
Inditex🇪🇸SpainC
Mapfre Group🇪🇸Spain2030
Naturgy Energy Group🇪🇸SpainC
Telefónica🇪🇸Spain203020302025
Volvo🇸🇪Sweden2025
ABB🇨🇭Switzerland2018
Adecco Group🇨🇭Switzerland2030
Coop Group🇨🇭Switzerland2023
Credit Suisse Group🇨🇭Switzerland20102025
LafargeHolcim🇨🇭Switzerland2030
Migros Group🇨🇭SwitzerlandC
Nestlé🇨🇭Switzerland2020
Novartis🇨🇭Switzerland20252030
Swiss Re🇨🇭Switzerland20032020
Zurich Insurance Group🇨🇭Switzerland20142022
Fubon Financial Holding🇹🇼TaiwanC
PTT🇹🇭ThailandC
Aviva🇬🇧UK20062025
Barclays🇬🇧UK2030
British American Tobacco🇬🇧UK20302028
BT Group🇬🇧UK20202030
Compass Group🇬🇧UKC
GlaxoSmithKline🇬🇧UK20502027
HSBC Holdings🇬🇧UK2030
J. Sainsbury🇬🇧UK2040
Linde🇬🇧UKC
Phoenix Group Holdings🇬🇧UK2030
Tesco🇬🇧UK205020302027
Unilever🇬🇧UK20202030
Vodafone Group🇬🇧UK2025
3M🇺🇸USA2050
Alphabet🇺🇸USA20072017
Amazon.com🇺🇸USA204020252040
American Express🇺🇸USA2018
Anthem🇺🇸USA2025
Apple🇺🇸USA20202020
AT&T🇺🇸USA2028
Bank of America🇺🇸USA20202020
Best Buy🇺🇸USA20502030
Capital One Financial🇺🇸USA20182019
Cisco Systems🇺🇸USA2022
Citigroup🇺🇸USA2020
Coca-Cola🇺🇸USA2030
CVS Health🇺🇸USA2028
Dell Technologies🇺🇸USA20402020
Delta Air Lines🇺🇸USA2020
Dow🇺🇸USA2050
Facebook🇺🇸USA2020
Ford Motor🇺🇸USA2050
General Motors🇺🇸USA2050
Goldman Sachs Group🇺🇸USA20152020
Hewlett Packard Enterprise🇺🇸USA2025
HP🇺🇸USA20352025
Intel🇺🇸USA2030
Johnson & Johnson🇺🇸USA2050
JPMorgan Chase🇺🇸USA2020
Lowe's🇺🇸USA2025
MetLife🇺🇸USA2016
Microsoft🇺🇸USA201220172030
Mondelez International🇺🇸USA2025
Morgan Stanley🇺🇸USA20222022
Nike🇺🇸USA20252030
PepsiCo🇺🇸USA2030
Pfizer🇺🇸USA2020
Philip Morris International🇺🇸USA20502030
Procter & Gamble🇺🇸USA203020302030
Schlumberger🇺🇸USAC
Starbucks🇺🇸USA2020
Target🇺🇸USA20302028
Tyson Foods🇺🇸USA2030
Verizon Communications🇺🇸USA2035
Walmart🇺🇸USA20252027
Wells Fargo🇺🇸USA20192020

Note: This data was aggregated from various sources throughout 2020, and as a result, may not include the latest climate commitments announced by companies within the Fortune Global 500.

As of October 2020, 163 companies from the Fortune Global 500 have publicly committed to achieving at least one of these climate targets. That represents 32.6% of the total group.

The most common target is carbon neutrality, which has 91 companies on board. In second place is science based targets (SBT), which has 74 companies committed—of those, 16 have not declared a target date. RE100 was the least common, with 56 companies committed. Because some companies are committed to multiple targets, these figures add to more than 163.

Climate Action is on the Rise

Private-sector awareness around climate change and other sustainability issues has gained strong momentum in recent years.

Since 2011, the number of S&P 500 companies publishing sustainability reports increased from 20% in 2011, to 90% in 2019. This was likely due to investor demand and a broader acceptance of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria.

Governments around the world are also taking a more proactive approach to climate action. The Biden administration, for example, seeks to make a $2 trillion investment to help a variety of U.S. industries become more sustainable.

“We have the opportunity to build a more resilient, sustainable economy – one that will put the United States on an irreversible path to achieve net-zero emissions…by no later than 2050.”
– Biden-Harris campaign

America’s goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 is shared with a handful of other advanced economies, including Japan and the EU. The UK has taken these pledges one step further, becoming the first G7 country to pass a law that requires itself to bring emissions to net zero by 2050.

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Visualized: The Top 5 Questions on Sustainable Investing for Advisers

In the not so distant future, sustainable investing could structurally change economies. What are the big questions advisers need answered?

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Sustainable Investing

Visualized: The Top Five Questions on Sustainable Investing

Today, the surge in green investing has been compared to the dot-com boom of the 2000s.

Back then, the internet was anticipated to radically reshape economies. Many companies fell to the wayside, and now 20 years later, tech stocks currently make up roughly 40% of the S&P 500 by market capitalization. Like the dot-com era, green firms are projected to structurally change the way businesses function.

Given the rising interest in green assets, this infographic from MSCI answers the most important questions advisers need answered on sustainable investing.

1. Which type of sustainable investing is right for my client?

First, let’s start with the basics—understanding the terms used to describe sustainable investing:

  • Sustainable investing: An umbrella term that typically refers to all types of sustainable, impact, and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) integration approaches
  • Impact investing: A type of investing approach that generates measurable social or environmental benefits
  • Socially responsible investing (SRI): An investing approach that aligns with an investor’s ethical, religious, or personal values, while actively reducing negative environmental or social consequences
  • ESG integration: Considers material environmental, social, and governance factors to enhance long-term risk adjusted returns through its investment approach
  • Climate investing: Looks to reduce exposure to climate risk, identify low-carbon investment opportunities, or align portfolios with “net-zero” climate targets

Knowing the key terms of the sustainable landscape allows advisers to more accurately address client objectives, goals, and beliefs.

2. How can I start a conversation with clients about ESG?

Begin by asking what motivates clients. Typically, motivations fall into one of three core objectives:

  • Can ESG factors improve my risk-adjusted returns?
  • Can I have a positive impact on society through my investments?
  • Are my investments consistent with my ethical, political, or religious beliefs?

Client priorities could include financial returns, impact, values, or a combination. Once these have been established, investors can choose from a universe of funds and investment vehicles that more strongly align with their goals.

3. What is ESG data and why is it important?

At the heart of ESG-focused strategies is data. In some cases, ESG analysis of companies is based on over 2,000 data points from a wide cross-section of sources. For MSCI ESG Research, they fall within these three categories:

  • Mandatory company disclosures: 20%
  • Voluntary company ESG disclosure: 35%
  • Alternative data: 45%

Alternative data commonly makes up 45% of the total ESG dataset—constituting far beyond what a company publicly discloses. Still, ESG data can seem vague or elusive. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Rather, ESG data can be broken down and obtained from the following five sources:

  • Company filings: Shareholder results, voluntary ESG disclosures
  • Non-governmental organizations (NGOs): Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), UN Sustainable Development Goals
  • Government: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), European Central Bank (ECB)
  • Media sources: Major headlines
  • Alternative data: Geo mapping, water scarcity data, flood risk analysis

Importantly, after ESG analysts identify the risks and opportunities most relevant to a company, multiple data points coalesce to inform a company’s ESG profile.

4. Why are environmental risks becoming more important?

Rising global temperatures and ecological disruptions pose imminent risks to humanity.

Along with this, other future risks could include: eroding shareholder value, blocked project proposals, regulation compliance costs, and higher borrowing costs. In response, national, corporate, and investor commitments to achieving net-zero emissions in alignment with the Paris Agreement have proliferated.

How does this affect the risk-return profile of investments?

According to research, climate change could erase $7.75 million in value over five years from a hypothetical $100 million portfolio that shared similar returns and volatility over a five-year period to the median global developed market fund as of December, 2019.

5. Will the consideration of ESG in a portfolio lead to underperformance?

Let’s turn our attention to performance, one of the most pressing questions surrounding ESG.

Companies with strong ESG profiles have an MSCI ESG rating of AAA or AA, meaning they lead their industry in managing the most significant ESG risks and opportunities. Studies show that companies with better ESG ratings have illustrated stronger performance, higher dividend payouts, and stronger earnings stability historically, on average.

They have also illustrated the following attributes:

  • Lower cost of capital
  • Less exposure to systemic risk
  • Lower volatility
  • Higher profitability

In addition, companies with strong MSCI ESG ratings may possess greater resilience. Stocks with high MSCI ESG ratings have had lower financial drawdowns during crises compared to their market-capitalization-weighted parent index.

Sustainable Investing: Shaping the Dialogue

Companies with higher environmental risks—including heavy carbon polluters, waste emitters, and poor water management—are facing greater scrutiny. At the same time, client demand is shifting to ESG, and the conversation is changing.

These questions can serve as a launching point for advisers to help clients seize new opportunities and mitigate investment risks.

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