No matter where you look, climate change is at the centre of every conversation.
With a wide range of global sustainability challenges and complex risks on the rise, investors are starting to re-evaluate traditional portfolio approaches.
The ESG Boom
Today, many investors want their money to align with a higher purpose beyond profit. This infographic from iShares unpacks the prolific rise of sustainable investing, and how its trillion-dollar potential is sweeping across the world.
What is Sustainable Investing?
Sustainable investing considers environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors that create a lasting, positive impact on the world. As the term ‘ESG’ suggests, its scope goes well beyond environmental concerns alone. Examples include:
- Environmental: Climate risks, resource scarcity, and clean energy
- Social: Diversity, human rights, and cybersecurity
- Governance: Business ethics, transparency, and anti-corruption
Simply put, it’s a force for good.
Although sustainable investing emerged in the 1970s, the movement has gained impressive traction in the last few years.
How Global Assets are Growing
Since 2012, total assets in sustainable investing have more than doubled:
|Region||2012 Assets||2018 Assets|
|Europe||$8.8 trillion||$14.1 trillion|
|U.S.||$3.7 trillion||$12.0 trillion|
|Japan||$0.01 trillion||$2.2 trillion|
|Canada||$0.59 trillion||$1.7 trillion|
|Australia and New Zealand||$0.18 trillion||$0.7 trillion|
|Total||$13.3 trillion||$30.7 trillion|
The U.S. and Europe are major players in this shift. In particular, specific legislation across European countries will continue driving ESG investment for years to come.
The European ESG Landscape
Across major economies in Europe, cultural shifts and new regulations are shaping the landscape of sustainable investing.
- The UK has an ambitious net-zero greenhouse gas emissions target by 2050.
Result: Most sectors will significantly ramp up their decarbonisation efforts to meet this goal.
- As per France’s Article 173 (Energy Transition Law), investors must explain how they incorporate ESG factors into their investment strategies.
Result: A majority of French institutional investors now manage their assets with ESG criteria in mind.
- Nordic countries consider sustainability and social responsibility a cornerstone of their cultural mindset.
Result: Nordic investors are increasingly integrating all three ESG aspects into their investments.
If Europe’s trajectory is any indication, sustainable investing will soon become second nature in other parts of the world too.
No Industry is Untouched
The rise of sustainable investing is a global phenomenon, and reaches a myriad of industries.
Here is a summary of just a few ESG efforts of some of the world’s most sustainable corporations:
|Chr. Hansen A/S||Bioscience||🇩🇰 Denmark||• 100% green operations commitment by Apr 2020
• 82% of revenue directly supports UN Global Goals
|Autodesk||Software||🇺🇸 U.S.||• 100% renewable energy-run cloud services and offices
• 44% women on the Board
|Banco do Brazil||Finance||🇧🇷 Brazil||• $51 billion earmarked for green economy spending
• 99% adherence to Code of Ethics and Conduct Standards
|City Developments Ltd||Real Estate||🇸🇬 Singapore||• S$100 million fully-allocated Green Bond
• 59% carbon emissions reduction target by 2030
The business world agrees: sustainable investing is smart investing.
How Can Investors Think Sustainably?
Many investment products allow investors to easily access sustainable investing, such as exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and index funds. These provide complete transparency—allowing investors to align their approach with the objectives that matter most to them.
Investors are able to:
- Screen out companies involved in controversial businesses
- Invest in companies with high ESG standards
- Advocate for specific issues like climate change
Not only this, but sustainable investing also has the potential to improve portfolio returns. In a 2015 paper covering ESG investing since the 1970s, 90% of ESG investing matched or overperformed traditional approaches.
The Bottom Line
Investors see a triple bottom line from sustainable investing: strong financial returns, and a lasting impact on both people and the planet.
As sustainable investing goes mainstream, it won’t simply act as a niche in a broader strategy—instead, it’ll be naturally integrated throughout a portfolio.
“With the impact of sustainability on investment returns increasing, we believe that sustainable investing is the strongest foundation for client portfolios going forward.
—Larry Fink, BlackRock Chairman and CEO
Sustainability is a global force that will continue to factor into everyday decisions.
Soon, sustainable investing will simply be considered “investing”.
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.
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 type||Description|
|Carbon neutral||Achieved when a company completely offsets its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.|
|RE100||Achieved 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 Name||Headquarters||Carbon Neutral (target date)||RE100 (target date)||SBT (target date)|
|Commonwealth Bank of Australia||🇦🇺Australia||2030|
|Banco do Brasil||🇧🇷Brazil||2019|
|Caixa Econômica Federal||🇧🇷Brazil||2018|
|Bank of Montreal||🇨🇦Canada||2010|
|Royal Bank of Canada||🇨🇦Canada||2017|
|Xiamen ITG Holding Group||🇨🇳China||C|
|Electricité de France||🇫🇷France||2050|
|Deutsche Post DHL Group||🇩🇪Germany||2050|
|Munich Re Group||🇩🇪Germany||2015|
|State Bank of India||🇮🇳India||2030|
|Johnson Controls International||🇮🇪Ireland||C|
|Dai-ichi Life Holdings||🇯🇵Japan||2050|
|Daiwa House Industry||🇯🇵Japan||2040||2030|
|Sumitomo Electric Industries||🇯🇵Japan||2050|
|Tokio Marine Holdings||🇯🇵Japan||2011|
|Anglo American||🇿🇦South Africa||2040|
|Hyundai Motor||🇰🇷South Korea||2050|
|LG Electronics||🇰🇷South Korea||2030|
|Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria||🇪🇸Spain||2020||2030|
|Naturgy Energy Group||🇪🇸Spain||C|
|Credit Suisse Group||🇨🇭Switzerland||2010||2025|
|Zurich Insurance Group||🇨🇭Switzerland||2014||2022|
|Fubon Financial Holding||🇹🇼Taiwan||C|
|British American Tobacco||🇬🇧UK||2030||2028|
|Phoenix Group Holdings||🇬🇧UK||2030|
|Bank of America||🇺🇸USA||2020||2020|
|Capital One Financial||🇺🇸USA||2018||2019|
|Delta Air Lines||🇺🇸USA||2020|
|Goldman Sachs Group||🇺🇸USA||2015||2020|
|Hewlett Packard Enterprise||🇺🇸USA||2025|
|Johnson & Johnson||🇺🇸USA||2050|
|Philip Morris International||🇺🇸USA||2050||2030|
|Procter & Gamble||🇺🇸USA||2030||2030||2030|
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.
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?
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.
Datastream2 months ago
Mapped: The 25 Richest Countries in the World
Datastream2 months ago
Mapped: The 25 Poorest Countries in the World
Energy2 months ago
Visualizing the Power Consumption of Bitcoin Mining
Money3 weeks ago
Ranked: The World’s 25 Richest Millennial Billionaires
Markets1 month ago
Visualizing the Recent Explosion in Lumber Prices
Technology1 month ago
The World’s Top 50 Influencers Across Social Media Platforms
Misc2 months ago
Figures of Speech: 40 Ways to Improve your Writing
Datastream3 weeks ago
France’s Bernard Arnault Becomes the World’s Richest Person