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Visualizing the Global Rise of Sustainable Investing

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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.

ESG Sustainability

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:

Region2012 Assets2018 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:

CompanyIndustryCountryESG Efforts
Chr. Hansen A/SBioscience🇩🇰 Denmark• 100% green operations commitment by Apr 2020
• 82% of revenue directly supports UN Global Goals
AutodeskSoftware🇺🇸 U.S.• 100% renewable energy-run cloud services and offices
• 44% women on the Board
Banco do BrazilFinance🇧🇷 Brazil• $51 billion earmarked for green economy spending
• 99% adherence to Code of Ethics and Conduct Standards
City Developments LtdReal 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:

  1. Screen out companies involved in controversial businesses
  2. Invest in companies with high ESG standards
  3. 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”.

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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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