Displaying items by tag: esg
For those paying attention, ESG has had a great run over the last year. While many may feel that in an intangible way, the real world results are strong too, with ESG investments outperforming the S&P 500 by 1.3% in 2020. ESG investment experienced some solid outperformance early in the pandemic because if its natural defensive. Millennials appear to be driving the trend, which seems likely to only increase. More generally, the environment has become a major focus for both retail investors and major asset managers, like BlackRock, which has helped make the sector mainstream.
FINSUM: Our best call for ESG is that it will do great in 2021. The main reason being that the Biden administration is bringing a strong and renewed focus on the environment, which will both awaken public consciousness but also give ESG some favorable regulatory tailwinds.
Asset managers, other industry participants, and others on the left have been outraged over the last several weeks about a new DOL proposal that would essentially bar ESG investments from being included in 401(k)s. Multiple large asset managers, including BlackRock and T. Rowe Price have issued statements asserting how out of touch the new DOL policy would be with current wealth management trends. The general attitude of asset managers is that the DOL is trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. According to T. Rowe Price, “There is no factual support for the proposition that ESG is being misused currently … Accordingly, the proposed rule’s efforts to impose new requirements on fiduciaries’ consideration of ESG is not necessary”.
FINSUM: We understand the concern about making sure 401ks put economics first, but there just does not seem to be enough evidence of misbehavior to warrant this kind of restrictive policy. Furthermore, ESG funds have been outperforming conventional ones since the start of the pandemic!
It has not gotten much major media attention yet, but there is a big battle brewing between asset managers and the Trump administration. The reason why is a new rule proposal by the DOL which seeks to require private pension plan administrators to prove that they are not sacrificing client returns by putting money into ESG-oriented investments. The proposal was not some by-product or unintended consequence of a larger regulation, it was the point. In the words of Eugene Scalia, head of the DOL, “Private employer-sponsored retirement plans are not vehicles for furthering social goals or policy objectives that are not in the financial interest of the plan”.
FINSUM: In our opinion, this rule by the DOL is very out-of-step with current market trends. We totally understand the need for the DOL to protect retail investors, but Millennials and Gen Xers love ESG and will be the ones inheriting wealth soon. This seems heavy-handed.
One of the biggest problems in the ESG/Sustainable investing space is finding out whether specific companies actually fall within the scope of such considerations. The space is becoming slowly more transparent, but sorting good from bad companies is still one of the major search and cost challenges of investing in the area. Well today we have more info on a new screening tool, called As You Sow, which helps investors sort good from bad companies and find companies and funds which match their desires. The new tool allows you to screen for certain characteristics: “deforestation free funds”, “gun free funds” etc.
FINSUM: Every advisor has clients for whom ESG is an important consideration (especially those with clients trending younger) and this is quite a helpful (and free) tool.
ESG has been on the rise. In its infancy, ESG was largely diminished to a niche sector, but increasingly large amounts of investor capital are flowing based on ESG considerations and clients are getting more and more focused on it. Now there is a new tool to score and rank mutual funds based on ESG factors. The tool is from As You Sow. It is still a work in progress, but is quite useful for getting an idea for where funds rank against one another.
FINSUM: This tool is still in development, but we could imagine that this could become quite useful as ESG is famously hard to grade.