While ESG has continued to come under fire from both politicians and regulators, ESG fund assets have continued to grow. In fact, sustainable fund assets grew 0.84% through November, which is better than the 1.1% decline for all funds, according to Morningstar. However, the performance of these funds has not been great; but that's not due to political or regulatory pressure. According to analysts, the reason that ESG funds have underperformed this year is that they missed out on the best performing sector this year, which was energy. ESG funds typically don’t hold stocks of oil companies such as ExxonMobil and Chevron that have performed so well this year. According to Morningstar, the average large-cap stock ESG fund has lost nearly 20% through Dec. 21st. That’s about 2.4% worse than the S&P 500 Index. The question is, will that continue into 2023? The answer depends on whether oil companies will continue to outperform. Energy strategists differ in their opinions. Morningstar energy strategist Stephen Ellis thinks it’s unlikely, since “we see the stocks as fairly valued to expensive,” while Fidelity portfolio manager Maurice Fitzmaurice wrote recently “that oil and gas demand should keep growing as effects of the Covid pandemic pass, while lost supplies from Russia prod oil prices to rise.”
Finsum:The performance of ESG funds next year will likely depend on whether oil companies will continue to outperform.