If your clients are invested in Chinese companies and have a preference for ESG, it may be time for a change in their portfolios. It appears sustainability rules in western countries are at odds with what’s happening in China. While Chinese equities offer strong growth potential, their ESG ratings rank lower than western nations and most emerging markets. For instance, Sustainalytics, a sustainable rating agency owned by Morningstar, downgraded three Chinese big-name tech companies on its watchlist in October. The three stocks, Tencent, Weibo, and Baidu, were moved to the category of “non-compliant with UN principles.” In addition, Hong Kong Watch, a UK-based group that researches investment and human rights issues in China, recently said in a report that “many of the biggest asset management, state pension, and sovereign wealth funds were passively invested in companies allegedly involved in the repression of Uyghur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region.” The report found three major stock indices provided by MSCI included at least 13 companies that “have allegedly used forced labor or have profited from China’s construction of internment camps and surveillance apparatus in Xinjiang.” Another problem is that Chinese companies are less likely to respond to queries from ESG rating agencies.
Finsum:With ESG investing continuing to gain momentum, it appears that many Chinese companies are at odds with ESG due to censorship and repression in China.