The finance sector has seen a shift over the past decade as millennials and Gen Z take hold of economic power. According to Fortune, 31% of millennials started investing before age 21, which is double that of baby boomers and Gen X combined. Additionally, 95% of millennials with over $100,000 in savings are using ESG investing, driving ESG inflow growth up 10x in the past two years.
What is ESG Investing?
ESG investing is a relatively new concept in the world of finance that has gained popularity in recent years. ESG stands for Environmental, Social, and Governance, and it is an approach to investing that considers not only the financial performance of a company, but also its impact on society and the environment.
ESG investing is based on a simple premise: companies that are environmentally and socially responsible, and that have strong governance practices, are more likely to be sustainable and profitable in the long run. By investing in these companies, investors can not only generate financial returns, but also contribute to positive social and environmental outcomes.
Pros and Cons of ESG Investing
First and foremost, ESG allows investors to align their investments with their values. For example, investors who are concerned about climate change may choose to invest in companies that are working to reduce their carbon footprint.
Secondly, ESG investing can help investors manage risk. By considering not only financial performance, but also environmental, social, and governance factors, investors can identify potential risks that may not be apparent from financial data alone. For example, a company that has poor labor practices or a history of environmental violations may be more likely to face legal and reputational risks in the future.
However, there are also potential drawbacks to ESG investing. One concern is that the definition of ESG is not always clear-cut, and different investors may have different interpretations of what it means to be environmentally and socially responsible. This can lead to confusion and inconsistency in the market. For example, Exxon Mobile appeared recently in a number of ESG portfolios, based on their efforts to lower their carbon footprint vs. their peers. But many ESG investors might still be reluctant to invest in an oil company.
Ultimately, all ESG ratings are subjective. There is currently no absolute, agreed on methodology for rating and ranking companies.
Another concern is that ESG investing may come at the expense of financial returns. Some critics argue that by focusing on non-financial factors, ESG investors may be overlooking companies with strong financial performance and missing out on potential returns.
In addition, presently 18 states have passed laws against using ESG considerations in state-sponsored investments, such as pension funds.
ESG: Not Just a Fad
ESG investing is a promising approach to investing that may have the potential to drive positive social and environmental outcomes. While there are certainly challenges and potential drawbacks to this approach, ESG is likely to continue to grow in popularity in the coming years. As investors become increasingly aware of the importance of sustainability and responsible investing, ESG investing could play an increasingly important role in the financial industry.
Morningstar reports that 72% of the U.S. population is interested in sustainable investing. Are you?