The article introduces a concept called "impact elasticity," which measures how a firm's environmental impact changes in response to shifts in its cost of capital (the "E" in "ESG"). It finds that the dominant sustainable investing strategy, which favors green firms and punishes brown firms by altering their cost of capital, can be counterproductive.
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The relationship between financial markets and ESG investing is obscured by the lack of clarity regarding motivations for investing in ESG strategies. Is the motive to align the investor’s values with the ESG theme? Or is the ESG term a misnomer for a set of stocks that are systematically undervalued, for some reason as a function of its ESG characteristics?
While ESG investors can express their values through their investments, they should expect lower returns from their portfolios—though they also will be taking less investment risk.
The continued popularity of sustainable strategies could create sufficient cash flows to offset the risk premium in the lower-scoring stocks, at least until an equilibrium is reached.
In this article, we examine the research addressing the question of to what extent, if any, ESG strategies improve investment performance on a risk-adjusted basis, or if they are more effectively used for the societal impact they potentially have.
Investments aligned with environmental, social, and governance (ESG) principles are rapidly growing globally. In the exchange traded fund (ETF) industry, this gives rise to the power of ESG rating firms that have the influence to direct capital flows into ETFs tracking the indexes. This article examines the issues of substantial ESG rating divergence across rating firms, the impact on investors’ choices, and the influence on the ETF industry. The divergence appears to be the greatest in social and governance components, and is often qualitative in nature. The author found that certain economic sectors are more prone to ESG rating divergence than others. She presents a case study about two ESG ETFs that are viewed quite differently under various rating lenses, and offers suggestions to investors, advisors, and analysts on how to research ESG ETFs, given the major rating divergence. The article concludes with ways the ETF industry could improve its practices collectively to better serve investors with clarity and to sustain the growth of ESG impact investments.
What are the consequences of widespread ESG-based portfolio exclusions on the expected returns of firms subject to exclusion? We consider two possible theoretical explanations. 1) Short-term price pressure around the exclusions leading to correction of mispricing going forward. 2) Long term changes in required returns. We use the exclusions of Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG -`The Oil Fund') to investigate. GPFG is the world's largest SWF, and its ESG decisions are used as a model for many institutional investors. We construct various portfolios representing the GPFG exclusions. We find that these portfolios have significant superior performance (alpha) relative to a Fama-French five factor model. The sheer magnitude of these excess returns (5\% in annual terms) leads us to conclude that short-term price pressure can not be the only explanation for our results, the excluded firms expected returns must be higher in the longer term.
After 40 years or so, quantitative investing has evolved into a thriving practice. A major feature of the quantitative approach involves developing underlying numerical models and testing them on a historical (data) record and then forecasting where alpha may be embedded into the prices of a set of stocks. Whether you agree or disagree with this approach, it is difficult to deny that with the advanced state of data access and computational skill, “quants will win the day in ESG investing”. Such is the premise of this article and happily, it is accompanied by a compelling argument.
In theory green stocks should have lower expected returns, this however, is not what we've seen. So the question is what has caused the outperformance of green stocks? And has that outperformance cost value investors their returns?