ETF Trends
ETF Trends

As more try to align their values with their investment portfolios, investors are looking into socially responsible exchange traded funds that focus on environmental, social and governance principles.

ETF Trends publisher Tom Lydon spoke with Marie Dzanis, Head of Intermediary Distribution of ETFs and Northern Trust Asset Management FlexShares, at the 2017 Morningstar Investment Conference in Chicago April 26-28 to talk about socially responsible investments and the rising interest in ESG strategies.

“Environmental, social and governance is ESG, and a way of investing where you holistically incorporate these strategies in your portfolio,” Dzanis said. “One in every five professionally managed dollars, today, is going into this type of strategy, and quite frankly, the United States is one of the last countries in the world to not fully embrace the strategy.”

However, investors won’t necessarily have to give up performance to feel a little bit warmer in their hearts. Dzanis explained that ESG strategies are not just exclusionary investments where they would only exclude certain types of stocks.

“How we think about it very differently is we like to have it as a core holding in your portfolio, not just a piece,” Dzanis said.

Consequently, companies included will be undergo a rigorous process to select those that have adhered and incorporated characteristics found with strong environmental, social and governance principles.

“These key performance indicators usually indicate overall health of the company so you don’t compromise return,” Dzanis said.

For example, joining the new wave of ETF products based on ESG principles, FlexShares has launched the FlexShares STOXX US ESG Impact Index Fund (NasdaqGM: ESG) and FlexShares STOXX Global ESG Impact Index Fund (NasdaqGM: ESGG).

The funds are based on the STOXX global ESG Impact Index, which screens companies scoring better with respect to a select set of ESG key performance indicators (KPIs), with the bottom 50% of such companies based on their ESG KPI scores are excluded from the Index, as are companies that do not adhere to the UN Global compact principles, are involved in controversial weapons or are coal miners.

“KPI integration improves bottoms-up security selection while removing data-provider bias,” according to FlexShares. “The methodology builds an ESG index by essentially coding at the ‘root’ level versus applying an overlay or top-down ESG strategy; it parallels the best behaviors of portfolio managers when it comes to evaluating, sorting and selecting companies for investment.”