ESG Should Thank COVID-19 For Increasing Investor Interest

No one doubts that COVID-19 is doing more harm than good, but one area where its raising awareness is environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing. Investor interest is rising for ESG and as such, companies are ready to give the people what they want.

“I’m asked if companies and investors are going to be pulling back from ESG,” said Peter Reali, head of engagement for Nuveen. “Absolutely not. If anything … it’s going to become more relevant.”

A recent study by global investment manager Nuveen revealed that ESG proposals in 2020 will reach all-time highs with environmental and social topics as key areas of interest.

“Already these proposals account for 66% of all submitted proposals in 2020,” Nuveen noted.

“Although not all companies are necessarily contributing immensely to actual carbon getting released in the air, their businesses will be impacted by climate change,” Reali said. “Real estate, insurance, autos, the list goes on for all the reasons why you’re seeing more proposals [related to it]. This is a relevant topic for a much wider set of companies than, perhaps, opioids.”

Despite the coronavirus outbreak, environmental, social and governance (ESG) companies are thriving amid the chaos. In fact, a good number of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are outperforming broader indexes.

“Amid plunging stock markets, ESG investments have fared better than the overall market. During March, 62 percent of ESG-focused large-cap equity funds outperformed that index, according to Morningstar,” a Green Biz article said. “So far this year, 59 percent of U.S. exchange-traded funds focused on ESG performance are beating the S&P 500 Index, according to Bloomberg Intelligence. That outperformance could spur further demand for ESG funds — an area already attracting growing investment before the pandemic hit.”

What’s driving the performance of ESG-related ETFs? One of the reasons is strong fundamentals—per the Green Biz article, market observers “believe that strong ESG performance indicates better management, which translates into stronger long-term returns. The idea is that management teams that do a good job of minimizing their environmental footprint, promoting good employee relations, and creating resilient governance structures are more likely to be adept at running all other aspects of a company’s business.”

“ESG funds tend to be biased towards higher-quality companies with a stronger balance sheet, companies that are run better and operate more efficiently,” Hortense Bioy, director of passive strategies and sustainability research at Morningstar, told the Financial Times.

Investors who want ESG exposure via an ETF wrapper can take look at the Xtrackers MSCI EAFE ESG Leaders Equity ETF (EASG). EASG seeks investment results that correspond generally to the performance of the MSCI EAFE ESG Leaders Index.

The fund will invest at least 80% of its total assets (but typically far more) in component securities (including depositary receipts in respect of such securities) of the underlying index. The underlying index is a capitalization-weighted index that provides exposure to companies with high ESG performance relative to their sector peers.

For more market trends, visit ETF Trends.