Some Energy Companies Have More ESG Traits Than Meet the Eye

Many investors believe that traditional fossil fuels producers shouldn’t reside in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) funds because, well, many investors believe that old guard energy companies are threats to the ESG movement.

There was a time when it could accurately be said that oil companies weren’t prioritizing sound environmental stewardship, but with the renewable energy boom gaining momentum, traditional energy producers are realizing that they need to up their ESG games or risk being left behind. Moves being made by those companies have implications for exchange traded funds, including the VanEck Vectors Natural Resources ETF (HAP).

HAP holds 373 stocks and isn’t a dedicated energy ETF — it allocates 23.1% of its weight to the sector — but the fund is worth evaluating as rallying energy equities and soaring oil prices are colliding with investor demand for and further adoption of renewable energy.

“The energy market remains tight amid limited supply and rising demand, and our commodities team thinks energy prices could remain high until the next economic downturn, with pressure intensifying in the coming months,” says equity analyst Savita Subramanian in a recent note. “They expect to see Brent prices pushing above $100/bbl if strong trade, low stocks, and an air travel rebound collide with a cold winter.”

The bank notes that $3 of every $10 directed to funds this year is heading to ESG strategies, confirming that traditional energy companies need to bolster their ESG profiles, and rapidly.

Business Insider highlights a list of 15 energy companies that are working diligently to improve their ESG profiles, and plenty of those firms reside in HAP. That group includes Chevron (NYSE:CVX), ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP), and Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM). That trio combines for 5.7% of HAP’s weight.

“Energy now leads in setting net zero emission targets along with Utilities, with 36% of S&P 500 Energy companies having net-zero emission targets and another 36% having emission reduction targets. Moreover, 77% of S&P 500 Energy companies now have executive compensation plans tied to ESG metrics,” adds Bank of America’s Subramanian.

Other HAP holdings making the list of fossil fuels producers with improving ESG credentials include Occidental Petroleum (NYSE:OXY), Devon Energy (NYSE:DVN), Pioneer Natural Resources (NYSE:PXD), and oil services giant Schlumberger (NYSE:SLB).

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The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.