Sustainable Investing

Sustainable investing: Separating fact from fiction

Jul 15, 2022

Today, Sustainable Investing strategies are helping to drive growth and positive societal change in nearly every asset class. Yet misconceptions persist…

Sustainable Investing has grown at a notably high rate, with more than $840bn in inflows since the start of 2021.1

Still, misconceptions about this investment strategy abound. These myth-busting facts will help you see why the Sustainable Investing market is expanding rapidly.

Myth 1: You can’t drive real change through sustainable investing.


Fact: You can have an effect — particularly through active managers with corporate engagement strategies.

 

Every company affects the world around it – sometimes for the better (e.g., by being a good employer) and sometimes for the worse (e.g., by polluting a local ecosystem).

As an investor, you can intentionally sponsor specific kinds of outcomes through your investments.

For example, you can invest in equity funds that actively partner with companies to change their practices from within. All shareholders have the right to vote for company policies, as well as engage with managers and board members on material issues. If you invest in actively managed funds, they can use your shares to advocate for more sustainable practices. Common themes that sustainable funds advocate for include better climate governance, increased workforce diversity, reduced plastic packaging, improved animal welfare, and stronger data privacy.

In some cases, sustainable funds even push to take board seats so they have a larger voice in governing companies on an ongoing basis.

By investing in actively managed funds that engage directly with companies, you can help sponsor  change through Sustainable Investing “SI”.

 

Myth 2: You can’t make money from sustainable investing.


Fact: We have seen sustainable investing strategies outperform the market.

Morningstar Direct, from April 2013 to March 2023
The MSCI ESG Leaders Index has outperformed the MSCI ACWI Index from April of 2013 to March of 2023. The MSCI ESG Leaders Index also has had a lower standard deviation than the MSCI ACWI Index indicating it has had less risk and volatility of investments during this time period.

Past performance is no guarantee of future returns. It is not possible to invest directly in an index

 

It’s possible to make money from Sustainable Investing in good times and in bad. Since January 2013 to January of 2023, the MSCI ESG Equity Leaders (which focuses on companies with strong ESG scores) have outperformed the broader MSCI World index by 13 basis points (and experienced less volatility during that period as well).

There are two ways in which Sustainable Investing can help drive financial returns:

  1. Focusing on material environmental, social, and governance-related (ESG) risk—We live in a new investing reality where more extensive data, corporate disclosure and regulatory reporting on ESG issues give investors new insights into how well companies are managing these components. Done right, a focus on key ESG issues can potentially lower investment risk. Financially material ESG factors (like human capital management) are factors that could have a significant impact -- both positive and negative -- on a company’s business model and value drivers. 

  2. Identifying growth-oriented megatrends—Megatrends are powerful and transformative influences that have an impact on the economy and society. Some examples today include renewable energy like wind and solar, smart grids, and energy storage. Identifying and investing in these megatrends may provide long-term growth as these trends aim to reshape the market. 

 

Myth 3: Sustainable investing is just for activists and environmentalists.


Fact: Sustainable Investing is a broad approach, encompassing diverse motivations and values systems.

 

Among those who do not invest in sustainable funds today, 31% believe that sustainable investing is strictly for environmentalists and activists2, and they cite that as the key reason they themselves don’t pursue the tactic.

Yet, a far broader swath of the investing public favors SI—and for a variety of reasons2:

  • 38% believe it makes good commercial business sense
  • 37% believe it represents the future of investing
  • 32% believe sustainable investing is likely to improve [their personal] investment performance. 

Moreover, as Sustainable Investing continues to deliver strong and resilient financial returns, a broader range of clients has begun adopting this approach. For example, 39% of endowments with more than $1 billion in assets attributes sustainable investing as a source of alpha.3

Indeed, many sustainable investors are driven purely by financial returns. Other proponents are driven by more socially oriented motivations, including a desire to invest in education, healthcare, military veterans, and diversity along with other socially responsible endeavors.

Regardless of your motivations—environmental, financial, and/or social—sustainable investing might be able to help you achieve your objectives.

 

Myth 4: You need to have a lot of money to sustainably invest.


Fact: Investment minimums for sustainable investing are low and dropping lower.

 

Historically, sustainable investing was exclusively for the ultra-wealthy (i.e., for investors who could dedicate large allocations and significant staff time to the work required).

That’s changed. Today, minimums to participate in sustainable investing are low and dropping even lower.

This makes the strategy more accessible to a wider audience , including younger investors who want to get started in sustainable investing with  small, incremental allocations.

 

Myth 5: Sustainable investing is all about start-ups.


Fact: Sustainable investing is an approach that you can use to invest in start-ups, mature companies and even government agencies.

 

Many people hear “sustainable investing” and immediately think of early-stage businesses. Or, they visualize a social enterprise designed to help a particular community or emerging economy.

But that view is too limited.

In reality, Sustainable Investing is a lens that you can apply to a wide range of businesses across sectors and sizes, representing a vast array of investment opportunities. For example:

  • Companies of all sizes are working toward a more sustainable future by pursuing opportunities like electric vehicles, regenerative agriculture, and sustainable aviation fuels
  • Municipalities are issuing bonds to help fund infrastructure projects to help communities adapt to climate change
  • Nonprofits are issuing market-rate bonds to help teachers, firefighters, and veterans finance affordable housing.

Sustainable Investing is a lens that can apply to any investment type.

We can help

To learn more about sustainable investing and the range of SI investments available on our platform, please speak with your J.P. Morgan team.

 

1Morningstar Direct, as of March 2023

2JPM Sustainable Investing Research, Q4 2021

32022 Endowment & Foundation Survey, Captrust, February 2023.

KEY RISKS

"Investment approaches that incorporate environmental, social and governance (“ESG”) considerations or sustainable investing may include additional risks. ESG or sustainable investing strategies (together, “ESG Strategies”), including separately managed accounts (“SMAs”), mutual funds and exchange traded funds (“ETFs”), can limit the types and number of investment opportunities and, as a result, could underperform other strategies that do not have an ESG or sustainable focus. Certain strategies focusing on a particular theme or sector can be more concentrated in particular industries or sectors that share common characteristics and are often subject to similar business risks and regulatory burdens. Because investing on the basis of ESG /sustainability criteria can involve qualitative and subjective analysis, there can be no assurance that the methodology utilized by, or determinations made by, J.P. Morgan, or an investment manager or investment adviser selected by J.P. Morgan, will align with the beliefs or values of the Client. Additionally, other investment managers and investment advisers, including our affiliates, can have a different approach to ESG or sustainable investing and can offer ESG Strategies that differ from the ESG Strategies offered at J.P. Morgan with respect to the same theme or topic. When evaluating investments, an investment manager or investment adviser is dependent upon information and data that might be incomplete, inaccurate or unavailable, which could cause the manager/adviser to incorrectly assess an investment’s ESG or sustainable attributes.

In making investment decisions, J.P. Morgan uses data and information, including but not limited to, industry classifications, industry grouping, ratings, scores and issuer screening provided by third party data providers or by a J.P. Morgan affiliated service provider.  J.P. Morgan does not review, guarantee or validate any third-party data, ratings, screenings or processes.  Such data and information will not have been validated by J.P. Morgan and can therefore be incomplete or erroneous. ESG and sustainable investing are not uniformly defined concepts and scores or ratings may vary across data providers that use similar or different screens based on their process for evaluating ESG characteristics. Investments identified by J.P. Morgan as demonstrating positive ESG characteristics might not be the same investments identified by other investment managers in the market that use similar ESG screens or methodologies. In addition, investments identified as demonstrating positive ESG characteristics at a particular point in time might not exhibit positive or favorable ESG characteristics across all relevant metrics or methodologies or on an ongoing basis. ESG or sustainable investing practices differ by asset class, country, region and industry and are constantly evolving.  As a result, a  company’s ESG or sustainability-related practices and J.P. Morgan’s assessment of such practices could change over time.

The ESG or sustainable solutions offered by J.P. Morgan meet our internally developed criteria for inclusion in the ESG Strategies available to our clients which, where applicable, take into account ESG or sustainable investing regulations. As part of the due diligence process, J.P. Morgan’s Manager Solutions team applies an ESG eligibility framework that establishes minimum criteria for determining the universe of  ESG Strategies offered to our clients.   The evolving nature of sustainable finance regulations and the development of jurisdiction-specific legislation setting out the regulatory criteria for a “sustainable” investment or “ESG” investment mean that there is likely to be  a difference in the regulatory meaning of such terms. This is already the case in the European Union where, for example, under the Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (EU) (2019/2088) (“SFDR”) certain criteria must be satisfied in order for an investment to be classified as a “sustainable investment”. Unless otherwise specified and where permitted by applicable law, any references to “sustainable investing” or “ESG” in this material are intended as references to our internally developed criteria only and not to any jurisdiction-specific regulatory definition."

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