Skip to main content
May 20, 2019

Investors expect ESG to become the norm, study finds

More than half of institutional investors believe there is alpha in ESG, according to Natixis research

Amid the growing influence of ESG in the investment arena, new research suggests that almost two thirds of institutional investors believe ESG-related strategies will become the norm in the next five years.

The report from Natixis Investment Managers – which uses data from its global surveys of financial professionals, individual investors, institutional investors and professional fund buyers – also finds that 55 percent of respondents plan to increase their allocation to ESG during 2019.

The study finds a shared view that there is alpha to be found in ESG strategies, Corporate Secretary sister publication IR Magazine reports. Fifty-six percent of institutional investors believe this this to be the case, with institutions also believing the approach can mitigate exposure to governance and social risks not otherwise captured.

Natixis CEO Jean Raby says in a statement: ‘As an active manager, we view ESG factors as inherently part of long-term, active investment strategies. Investors agree. ESG-related investment strategies are now recognized beyond the narrow scope of negative screening with which it was once associated. Demand for ESG-related strategies is outpacing supply.’

But the report also notes: ‘As it moves out of the narrow scope of negative screening once associated with socially responsible investing and expands into a broad set of strategies, investors will need greater clarity and definition on how ESG is implemented – and why.

‘With asset managers offering strategies built on negative screening, positive screening, thematic investing, impact investing and full-on ESG integration, the industry needs to adopt a standard taxonomy that allows investors to match their motivations for implementing ESG with the strategies asset managers deliver.’

Institutions are using a wide range of strategies. Most frequently, they deploy ESG integration, which makes analysis of ESG factors part of their fundamental analysis process.

Beyond this, 28 percent use negative screens to exclude investments based on poor ESG performance, while 13 percent implement best-in-class strategies that select companies based on positive ESG performance relative to peers.

Ten percent also deploy impact strategies aimed at solving key social or environmental problems, while 6 percent say they use thematic strategies to invest in trends related to global sustainability.

Raby adds: ‘As it continues to expand into a broader set of investment processes, investors will increasingly require greater clarity and definition on ESG strategies, how they are implemented, and what the benefits of ESG factors are on investment performance and on society more broadly.’

In generational terms there is a shift toward ESG among the young, with the majority (56 percent) of millennial and 48 percent of Generation X investors highlighting they believe their investments can have a positive impact on the world. In comparison, 41 percent of baby boomers and just 30 percent of the so-called silent generation express the same view.