Nutrition changes: Picture shows aubergine caricature by nneem from Pixabay

Nutrition changes: Researchpost #163

Nutrition changes: 13x new research on biodiversity, food, socially responsible buying, SFDR, ESG data, green indices, derivatives, impact investing, ESG compensation, stock and bond risks, and financial advisor biases by Patrick Velte, BaFin, Morningstar and many others (# shows number of full SSRN downloads as of Feb. 15th, 2024):

Social and ecological research (in: “Nutrition changes”)

Man vs. biodiversity: The Main Drivers of Biodiversity Loss: A Brief Overview  by Christian Hald-Mortensen as of Oct. 18th, 2023 (#101): “The drivers of biodiversity loss are complex – this paper has examined the main drivers, namely agricultural expansion, climate change, overfishing, urbanization, and the introduction of invasive species. To avoid further biodiversity loss, the role of agricultural expansion and land use change becomes apparent as a cause of 85% of at-risk species” (p. 5/6).

Nutrition changes (1): European Food Trends Report: Feeding the Future Opportunities for a Sustainable Food System by Christine Schäfer, Karin Frick and Johannes C. Bauer as of Nov. 7th, 2023 (#41): “…Industry, logistics, retail and research are developing new solutions for a diet that does not come at the expense of the planet. By employing methods of agro-ecology and precision agriculture, farmers can produce in a more resource-efficient way. Smart data enables more efficient logistics. New virtual distribution channels and a vibrant creator economy – which includes food bloggers, influencers and online chefs – are shaking up the industry and are able to bring important issues to consumers’ attention. By using packaging that is recyclable or biodegradable, the processing industry is able to reduce its ecological footprint. Meanwhile, researchers have long since explored alternative protein sources based on cells or fermentation, the production of which generates fewer greenhouse gas emissions compared with conventional meat production” (p. 2).

Nutrition changes (2): From Intention to Plate: Why Good Dietary Resolutions Fail by Petra Tipaldi, Christine Schäfer and Johannes C. Bauer as of Jan. 11th, 2024 (#17): “What we eat accounts for more than 30% of man-made greenhouse gas emissions. … The majority of the Swiss population is aware of this: 98% want to change the way they eat, at least partially. 91% want to avoid generating food waste, more than three-quarters want to eat more healthy, seasonal and regional foods and even 42% want to often cut out fish and meat. Despite Swiss people being so motivated, the same products mostly end up on their plates like before, as a representative survey from the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute shows. The study reveals: there is an intention-behaviour gap. … Consumers can do the most for the environment by avoiding food waste, reducing their consumption of fish, meat and animal products in general and buying food with the lowest possible CO2 emissions. The study also shows the extent to which companies, the retail industry and politicians can support consumers to seize their opportunities for action so that sustainable diets do not remain an intention but become a reality on consumers’ plates”.

Community & supply SCR: Which CSR Activities Motivate Socially Responsible Buying? by Katherine Taken Smith, Donald Lamar Ariail, Murphy Smith, and Amine Khayati as of Feb. 8th, 2023 (#14): “In support of prior research, our findings revealed consumers to be more inclined to purchase from companies engaged in CSR activities. … While consumers voiced support for CSR activities in each of the social issues, only two were identified as motivating socially responsible buying: i.e., community and supply chain. As a CSR issue, the term supply chain encompasses ethical labor concerns such as child labor and human trafficking. The term community refers to a company investing resources in the local economy. … females displayed significantly higher buying intentions towards companies that practice CSR. Females, compared to males, were more supportive of CSR activities related to ethics and philanthropy. … Non-conservative consumers, compared to conservative, exhibited a higher degree of socially responsible buying. … religious consumers, compared to non-religious, were more supportive of CSR activities related to community and ethics“ (p. 18/19). My comment: My shareholder engagement activities include a focus on suppliers by asking buyers to use comprehensive ESG-ratings, see Supplier engagement – Opinion post #211 – Responsible Investment Research Blog (prof-soehnholz.com)

Responsible investment research (in: “Nutrition changes”)

Sustainable fund details: SFDR Article 8 and Article 9 Funds: Q4 2023 in Review? by Hortense Bioy, Boya Wang, Arthur Carabia, Biddappa A R from Morningstar as of Jan. 25th, 2024: “In the fourth quarter of 2023, Article 8 funds registered the largest quarterly outflows on record and Article 9 funds their very first quarterly outflows … Over the entirety of 2023, Article 8 funds registered net outflows of EUR 27 billion, while Article 9 funds collected EUR 4.3 billion and Article 6 funds garnered EUR 93 billion. Actively managed funds drove all the outflows in the fourth quarter as well as over the full year. Passive funds sustained their positive momentum. Assets in Article 8 and Article 9 funds rose by 1.7% over the quarter to a new record of EUR 5.2 trillion. Together, Article 8 and Article 9 funds saw their market share climb further to nearly 60% of the EU universe primarily due to continued reclassification from Article 6 to Article 8 or 9. We identified 256 funds that altered their SFDR status in the fourth quarter, including 218 that upgraded to Article 8 from Article 6, while only four funds downgraded to Article 8 from Article 9” (p. 1). My comment: There are only very few Article 9 funds with a focus on SDGs (if so, mostly ecology oriented funds) or small and midcaps. There is still limited competition (and overlap with other funds) for my small/midcap (social) SDG fund which – since inception – has a similar performance as traditional small/midcap funds (see Fonds-Portfolio: Mein Fonds | CAPinside)

ESG rating deficits: BaFin Marktstudie – Durchführung einer Marktstudie zur Erhebung von und Umgang mit ESG-Daten und ESG-Ratingverfahren durch Kapitalverwaltungsgesellschaften vom 14.2.2024: „Mithilfe einer Befragung von 30 deutschen KVGen und 6 ESG-Ratinganbietern untersucht die vorliegende Marktstudie der BaFin den Status Quo hinsichtlich der Erhebung und des Umgangs der KVGen mit ESG-Daten und Ratings. … 84% der KVGen zieht MSCI als Datenanbieter heran, gefolgt von ISS (44%), Bloomberg (28%) und Sustainalytics sowie Solactive (jeweils 20%). Über 70% der KVGen, die externe Datenanbieter heranziehen, nutzen mehr als einen Anbieter… Nur rund 38% der KVGen betrachten die Qualität extern erhobener ESG-Daten und Ratings als „hoch“ … Als Gründe werden neben der zum Teil schlechten Datenabdeckung auch die zum Teil unzureichende Aktualität der Daten genannt … während 64% der KVGen sich eine schnellere Beantwortung ihrer Fragen durch die Anbieter wünschten“ (p. 3-5). My comment: MSCI is not necessarily the best sustainability data provider. The costs of <50k EUR p.a. for ESG data seems low and not high to me. Most likely, (indirect) costs charged to the portfolio managers of the funds are not included in that figure. And those costs can be very high, if detailed and transparent reporting to end-investors is offered. Also, there is a (under)performance risk if there is crowding in highly MSCI rated investments (compare: Glorreiche 7: Sind sie unsozial? – Responsible Investment Research Blog (prof-soehnholz.com)).

Green index variations: Resilience or Returns: Assessing Green Equity Index Performance Across Market Regimes by An Duong as of Jan. 5th, 2024 (#20): “… we embark on a comprehensive examination of the performance differential between green equity indices, specifically the FTSE4Good series, and conventional equity indices across a diverse set of economies: the US, UK, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, and Taiwan. … in periods of market stress, green indices often demonstrate slightly less negative returns than their conventional counterparts, … in developing economies, green indices exhibit higher volatility, indicating greater sensitivity to market downturns, contrasted with the lower volatility observed in developed markets. … In addition, Green indices show a higher likelihood of remaining in bearish states, suggesting either a resilience to rapid shifts or a slower adaptation to positive market changes “ (p. 31).

Commodity ESG: ESG and Derivatives by Rajkumar Janardanan, Xiao Qiao, and K. Geert Rouwenhorst as of Feb. 8th, 2024 (#40): “We present a simple conceptual framework to illustrate how ESG considerations can be applied to derivatives in practice, using the market for commodity futures as an example. Because derivatives do not target individual firms, we link the S and G scores to the geography of global production. … Some preliminary simulation evidence suggests that, for now, including ESG considerations in the selection of commodity futures would have not materially impacted the risk and return properties of investor portfolios” (p. 14).

Impact investment research (in: “Nutrition changes”)

Beyond ESG: From ESG to Sustainable Impact Finance: Moving past the current confusion by Costanza Consolandi and Jim Hawley as of Feb. 5th, 2024 (#86): “We argue that ESG/Sustainability is moving from being based primarily on ESG ratings and rankings … to sustainability (ESG) being based on mandated disclosure and analysis of externalities. We briefly examine the basis of ESG ranking and ratings confusion concluding that based on current methodologies of major providers results in neither significant change nor accurate disclosures by firms. Alternatively, we suggest an integration of externality data will significantly modify Modern Portfolio Theory as it does not account for externality effects either … Not accounting for externalities leads to sub-optimum economic system performance … Finally, we place these concepts and developments the context of global emerging regulatory and standard setting” (abstract).

Good ESG bonus? Archival research on sustainability-related executive compensation. A literature review of the status quo and future improvements by Patrick Velte as of Feb. 13th, 2024: “This literature review summarizes previous quantitative archival research on sustainability-related executive compensation (SREC) … there are clear indications that SREC has a positive effect on sustainability performance. In contrast to the business case argument for sustainability, this is not true for financial performance. We find major limitations and research gaps in previous studies that should be recognized in future studies (e.g., differentiation between symbolic and substantive use of SREC)” (abstract). My comment: I hope that there will be more such research, e.g. focusing on pay ratios, see Pay Gap, ESG-Boni und Engagement: Radikale Änderungen erforderlich – Responsible Investment Research Blog (prof-soehnholz.com)).

Other investment research

Risk versus time: The Long and Short of Risk and Return by Leo H. Chan as of Dec. 20th, 2023 (#31): “I show that risk increases as the measurement time frame shortens, while it decreases as the measurement time frame increases. … Over the long horizon, risk (as measured by standard deviation of returns) is no longer a concern. Rather, an investor should pay more attention to the total return of an investment portfolio. In this regard, what is considered risky (stocks) is a far better choice than what is considered safe (bonds)” (abstract).

Only stocks or more? Stocks for the Long Run? Sometimes Yes, Sometimes No by Edward F. McQuarrie as of Feb. 13th, 2024: “Digital archives have made it possible to compute real total return on US stock and bond indexes from 1792. The new historical record shows that over multi-decade periods, sometimes stocks outperformed bonds, sometimes bonds outperformed stocks and sometimes they performed about the same. New international data confirm this pattern. Asset returns in the US in the 20th century do not generalize. Regimes of asset outperformance come and go; sometimes there is an equity premium, sometimes not” (abstract).

Advisor bias: Financial Advisors and Investors’ Bias by Marianne Andries, Maxime Bonelli, and David Sraer as of Jan. 27th, 2024 (#73): “We exploit a quasi-natural experiment run by a prominent French brokerage firm that removed stocks’ average acquisition prices from the online platform used by financial advisors. … First, even in our sample of high-net-worth investors receiving regular financial advice, the disposition effect – investors’ tendency to hold on to their losing positions and sell their winning stocks – is a pervasive investment bias. Second, financial advisors do exert a significant influence on their clients’ investment decisions. Third, financial advisors do not actively mitigate their clients’ biases: when advisors have access to information relevant to their clients’ disposition effect – whether stocks in their portfolio are in paper gains or losses – clients exhibit more, not less, disposition effect“ (p. 25). … “(a) decrease in disposition effect bias leads to higher portfolio returns, increased client inflow, and a lower likelihood of leaving the firm” (abstract).

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Sponsor my research by investing in and/or recommending my global small/midcap mutual fund (SFDR Art. 9). The fund focuses on social SDGs and uses separate E, S and G best-in-universe minimum ratings and broad shareholder engagement with currently 26 of 30 companiesFutureVest Equity Sustainable Development Goals R – DE000A2P37T6 – A2P37T or Noch eine Fondsboutique? – Responsible Investment Research Blog (prof-soehnholz.com)

Impact washing illustration shows picture by Raca C from Pixabay thanks to Bucarama TLM

Impact washing? Researchpost #162

Impact washing: 8 new research studies on ESG performance, sustainable finance labels, sdg funds, diversification, bank purpose, SME loans, Millenials and fractional shares (#: SSRN full paper downloads as of Feb. 8th, 2024)

Responsible investment research (In: Impact washing?)

ESG study overview: Global Drivers for ESG Performance: The Body of Knowledge by Dan Daugaard and Ashley Ding as of Feb. 2nd, 2024 (#22): “… the literature on what drives ESG performance is highly fragmented and current theories fail to offer useful insights into the disparity in ESG performance. Hence, this study draws upon an accumulated body of knowledge of ESG-related literature and explores the major drivers of ESG performance. … this article reveals the fundamental debate underpinning ESG responsibility, the breath of pertinent stakeholders, the theories necessary to understand ESG management and the conditions which will best achieve ESG progress” (abstract).

Label-chaos? New trends in European Sustainable Finance Labels by Karina Megaeva, Peter-Jan Engelen, and Luc Van Liedekerke as of Feb. 1st, 2024 (#38): “… we … review the current market of labelled sustainable investments in the context of the major changes in the EU regulation of sustainable finance and to determine their (new) role and place” (abstract). “… the evolvement of the voluntary certification on the sustainable investments market will depend a lot on how the future EU Eco-label is received on that market, the reactions of the financial market participants (both asset managers and investors) and certainly on further developments of the EU regulatory initiatives” (p. 42).

Impact washing? Impact investing – Do SDG funds fulfil their promises? by ESMA – The European Securities and Markets Authority as of Feb. 1st, 2024: “… investments made with the intention to generate positive, measurable social and environmental impact alongside a financial return – attracts growing interest from investors. … Impact claims are often based on well-known sustainability frameworks, including the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), … This article proposes and summarises a methodological approach towards identifying SDG funds and assessing the extent to which their holdings align with their claims by bringing together a unique set of different data sources. Our results highlight some of the challenges in assessing real-world impact claims and show that SDG funds do not significantly differ from non-SDG counterparts or ESG peers regarding their alignment with the United Nations SDGs“ (p. 3). “ … our final sample of SDG funds consists of 187 funds (p. 7) … average holding of 187 stocks and bonds for SDG funds compared with 586 for non-SDG funds (p. 9) … for scope 3 emissions, where SDG funds seem to have more than 50% more emissions compared to non-SDG funds (p. 11) … My comment: “United Nations Global Compact is a voluntary initiative whose aim is … delivering the SDGs through accountable companies and ecosystems that enable changes”. … This corresponds to 2,721 unique United Nations Global Compact companies” (p. 8). This does not seem to be the best basis to measure SDG alignment. I suggest activity-based company revenue shares instead which is available from independent data providers such as clarity.ai. This provider also covers many (small and midsize) companies which are not UNGC members. My fund, for example, currently has >70% such SDG Revenue share. Also, concentrated SDG funds (my fund focuses on the 30 most sustainable stocks according to my criteria) may have higher such shares than more diversified ones, a topic which could be analyzed in future studies.

Other investment research (In: Impact washing?)

Good concentration: Bad Ideas: Why Active Equity Funds Invest in Them and Five Ways to Avoid Them by C. Thomas Howard as of Feb. 1st, 2024: “The best and worst idea stocks are, respectively, those most and least held by the best US active equity funds. … The two best ideas category stocks eclipse their benchmarks by 200 and 59 basis points (bps) …. The bad idea stocks, by contrast, underperform. (These results would have been even more dramatic had we excluded large-cap stocks since stock-picking skill decreases as market cap increases: The smallest market-cap quintile best idea returns far outpace those of the large-cap top quintile best ideas.)”

Profitable purpose: Purpose, Culture, and Strategy in Banking by Anjan Thakor as of Oct. 5th, 2023 (#73): “What the research is showing, however, is that in many instances, acting to serve the greater good actually helps the bottom line as well, and the channel for this effect is employee motivation. … Part of the reason for this relationship is that adoption of an authentic higher purpose engenders employee trust in the organization’s leaders (e.g. Bunderson and Thakor (2022)) and this facilitates the design of more complex and profitable products and services (e.g. Thakor and Merton (2023))” (p. 18). My comment: With my shareholder engagement I try to activate employee and other stakeholder (ESG) motivation, see Shareholder engagement: 21 science based theses and an action plan – (prof-soehnholz.com)

Climate vs. SME credits: Climate vulnerability and SME credit discouragement: Nurturing a vicious circle by Jeremie Bertrand, Christian Haddad, and Dupire Marion as of Dec. 4th, 2023 (#9): “… based on a sample of SMEs from 119 developing countries in the 2010–2019 period .. our findings indicate a positive association between vulnerability to climate change and credit discouragement” (abstract).

Millennials are different: Bitcoin: Between A Bubble and the Future by Yosef Bonaparte as of Dec. 20th, 2023 (#28): “… we find that social holidays has greater impact during the Millennials segment than previous generations, while the impact of post trading days of traditional holidays declines. We also find that days of the week and month of the year anomalies are different for Millennials than previous generations. Thus, we suggest that anomalies are subject to generations. At the cross-sectional level, we demonstrate that some sectors are positively sensitive to generations, especially to the Millennials (including Textiles, Defense and Beer and Liquor) while others negatively (Coal, Construction and Mines). At the micro portfolio choice level, we find that Millennials exhibit a unique portfolio choice strategy with more aggressiveness (higher participation and more investing in risky assets) and more diverse (invest in many stocks and more international stocks). We also find that the Millennials employ a unique search strategy for stocks as they rely more on professionals help when they invest“ (p. 21/22).

Fractional share benefits: Nominal Price (Dis)illusion: Fractional Shares on Neobroker Trading Platforms by Matthias Mattusch as of Feb.6th, 2023 (#53): “… we examine neotrading behavior in the light of three key innovations of neobrokers: commission-free trading, easy availability, and fractional shares trading. … we identify a substantial and enduring surge in demand for stocks with lower nominal prices. … Notifications on trading apps, specifically regarding corporate actions, elicit observable market reactions. … most importantly, the introduction of fractional shares suggests that most of these nominal price reactions will be weakened, if not eliminated. … Introducing fractional shares boosts overall trading activity … The introduction of fractional shares could likely eliminate anomalies in asset pricing, which would pave the way for interesting future research“ (p. 20/21).

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Shareholder engagement strategies illustration shows 4 such strategies

Shareholder engagement options: Researchpost #161

Shareholder engagement options: 14x new research on real estate, waste, nature, biodiversity, corporate governance, loans, climate postures, decarbonization, greenwashing, shareholder proposals and engagement, sustainable investor groups, CEO pay and BNPL by Thomas Cauthorn, Samuel Drempetic, Julia Eckert, Andreas G.F. Hoepner, Sven Huber, Christian Klein, Bernhard Zwergel and many others (# shows # of SSRN full paper downloads as of Feb. 1st, 2024):

Social and ecological research

Invisible housing space: Der unsichtbare Wohnraum by Daniel Fuhrhop as of June 30th, 2023: “This dissertation analyzes »invisible living space« and its potential for the housing market … »invisible living space«: unused rooms in homes, which were (often) formerly used as children’s rooms but are no longer needed in now elderly, single-family households. Using the »invisible living space« could help avoid economic and ecological costs of new housing developments … this thesis investigates realistic methods for the activation of invisible living space … In addition to homeshare, this dissertation … shows the potential of existing, invisible living space for up to 100.000 apartments“ (p. 13/14). My comment: I suggest a similar approach with Wohnteilen: Viel Wohnraum-Impact mit wenig Aufwand which could especially attractive for Corporates to attract and maintain employees and improve the CSR-position

Repair or not repair? Consumerist Waste: Looking Beyond Repair by Roy Shapira as of Jan. 27th, 2024 (#58): “The average American uses her smartphone for only two years before purchasing a new one and wears a new clothing item five times before dumping it. … Consumerist waste is a multifaceted problem. It emanates not just from functional product obsolescence, which repair can help solve, but also from psychological (or “perceived”) product obsolescence, which repair cannot solve. … A key question is therefore not whether consumers have a right to repair but rather whether consumers want to repair. … Existing proposals focus on requiring disclosure at the purchasing point and assuring repair at the post-purchase point. These tools may be necessary, but they are hardly sufficient. … It may be more effective to focus on sellers’ reputational concerns instead” (abstract).

ESG investment research (Shareholder engagement options)

Nature-ratings: Accountability for Nature: Comparison of Nature-Related Assessment and Disclosure Frameworks and Standards by Yi Kui Felix Tin, Hamza Butt, Emma Calhoun, Alena Cierna, Sharon Brooks as of January 2024: “… provides an overview of the key methodological and conceptual trends among the private sector assessment and disclosure approaches on nature-related issues. … The report presents findings from a comparative research on seven leading standards, frameworks and systems for assessment and disclosure on nature-related issues … CDP disclosure system, European Sustainability Reporting Standards (ESRS), Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Standards, International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) Standards, Natural Capital Protocol, Science Based Targets Network (SBTN) target setting guidance, Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) framework … Overall, the study revealed that the reviewed approaches are demonstrating an increasing level of alignment in key concepts and methodological approaches” (p. Vii/Viii).

Biodiversity premium: Loan pricing and biodiversity exposure: Nature-related spillovers to the financial sector by Annette Becker, Francesca Erica Di Girolamo, Caterina Rho from the European Commission as of December 2023: “Our findings show that the exposure of EU banks to biodiversity varies across countries, depending on the level of exposure of borrowing firms and the loan volumes. Secondly, using data on syndicated loans from 2017 to 2022, we observe a positive and significant correlation between loan pricing and the level of biodiversity exposure of the borrower“ (abstract).

Passive investment risks: Corporate Governance Regulation: A Primer by Brian R. Cheffins as of Jan. 26th, 2024 (#47): “… we find that equity capital flows into the “Big Three” investment managers (Sö: Vanguard, BlackRock, and State Street Global Advisors) have slowed in recent years, with substantial differences between each institution. We also present a framework to understand how fund characteristics and corporate actions such as stock buybacks and equity issuances combine to shape the evolution of institutional ownership …. Our evidence reveals why certain institutions win and lose in the contest for flows and implicates important legal conversations including the impact of stock buybacks, mergers between investment managers, and the governance risks presented by the rise of index investing” (abstract).

Huge transition risks: Risks from misalignment of banks’ financing with the EU climate objectives by the European Central Bank as of January 2024: “The risks stemming from the transition towards a decarbonised economy can have a significant effect on the credit portfolio of a financial institution … The euro area banking sector shows substantial misalignment and may therefore be subject to increased transition risks, and around 70% of banks are also subject to elevated reputational and litigation risk” (p. 2/3).

Cost reduction or transition? Climate Postures by Thomas Cauthorn, Samuel Drempetic, Andreas G.F. Hoepner, Christian Klein and Adair Morse as of Jan. 27th, 2024 (#26): “… we define climate postures as the focus of firm climate efforts, where those in the status quo economy focus on costs, and those undertaking opportunities focus on transition. … We find priced evidence for both optimal status quo and transition opportunity firms in both energy and industrials/basic materials sectors. The sorting following the signal of a climate posture towards transition opportunities yields a 2.9% excess two-week return for European energy companies and a 1.6% return for industrials in North America. Our design also identifies across-sector market penalties in signals of climate costs“ (abstract).

Impact investment research (Shareholder engagement options)

Obvious greenwashing? Decarbonizing Institutional Investor Portfolios: Helping to Green the Planet or Just Greening Your Portfolio? by Vaska Atta-Darkua, Simon Glossner, Philipp Krueger, and Pedro Matos as of Sept. 29th, 2023 (#1208): “We … analyze climate-conscious institutional investors that are members of the most prominent investor-led initiatives: the CDP (that seeks corporate disclosure on climate risk related matters) and the subsequent Climate Action 100+ (that extends the mission of CDP and calls for investor action on climate change with top emitting firms). … We conclude that CDP investors located in a country with a carbon pricing scheme decarbonize their portfolios mostly via portfolio re-weighting (tilting their holdings towards low-emitting firms) rather than via corporate changes (engaging with high-emitting firms to curb their emissions). We continue to find mostly portfolio re-weighting even among CA100+ investors after the 2015 Paris Agreement and do not uncover much evidence of engagement. … we fail to find evidence that climate-conscious investors seek companies developing green technologies or encourage their portfolio firms to generate significant green revenues“ (p. 25/26).

No greenwashing impact? The financial impact of greenwashing controversies by European Securities and Markets Authority as of Dec. 19th, 2023: “… the number of greenwashing controversies involving large European firms increased between 2020 and 2021 and tended to be concentrated within a few firms belonging to three main sectors, including the financial sector. We also investigate the impact of greenwashing controversies on firms’ stock returns and valuation and find no systematic evidence of a relationship between the two. The results suggest that greenwashing allegations did not have a clear financial impact on firms and highlight the absence of an effective market-based mechanism to help prevent potential greenwashing behaviour. This underscores the importance of clear policy guidance by regulators and efforts by supervisors to ensure the credibility of sustainability-related claims“ (p. 3). My comment: Investor should do much more against greenwashing (to avoid additional regulation)

Shareholder engagement framework: Introducing a standardised framework for escalating engagement with companies by Niall Considine, Susanna Hudson, and Danielle Vrublevskis from Share Action as of Dec. 6th, 2023: “ShareAction is introducing the concept of a standard escalation framework to facilitate the application of escalation tools with companies through corporate debt and listed equity. The escalation framework comprises: The escalation toolkit, which groups different escalation tools into five categories of increasing strength; The escalation pathway, which sets out how the asset manager will apply and progress through the escalation toolkit in a timely manner. We also include expectations on resourcing and reporting on the escalation framework” (p. 7). My comment: You may also want to read DVFA-Fachausschuss Impact veröffentlicht Leitfaden Impact Investing – DVFA e. V. – Der Berufsverband der Investment Professionals which soon will also be available in English (and to which I was allowed to contribute). You find the picture of the article and explanations there or here Shareholder engagement: 21 science based theses and an action plan – (prof-soehnholz.com)

Shareholder voting effects: Shareholder Proposals: Do they Drive Financial and ESG Performance? by Victoria Levasseur and Paolo Mazza as of Jan. 23rd, 2024 (#24): “Our findings reveal that shareholder proposals are associated with increased nonfinancial performance, as evidenced by improved ESG scores. However, these proposals are associated with a negative impact on financial performance, and the extent of this correlation varies across different financial ratios. Furthermore, the study underscores notable differences in the effects of shareholder activism based on the geographical location of the company’s headquarters, specifically between the United States and Europe” (abstract).

Unsustainable Divestors? New evidence on the investor group heterogeneity in the field of sustainable investing by Julia Eckert, Sven Huber, Christian Klein and Bernhard Zwergel as of Jan. 18th, 2024 (#74):  “We provide new insights about the investor group heterogeneity in the field of sustainable investing. Using survey data from 3,667 German financial decision makers, we … find a new investor group which we call: Divesting Investors. Second, we analyze the differences with regard to the perceived investment obstacles between the investor groups that do not want to (further) invest sustainably or want to withdraw capital from sustainable investments” (abstract). My comment: Divestment is a powerful instrument for sustainable investors to become even more so, see Divestments: 49 bei 30 Aktien meines Artikel 9 Fonds – Responsible Investment Research Blog (prof-soehnholz.com). For me, the option to divest is so important that I do not invest in illiquid investments anymore.

Other investment research (Shareholder engagement options)

CEO overpay everywhere? CEO Pay Differences between U.S. and non-U.S. firms: A New Longitudinal Investigation by Ruiyuan (Ryan) Chen, Sadok El Ghoul, Omrane Guedhami, and Feiyu Liu as of Dec. 11th, 2023 (#29): “We use time series CEO compensation data across 34 nations from 2001-2018, and find about a 23% pay premium for U.S. CEOs. This premium diminishes in comparison to G7 countries …. We also find that top U.S. CEOs earn substantially more, but excluding them reduces the overall pay premium” (p. 1).  My comment: Investor should focus more on reducing the CEO to median employee pay ratio and not to introduce (additional) ESG bonifications, compare Wrong ESG bonus math? Content-Post #188 – Responsible Investment Research Blog (prof-soehnholz.com)

Unsustainable BNPL: “Buy Now, Pay Later” and Impulse Shopping by Jan Keil and Valentin Burg as of Nov. 29th, 2023 (#190): “We analyze if “Buy Now, Pay Later” (BNPL) generates impulsive shopping behavior. Making BNPL randomly available increases the likelihood that an impulsive customer completes a purchase by 13%. … Shopping behavior of all customers changes in ways resembling impulsiveness – by looking more hasty, premature, unoptimized, and likely to be regretted retrospectively“ (abstract). My comment: Not all fintech is sustainable

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Sponsor my research by investing in and/or recommending my global small/midcap mutual fund (SFDR Art. 9). The fund focuses on social SDGs and uses separate E, S and G best-in-universe minimum ratings and broad shareholder engagement with currently 26 of 30 companiesFutureVest Equity Sustainable Development Goals R – DE000A2P37T6 – A2P37T or Noch eine Fondsboutique? – Responsible Investment Research Blog (prof-soehnholz.com)

Neutral ESG shows illustration from Jannik Texler from Pixabay

Neutral ESG? Researchpost #160

Neutral ESG: 14x new research on migration gender topics, re-migration, AI, broadband, political ESG investments, ESG ratings, ESG alpha, ESG credit risk, greenium, anomalies, robo-advisors, private equity and finfluencers (# shows the number of SSRN full paper downloads as of Jan. 25th, 2024).

Social and ecological research (Neutral ESG)

Female migration disadvantages: Does Granting Refugee Status to Family-Reunified Women Improve Their Integration? by Linea Hasager as of Jan. 18th, 2024 (#4): “… I estimate the impact of recognizing women, who are initially admitted through family-reunification procedures, as refugees themselves. When they are recognized as refugees, they are able to divorce their husbands without automatically being returned to their origin countries. … I show that the divorce rate increases following asylum recognition. In addition, I document that the risk of being a victim of violence decreases when women change residency. … Asylum recognition also has positive consequences for females’ employment and earnings trajectories“ (p. 14).

Ukrainian return-migration: The Effect of Conflict on Ukrainian Refugees’ Return and Integration by Joop Adema, Cevat Giray Aksoy, Yvonne Giesing, and Panu Poutvaara as of Jan. 18th, 2024 (#16): “Our analysis has highlighted that the vast majority of Ukrainians in Ukraine plan to stay and most Ukrainian refugees in Europe plan to return. … we find that close to 2% of Ukrainian refugees returned every month. … Ukrainians’ confidence in their government and optimism have reached exceptionally high levels in international comparison (Fig. 6). … Confidence in the judiciary remains low, and corruption is perceived to be high“ (p. 24).

Is AI bad for migrants? The Impact of Technological Change on Immigration and Immigrants by Yvonne Giesing as of Jan. 18th, 2024 (#17): “We analyse and compare the effects of two different automation technologies: Industrial robots and artificial intelligence … (with) data on Germany … (we) identify how robots decrease the wage of migrants across all skill groups, while neither having a significant impact on the native population nor immigration flows. In the case of AI, we determine an increase in the wage gap as well as the unemployment gap of migrant and native populations. This applies to the low-, medium- and high-skilled and is indicative of migrants facing displacement effects, while natives might benefit from productivity and complementarity effects. In addition, AI leads to a significant inflow of immigrants“ (abstract).

Healthy broadband? Broadband Internet Access and Health Outcomes: Patient and Provider Responses in Medicare by Jessica Van Parys and Zach Y. Brown as of Jan. 23rd, 2024 (#16): “… we show that patients had better health outcomes and visited higher quality providers when they gained access to broadband internet. Our results imply that internet access makes patient demand more elastic with respect to quality. This mechanism is particularly important in hospital markets that are highly concentrated. … Overall, counterfactual simulations imply that broadband expansion was responsible for 16% of the total reduction in poor health outcomes for joint replacements from 1999 to 2008” (p. 25/26). My comment: I include this rather specific research because I have been discussing e.g. with ratings experts if telecommunications infrastructure can be SDG-aligned or not (for my approach see

ESG investment research (Neutral ESG)

Right-wing or green: Climate Polarization and Green Investment by Anders Anderson and David T. Robinson as of Jan. 24th, 2024 (#11): “Over the last decade, one of the world’s largest retirement systems (Sö: Sweden) went from offering very few climate-friendly investment choices to being dominated by them. … For men, proximity to extreme weather events increased the likelihood that they grew more concerned about global warming, while women across the board became more concerned about the climate, regardless of their proximity to adverse weather events. At the same time, men living in right-wing strongholds were generally less concerned about climate change after the extreme weather events than they were before” (p.28).

Negative or neutral ESG? Understanding the effect of ESG scores on stock returns using mediation theory by Serge Darolles, Gaelle Le Fol, and Yuyi He as of Dec. 7th, 2023 (#42): “We show that the information contained in corporate E, S, G or overall ESG scores is effectively incorporated into stock prices through both the investor demand channel and the fundamental/profitability channel. … institutional ownership is positively correlated with a firm’s environmental, social, governance and overall ESG scores. … We also find that they are more sensitive to G-performance and overall ESG performance than S and then E performance. Our results also show that ESG is priced by the market and that all scores have a significant negative impact on future returns. …” (p. 25/26). My comment: It would be interesting to see this approach applied not only to US stocks (mainly large caps) and more recent stock price levels.

Positive or neutral ESG? Material ESG Alpha: A Fundamentals-Based Perspective by Byung Hyun Ahn, Panos N. Patatoukas, and George S. Skiadopoulos as of Jan.17th, 2024 (#81): “We provide a fundamentals-based perspective on why firms with improving material ESG scores outperform. More financially established firms—firms with larger size, lower growth, and higher profitability relative to their sector—are associated with subsequent improvements in their material ESG score. … we find that the materiality portfolio does not generate alpha after we account for its exposure to profitability and growth pricing factors “ (p. 30). My comment: An investment strategy which focuses on ESG-improvement would have to ignore investments which already have high ESG-ratings or sell them to buy one with lower ratings to show improvement. This is not a responsible investment strategy.

Low ESG credit risks: ESG criteria and the credit risk of corporate bond portfolios by Andre Höck, Tobias Bauckloh,  Maurice Dumrose, and Christian Klein as of Oct. 25th, 2023: “… our findings highlight that the implementation of an ESG-best-in-class strategy significantly affects the credit risk exposure without any performance or diversification penalty. … the higher the sustainability, the lower the credit risk. … The findings of this study are robust to the usage of ESG ratings from different providers and different asset pricing models” (p. 579).

Unstable greenium: The European Carbon Bond Premium by Dirk Broeders, Marleen de Jonge, and David Rijsbergen from De Nederlandsche Bank as of Jan. 16th, 2024 (#36): “We present evidence of the existence of a significant carbon premium in euro area corporate bonds, which has steadily increased since early 2020. Over the whole sample period, from 2016 to 2022, we observe that a doubling of a firm’s Scope 1 and 2 emissions on average implies 6.6 basis point higher bond yield spreads. … From early 2020, the carbon premium increases steadily so that the effect more recently, in early 2022, is substantially higher than the sample average. A doubling of Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions by early 2022 on average results in a higher spread of 13.9 basis points. This means that European firms with high levels of carbon emissions face increasingly high financing costs. Our research also reveals a distinctive carbon premium term structure, rising with longer maturities. … the premium between short-term and long-term maturity bonds has diminished in recent years. … Our findings highlight, to some extent, why various studies have come to conflicting conclusions on the presence and magnitude of a carbon premium in financial asset prices. We show that the choice of sample period is an important determinant of the presence and extent of a carbon premium. … Additionally, we illustrate how climate litigation has become an important frontier of transition risk in the last years, which may have urged investors to progressively price a carbon premium” (p. 33/34).

Positive ESG pay: ESG-linked Pay Around the World —Trends, Determinants, and Outcomes by Sonali Hazarika, Aditya Kashikar, Lin Peng, Ailsa Röell and Yao Shen as of April 15th, 2023 (#308): “We study ESG-linked executive compensation contracts using an inclusive global sample of major firms across 59 countries over the period 2005-2020. We document a substantial increase in firms’ adoption of ESG-linked pay over the last decade, especially for firms from developed markets and those that belonging to the extractive and utility industries. The adoption decision is also strongly associated with the culture, shareholder rights and legal origin of the country where the firm resides. Among firm characteristics, large firms and firms with greater return on assets are more likely to adopt. The ESG-linked pay adopters exhibit significantly higher ESG scores, better ESG disclosure, and higher operating profit margin and return on assets. … we show that the treatment firms’ increased reliance on incentives tied to employee satisfaction is a plausible channel to achieve a “win-win” outcome” (p. 29/30). My skeptical comment: See HR-ESG shareholder engagement: Opinion-Post #210  and especially Wrong ESG bonus math? Content-Post #188

Other investment research

Normalized anomalies: Does U.S. Academic Research Destroy the Predictability of Global Stock Returns? by Guohao Tang, Yuwei Xie and Lin Zhu as of Jan. 16th, 2024 (#52): “We conduct a thorough investigation into 87 cross-sectional return anomalies, as documented in leading finance and accounting journals, spanning 38 countries. … In the global market, post-sample and post-publication returns diminish by 65% and 73%, respectively, from the in-sample mean. Intriguingly, predictors that demonstrate higher in-sample returns experience a more pronounced reduction in the post-publication phase“ (p. 16).

Robo-limits: Taming Behavioral Biases in Consumer Decision-Making: The Role of Robo-Advisors by Francesco D’Acunto and Alberto G. Rossi as of Dec. 20th, 2023 (#41): “… in many cases robo-advising applications can help consumers make better choices but this is in no way universal. Indeed, not only do robo-advisors in some cases exacerbate the effect of underlying behavioral biases, but they sometimes even exploit behavioral biases in ways that might improve or worsen choices. Even for those cases in which extant research shows a positive average effect of exposure to robo-advising on medium-term outcomes for consumers, the effects are often highly heterogeneous“ (p. 26).

Political PE: Political Connections and Public Pension Fund Investments: Evidence from Private Equity by Jaejin Lee as of Dec. 29th, 2023 (#36): “This paper investigates the effects of political connections on private equity (PE) investment decisions by public pension funds, using a regression discontinuity design on U.S. state elections. A comparison of PE managers (GPs) donating to winning and losing candidates reveals a twofold increase in the probability of post-election PE investments from pension funds for GPs supporting winners. Pension funds with such connections show underperformance in PE investments. These effects are pronounced among pension board members with connections and in states with high corruption levels. These connected pension funds pay higher PE fees and exhibit more home-state bias, suggesting politicians influence investment decisions for personal gain” (abstract).

Finfluencer issues: The Finfluencer Appeal: Investing in the Age of Social Media Serena by Espeute and Rhodri Preece from the CFA Institute as of Jan. 25th, 2024: “Our analysis of finfluencer content posted on YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram in the markets we studied shows that the most discussed asset classes were individual shares, index funds, and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). We found that 45% of this content offered guidance, 36% contained investment promotions, and 32% contained investment recommendations … Only 20% of the finfluencer content that contained recommendations, however, included any form of disclosure (such as the professional status of the finfluencer or whether the finfluencer received commissions or other forms of payment for recommending certain products). Further, just over half (53%) of the content that contained promotions made any form of disclosure. … Moreover, when disclosures regarding affiliate links (such as sign-up links to open accounts with trading platforms or free shares) were made, they were often generic, such as “some of the links may be affiliate links,” which obscured exactly which websites and/or product sign-ups the finfluencers were being remunerated for. … Finfluencers appeal to Gen-Z investors because they produce educational and engaging content that is free and instantly accessible. They are also relatable and, in some cases, perceived to be trustworthy“ (p. 3).

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Diversification myths: Picture shows reduction of sustainability for more diversified portfolios

Diversification myths: Researchpost #159

Diversification myths: 14x new research on ESG and consumption, ESG data, ESG washing, ESG returns, climate risks, voting, divestments, diversification myths, anomalies, trend following, real estate and private equity (# shows number of full paper downloads as of Jan. 18th, 2024)

Social and ecological research

Low ESG-consumption effect: How Do Consumers Use Firm Disclosure? Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment by Sinja Leonelli, Maximilian Muhn, Thomas Rauter, and Gurpal Sran as of Jan. 11th, 2024 (#79): “In a sample of more than 24,000 U.S. households, we first establish several stylized facts: (i) the average consumer has a moderate preference to purchase from ESG-responsible firms; (ii) consumers typically have no preference for more or less profitable firms; (iii) consumers rarely consult ESG reports and virtually never use financial reports to inform their purchase decisions. … Consumers increase their purchase intent when exogenously presented with firm-disclosed positive signals about environmental, social, and—to a lesser extent—governance activities. Full ESG reports only have an impact on consumers who choose to view them, whereas financial reports and earnings information do not have an effect. After the experiment, consumers increase their actual product purchases, but these effects are small, short-lived, and only materialize for viewed ESG reports and positive social signals. … we provide explanations for why consumers (do not) change their shopping behavior after our information experiment“ (abstract).

ESG investment research (Diversification myths)

ESG data criticism: ESG Data Primer: Current Usage & Future Applications by Tifanny Hendratama, David C. Broadstock, and Johan Sulaeman as of Jan. 12th, 2024 (#66): “ESG data is important, and will become even more so as time progresses. … There remains a prevalent use of combined ESG scores instead of E, S and G specific pillar scores; The use of combined ESG, and pillar specific scores may themselves detract focus away from crucial underlying raw data; Empirical research depends heavily on a small number of ESG data providers; That some data providers focus more on the E than the S – creating a need for data users to make sure the scoring ethos of each provider aligns with their expectations and requirements; There is a potentially material quantity of ESG data inconsistencies which could result in unintended investment allocation” (p. iv). My comment: I use segregated E, S and G ratings since many years and best-in-universe instead of best-in-class ratings

Costly washing: ESG washing: when cheap talk is not cheap! by Najah Attig and Abdlmutaleb Boshanna as of Dec. 26th, 2023 (#63): “… we introduce an easily replicable ESG washing measure. We then document a robust negative impact of ESG washing on corporate financial performance … we show that the COVID-19 pandemic incentivized firms to engage in increased overselling of their ESG performance. Taken together, our new evidence suggests that ‚cheap talk is not cheap‘ and the misalignment between ‘ESG talk’ and ‘ESG walk’ not only fails to serve shareholders‘ best interests but may also undermine a firm’s social license to operate” (abstract).

Disclosure or performance? The relation between environmental performance and environmental disclosure: A critical review of the performance measures used by Thomas Thijssens as of Jan. 9th, 2024 (#8): “More extensive disclosures may even be a signal for inferior rather than superior performance in terms of actual environmental impact. This suggestion is fueled by the observations that more polluting industries have on average more extensive ED (Sö: Environmental disclosure) and higher environmental commitment is associated with higher GHG emissions“ (p. 18). My comment: Most other studies known to me show – in general – positive effects of more disclosure

Performance-neutral ESG: Drawing Up the Bill: Is ESG Related to Stock Returns Around the World? by Rómulo Alves, Philipp Krüger, and Mathijs van Dijk as of Jan. 13th, 2024 (#47): “… our analysis of a comprehensive global database (including 16,000+ stocks in 48 countries and seven different ESG rating providers over 2001-2020) uncovers very little evidence that ESG ratings are related to stock returns around the world. … thus it has been possible to “do good without doing poorly.” Our findings also suggest that the prices of strong ESG stocks have not consistently been driven up, and that, going forward, ESG investors could potentially still benefit from any demand effects resulting in the pricing of ESG preferences. On the flip side, our analysis implies that ESG investing has so far not been effective in reducing (increasing) the cost of equity capital of strong (poor) ESG firms, which could lead firms to internalize climate and social externalities (Fama 2021, Pástor et al. 2021)“ (p. 14). My comment: I could not agree more for the small and midcap companies on which I focus

Huge climate risks: How climate stress test may underestimate financial losses from physical climate risks by a factor of 2-3x by Jakob Thomä from 1 in 1000 and Theia Finance Labs as of Dec. 1st, 2023: “A high baseline climate risk (i.e. using a climate stress-test model with meaningful baseline GDP losses over the next 30 years) stress-test scenario can create a 10% shock to global equity markets. A combination of climate tipping points, ecosystem decline, and social risks can increase that number as a cumulative risk to 27%, almost 3x the baseline losses. A low baseline scenario of a 4% shock in turn turns into a 14% shock when considering these other factors. These losses are dramatic as they are secular and not cyclical. It is worth flagging that this event would be unprecedented in modern financial market history“ (p. 4). My comment: Thanks to Bernd Spendig for informing me about this study.

Climate risk aversion: Institutionelle Investor:innen und physische Klimarisiken vom Lehrstuhl für Sustainable Finance, Universität Kassel as of September Dec. 17th, 2023: “Approximately 40 percent of the surveyed institutions do not take physical climate risks into account when valuing corporate bonds. In addition, a majority of respondents who already take physical climate risks into account are unsure whether these risks are adequately taken into account. In this regard, Part II reveals that 80% of the surveyed institutional investors believe that physical climate risks are not adequately reflected in the risk premiums of corporate bonds” (abstract).

Impact investing research

Voting deficits: Voting matters 2023 by Abhijay Sood at al from Share Action as of Jan. 11th, 2024: “In 2023, only 3% of assessed resolutions passed, just eight out of 257 resolutions. This is down from 21% of assessed resolutions in 2021 … In 2023, the ‘big four’ (BlackRock, Vanguard, Fidelity Investments, and State Street Global Advisors) only supported – on average – one eighth of those put forward, a marked drop since 2021 … Eight asset managers with public net zero targets supported fewer than half of all climate resolutions … Three quarters of all shareholder proposals covered in our study asked only for greater corporate disclosure, including those which some asset managers have deemed overly “prescriptive”. The other quarter of resolutions ask for movement in line with globally agreed climate goals or international human rights standards. … Resolutions at financial services companies on fossil fuel financing received the lowest support by asset managers of any climate-related topic” (p. 8-10). My comment: I focus more on direct dialogue (engagement) than voting, see Shareholder engagement: 21 science based theses and an action plan – (prof-soehnholz.com)

Divestment myths: Beyond Divestment by David Whyte as of Jan. 16th, 2024 (#11): “The top 20 shareholders in both BP and Shell have increased their total number of shares by three quarters of a billion in BP, and half a billion in Shell since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015. Indeed, although 47% of BP shareholders and 54% of Shell shareholders have reduced their stake, net share ownership overall has risen significantly in both companies. … more than a quarter of the 20 investors who made the most significant reductions in shareholdings in either BP or Shell increased their overall fossil fuel investment. … only 60 institutional investors have sold all of their shares in the two oil firms. This represents 3% of BP and 4% of Shell shareholders“ (abstract).

Other investment research (Diversification myths)

Diversification myths: Diversification Is Not A Free Lunch by Dirk G. Baur as of Jan. 3rd, 2024 (#56): “We … demonstrate that diversification generally comes at a cost through lower returns and is thus not a free lunch. While the risk of diversified portfolios is clearly lower than that of less diversified or undiversified portfolios, the return is generally also lower. There is only one exception. If the investor is ignorant and picks stocks randomly, diversification is a free lunch. … if diversification is a free lunch, it would violate the fundamental positive risk – return relationship in finance. Specifically, if risk can be reduced without a cost, risk and return are not positively aligned” (p.15). My comment: Even for randomly picked stocks the marginal gains of diversification are very low (see p. 11) whereas the reductions in sustainability – which are not covered in this paper – can be high, see 30 stocks, if responsible, are all I need – Responsible Investment Research Blog (prof-soehnholz.com)

Normal anomalies: Anomalies Never Disappeared: The Case of Stubborn Retail Investors by Xi Dong and Cathy Yang as of Dec. 29th, 2023 (#56): “Our examination of 260 anomalies challenges the prevailing notion that market efficiency erodes anomaly-based profits, these anomalies continue to thrive, especially over longer timeframes. We demonstrate that retail investors play a pivotal role in the persistence of these anomalies. Their stubborn trading patterns, especially against anomalies, not only contribute to initial mispricing but also lead to delayed price corrections“ (p. 37).

Trend following theory: Speculating on Higher Order Beliefs by Paul Schmidt-Engelbertz and Kaushik Vasudevan as of Aug.3rd, 2023 (#187): “We study investors’ higher order beliefs, using survey data from the Robert Shiller Investor Confidence surveys. While previous work has documented instances of non-fundamental speculation – investors taking positions in a risky asset in a direction that conflicts with their fundamental views – we find that such speculation is the norm for the U.S. stock market. The majority of investors in the Shiller surveys, who represent an important class of investors, report that other investors have mistaken beliefs, but nevertheless report positive return expectations from speculating in the direction of these mistaken beliefs. In addition, investors report that they believe that stock markets overreact and exhibit momentum and reversal in response to news. … We find that higher order beliefs may substantially amplify stock market fluctuations. When investors exhibit the same fundamental belief biases that they attribute to other investors, patterns such as overreaction, momentum, and reversal can persist in equilibrium, even though everybody knows about them“ (p. 37/38). My comment: I use simple trend following strategies to reduce drawdown-risks for investors who do not like bond investments but not to try to enhance returns

US Real Estate: A First Look at the Historical Performance of the New NAV REITs by Spencer J. Couts and Andrei S. Goncalves as of Jan.12th, 2024 (#31): “…we study the historical investment performance of NAV REITs relative to public bonds, public equities, and public REITs from 2016 to 2023. … First, the smoothness of NAV REIT returns due to lagged price reactions creates an important challenge to the measurement of the alphas of NAV REIT investments relative to public market indices. Moreover, return unsmoothing methods significantly mitigate (but do not fully solve) this issue. Second, traditional performance analysis indicates that NAV REIT investments generated substantial alpha (above 5% per year) relative to public indices over our sample period“ (p. 26).

PE calculation-uncertainties: Unpacking Private Equity Performance by Gregory Brown and William Volckmann as of Dec. 20th., 2023 (#31): “… complicating the analysis are the increasingly common practices of funds using subscription lines of credit (fund-level debt) and recycling capital. Even the variation in the timing of capital deployment across funds has important implications for common performance measures used to evaluate funds such as internal rate of return (IRR) and multiple on invested capital (MOIC). …. values likely observed during fundraising periods for subsequent funds – are strongly affected by subscription lines and deployment pacing. Intermediate MOICs are only weakly affected by subscription lines, but strongly affected by capital deployment pacing. Both IRRs and MOICs are strongly affected by recycle deal accounting methodology“ (abstract). “When a fund utilizes subscription lines, net IRR is very sensitive over the life cycle of the fund and can massively exaggerate performance during the investment/fundraising period. Net MOIC can also be exaggerated early in the investment period …” (p. 17).

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Collectibles: Picture of Aliens by Gerhard Janson

Collectibles: Researchpost #158

Collectibles: 14x new research on migration, biodiversity, forests, sustainability disclosures, ESG performance, ESG skills, ESG progress, activists and NFTs (#shows full paper SSRN downloads as of Jan. 11th, 2024)

Social and ecological research (Collectibles)

Positive naturalization: From Refugees to Citizens: Labor Market Returns to Naturalization by Francesco Fasani, Tommaso Frattini, and Maxime Pirot as of Dec. 20th,2023 (#12): “… exploring survey data from 21 European … We find that obtaining citizen status allows refugees to close their gaps in labor market outcomes relative to non-refugee migrants … showing that migrants with the lowest propensity to naturalize would benefit the most if they did. This reverse selection on gains can be explained by policy features that make it harder for more vulnerable migrant groups to obtain citizenship, suggesting that a relaxation of eligibility constraints would yield benefits for both migrants and host societies” (abstract).

Fresh water risks: A Fractal Analysis of Biodiversity: The Living Planet Index by Cristina Serpa and Jorge Buescu as of June 15th, 2023 (#39): “The Living Planet Index (LPI) is a global index which measures the state of the world`s biodiversity. Analyzing the LPI solely by statistical trends provides, however, limited insight. Fractal Regression Analysis …allows us to classify the world`s regions according to the progression of the LPI, helping us to identify and mathematically characterize the region of Latin America and Caribbean and the category of freshwater as worst-case scenarios with respect to the evolution of biodiversity” (abstract).

Science- or politics-based? Taxomania! Shaping forest policy through financial regulation by Anna Begemann, Camilla Dolriis, Alex B. Onatunji, Costanza Chimisso and Georg Winkel as of Dec. 1th, 2023 (#6): “This study investigates the evolution of advocacy coalitions and their strategies in the development of the (Sö: EU sustainability) taxonomy’s forestry criteria. It builds on process tracing involving 46 expert interviews conducted in 2019, 2021, and 2022 and an extensive document analysis. Our findings illustrate a complex process … highlighting strikingly different worldviews and economic and bureaucratic/political interests connected to these. Owing to a rich set of strategies employed, and deals made at different policy levels, as well as an overall lack of transparency, the proclaimed “science-based” decision-making is significantly compromised” (abstract).

Responsible investment research (Collectibles)

Positive regulation: Imposing Sustainability Disclosure on Investors: Does it Lead to Portfolio Decarbonization? by Jiyuan Dai, Gaizka Ormazabal, Fernando Penalva, and Robert A. Raney as of Dec. 22nd, 2023 (#670): “… we document that the introduction of the EU SFDR (Sö: Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation) … was followed by a decrease in the average portfolio emissions of EU funds that claim to invest based on sustainability criteria. … Funds already subject to sustainability disclosure mandates prior to the SFDR have significantly less decarbonization compared to funds being exposed to a sustainability disclosure mandate for the first time and decarbonization patterns are more pronounced for funds with higher levels of portfolio emissions prior to the SFDR and for funds domiciled in countries that are more sensitive to sustainability issues” (p. 29/30). My comment: I promote disclosure, see the details for my fund at www.futurevest.fund

Good SDG returns: Determinants and Consequences of Sustainable Development Goals Disclosure: International Evidence by Sudipta Bose, Habib Zaman Khan and Sukanta Bakshi as of Jan. 2nd, 2023 (#22): “The study examines the determinants and consequences of firm-level Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) disclosure using a sample of 6,941 firm-year observations from 30 countries during 2016– 2019. … The findings reveal that approximately 48.40% of firms in the sample had active stakeholder engagement programs, 53.90% maintained a sustainability committee, and 62.60% issued standalone sustainability reports. The findings indicate that Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) performance, stakeholder engagement, and the issuance of standalone sustainability reports positively influence firm-level SDG disclosure. Moreover, the study finds a positive association between higher levels of SDG disclosure and increased firm value” (abstract). My comment: My experience: The good SDG returns lasted until 2022 but did not materialize in the first 9 months of 2023, but I expect them to come back (see 2023: Passive Allokation und ESG gut, SDG nicht gut – Responsible Investment Research Blog (prof-soehnholz.com)

Peers matter? Conform to the Norm. Peer Information and Sustainable Investments by Max Grossmann, Andreas Hackethal, Marten Laudi, and Thomas Pauls as of Dec. 23rd, 2023 (#74): “We conduct a field experiment with clients of a German universal bank … Our results show that information about peers’ inclination towards sustainable investing raises the amount allocated to stock funds labeled sustainable, when communicated during a buying decision. This effect is primarily driven by participants initially underestimating peers’ propensity to invest sustainably. Further, treated individuals indicate an increased interest in additional information on sustainable investments, primarily on risk and return expectations. However, when analyzing account-level portfolio holding data over time, we detect no spillover effects of peer information on later sustainable investment decisions” (abstract).

More ESG or lower risk? Inferring Investor Preferences for Sustainable Investment from Asset Prices by Andreas Barth and Christian Schlag as of Dec. 20th, 2023 (#44): “We find that while firm CDS (Sö: Credit Default Swap) spreads co-vary negatively with equity returns, this effect is less pronounced for firms with a high ESG rating. This divergence between equity and CDS spreads for high- vs. low ESG-rated firms suggests that some equity investors have a preference for sustainability that cannot be explained with firm risk” (abstract).

Higher ESG returns? ESG Risk and Returns Implied by Demand-Based Asset Pricing Models by Chi Zhang, Xinyang Li, Andrea Tamoni, Misha van Beek, and Andrew Ang from Blackrock as of Dec. 20th, 2023 (#68): “We find increases in preferences for ESG may result in increases in downside risk for the stocks with low ESG scores as these stocks may exhibit decreases in stock returns. … Additionally, our analysis shows that if the trend in increasing ESG preferences continues, there may be higher returns from stocks with higher ESG scores as increasing demand drives up the prices for these types of stocks. Naturally, portfolio outcomes depend on many more factors and macro drivers, but according to the demand-based asset pricing framework and estimations in this paper, ESG demand and characteristics does represent a driver of stocks’ risk and returns“ (p. 11). My comment: I also believe in higher future demand for sustainable investments and therefore attractive performances

Best-in-class deficits: Chasing ESG Performance: Revealing the Impact of Refinitiv’s Scoring System by Matteo Benuzzi, Karoline Bax, Sandra Paterlini, and Emanuele Taufer as of Dec. 20th, 2023 (#19): “… we scrutinize the efficacy and accuracy of Refinitiv’s percentile ranking in ESG scoring, probing whether apparent improvements in scores truly reflect corporate advancement or are influenced by the entry of lower-scoring new companies and the relative performance with respect to the peer group universe. Our analysis uncovers a positive inflation in Refinitiv’s approach, where the addition of companies with limited information distorts ESG performance portrayal. … Our deep dive into score distributions consistently shows that Refinitiv’s method tends to produce inflated scores, especially for top performers“ (p. 19/20). My comment: Best-in-Class ESG-Ratings which cover a limited number of companies per „class“ are most likely much less robust compared to ratings with more peers per calls and best-in-universe ratings (which I use since quite some time, see Glorreiche 7: Sind sie unsozial? – Responsible Investment Research Blog (prof-soehnholz.com)).

ESG rating changes: ESG Skill of Mutual Fund Managers by Marco Ceccarelli, Richard B. Evans, Simon Glossner, Mikael Homanen, and Ellie Luu as of Dec. 20th, 2023 (#29): “A proactive fund manager is one who takes deliberate positions in firms whose ESG ratings later improve. By contrast, a reactive fund manager is one who “chases” ESG ratings, i.e., she trades in reaction to changes in ESG ratings. The former type shows ESG skill while the latter does not. We use an international sample of mutual fund managers to estimate these measures of skill … After an exogenous (but un-informative) change in firms’ ESG ratings, reactive fund managers significantly rebalance their portfolios, buying firms whose ratings improve and selling those whose ratings worsen. Proactive funds, on the other hand, do not rebalance their portfolios … Only a relatively small fraction of investors reward ESG skills with higher flows. These are investors holding funds with an explicit sustainability mandate. Presumably, these investors both value ESG skill and have the required sophistication to detect skilled managers” (p.17/18). My comment: In my experience, ESG provider methodology changes lead to more informative ESG ratings which would contradict the interpretation of this study.

ESG progress-limits? Do companies consistently improve their ESG performance? Evidence from US companies by Yao Zhou and Zhewei Zhang as of Dec. 20th,2023 (#12): “This paper depicts the trend of corporate ESG scores by measuring the growth rate of ESG scores for 8,462 firms from 2002 to 2022. … the empirical results indicate that firms’ ESG scores tend to maintain the status quo after achieving a certain level, rather than being improved consistently. These findings imply that firms tend to improve their ESG score after the first rating, but the degree of improvement lowers down over time” (abstract). My comment: Investment strategies trying to focus on ever increasing ESG-ratings do not seem to make much sense. I try to focus on the already best-rated investments.

Positive activists: Is the environmental activism of mutual funds effective? by Luis Otero, Pablo Duran-Santomil, and Diego Alaizas of Dec. 20th, 2023 (#12): “This paper analyzes the differences between mutual funds that declare ESG commitment and those that do not. Additionally, we explore their behavior in terms of voting on resolutions related to climate change and the environment. Our analysis reveals that activist funds generally exhibit a behavior that is consistent with their sustainable focus and have a lower proportion of greenwashers, contributing to the reduction of carbon emissions. Importantly, this sustainability orientation does not negatively impact their financial performance, as they attract significant flows and do not show worse performance compared to their traditional counterparts“ (abstract).

Other investment research

Low-yield collectibles: Convenience Yields of Collectibles by Elroy Dimson, Kuntara Pukthuanthong, and Blair Vorsatz as of Nov. 29th, 2023 (#53): “Using up to 110 years of collectibles returns for 13 distinct asset classes … Convenience yield estimates for 24 of our 30 collectibles return series are positive, with an annualized mean (median) of 2.64% (2.53%). Despite various forms of underestimation, these results provide evidence that assets with positive emotional returns have lower equilibrium financial returns” (abstract).

Useless NFTs? The emperor’s new collectibles by Balázs Bodó and Joost Poort as of Dec. 13th, 2023 (#25): “Over the past years, NFTs (Sö: Non-fungible tokens) have by some been predicted to revolutionize the markets for arts and copyright protected works. In short, the vision was that on the basis of unique, blockchain based tokens, and through their automated exchange, an extension or even a replacement of the traditional art markets, and the copyright-based system of production, circulation and use of cultural works could emerge. Currently, however, the state of the NFT ecosystem can be summarized as an in some sense failed experiment. This chapter starts by unpacking what we consider the four broken promises of NFTs vis-à-vis the CCIs and copyright. We briefly describe the technological underpinning of these promises, and why they were broken. Subsequently, we discuss whether there may still be a future for NFTs as a new asset class related to creative output” (abstract).

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Sponsor my research by investing in and/or recommending my global small/midcap mutual fund (SFDR Art. 9). The fund focuses on social SDGs and uses separate E, S and G best-in-universe minimum ratings and broad shareholder engagement with currently 26 of 30 companiesFutureVest Equity Sustainable Development Goals R – DE000A2P37T6 – A2P37T or Noch eine Fondsboutique? – Responsible Investment Research Blog (prof-soehnholz.com)

Houseowner risks illustrated by flooding foto from Pixabay

Houseowner risks: Researchpost #157

Houseowner risks: 13x new research on houseowner and job risks, migration, good lobbying, online altruism, criminal lawyers, rule of law, biodiversity, green bank risks, climate votes, private equity and innovation (“#” shows the number of SSRN full paper downloads as of Jan. 4th, 2023)

Social and ecological research: Houseowner risks

Houseowner risks (1): Feeling Rich, Feeling Poor: Housing Wealth Effects and Consumption in Europe by Serhan Cevik and Sadhna Naik from the International Monetary Fund as of Dec. 13th, 2023 (#24): “Residential property accounts for, on average, about 55 percent of aggregate household wealth in Europe, but exhibits significant variation across countries. This paper provides a dynamic analysis of housing wealth effects on consumer spending in a panel of quarterly observations on 20 European countries during the period 1980–2023…. Estimation results confirm that household consumption responds strongly to house price movements and disposable income growth in real terms. … Our seasonally-adjusted quarter-on-quarter estimations imply that the average decline of 1.96 percent in real house prices in the first quarter of 2023 could dampen consumer spending by about -0.51 percentage points in our sample of European countries on a cumulative basis over a horizon of eight quarters” (p. 11/12).

Houseowner risks (2): Who Bears Climate-Related Physical Risk? by Natee Amornsiripanitch and David Wylie as of Dec. 1st, 2023 (#74): “This paper combines data on current and future property-level physical risk from major climate-related perils (storms, floods, hurricanes, and wildfires) that owner-occupied single-family residences face in the contiguous United States. Current expected damage from climate-related perils is approximately $19 billion per year. Severe convective storms and inland floods account for almost half of the expected damage. The central and southern parts of the U.S. are most exposed to climate-related physical risk, with hurricane-exposed areas on the Gulf and South Atlantic coasts being the riskiest areas. Relative to currently low-risk areas, currently high-risk areas have lower household incomes, lower labor market participation rates, and lower education atainment, suggesting that the distribution of climate-related physical risk is correlated with economic inequality” (abstract).

Job climate risks: Do firms mitigate climate impact on employment? Evidence from US heat shocks by Viral V Acharya, Abhishek Bhardwaj, and Tuomas Tomunen as of Dec. 20th, 2023 (#32): “… we studied how firms respond to extreme temperature shocks … We found that firms operating in multiple counties respond to these shocks by reducing employment in the affected county and increasing it in unaffected ones, … Single location firms simply scale down their employment. We found that the effect is stronger for firms that are more profitable, less levered and financially constrained … We also found that the effect is stronger for firms that are more concerned about their climate change exposure and that have a larger fraction of ESG funds as their owners … We also found that counties experiencing heat shocks experience employment shift from small to large firms within the county” (p. 27).

Positive immigration: The Macroeconomic Effects of Large Immigration Waves by Philipp Engler, Margaux MacDonald, Roberto Piazza, and Galen Sher of the International Monetary Fund as of Dec. 28th, 2023 (#9): “In OECD, large immigration waves raise domestic output and productivity in both the short and the medium term, pointing to significant dynamic gains for the host economy. We find no evidence of negative effects on aggregate employment of the native-born population. In contrast, our analysis of large refugee flows into emerging and developing countries does not find clear evidence of macroeconomic effects on the host country …”.

Pro lobbying: The Lobbying for Good Movement by Alberto Alemanno as of Dec. 13th, 2023 (#735): “Lobbying is about providing ideas and sharing concerns with policymakers to make them—and the whole policy process—more responsive. … lobbying is one of the most effective ways to enact political, economic, and social change … Only a handful of nonprofits lobby …. “ (abstract).

Online Altruism: What it is and how it Differs from Other Kinds of Altruism by Katherine Lou and Luciano Floridi as of Nov. 10th, 2023 (#80): “Online altruism often contrasts with the ideals of Effective Altruism. Altruistic acts online are often not particularly planned by the giver in advance, they are not the most effective uses of a certain amount of money, and they definitely do not aim toward a long-term vision that solves humanity’s most pressing problems. That is because participants in online altruism tend to focus on the experience and immediate effects on another human being, enabled through online platform mechanisms. … creating a more altruistic society and meeting the needs of people in the present, regardless of whether such altruism is maximally effective or in pursuit of any larger vision, seems just as crucial to be able to build a better world. … It is complementary to other forms of altruism, not an alternative” (p. 23/24).

Criminal lawyers? Lawyers and the Abuse of Government Power by Margaret Tarkington as of Nov. 29th, 2023 (#16): “The legal profession needs to amend the rules of professional conduct to protect our constitutional system of government from those most likely to effectively undermine it: lawyers. The historic federal indictment against former President Donald Trump for conspiring to stay in power after losing the 2020 presidential election included five attorney co-conspirators: … Eight lawyers were indicted in Georgia on similar charges. …. Lawyers weren’t just involved in Trump’s plot; they devised and enabled it. Rather than accurately advise Trump that he had lost and needed to concede, lawyers crafted a plan to circumvent court losses and subvert States’ certified electors—effectively disenfranchising seven entire States to enable Trump to win with only 232 electoral votes. To accomplish this end, lawyers recreated a faux version of the 1876 constitutional crisis by fabricating false electoral slates—manipulating law and fact to enable a coup and give it the trappings of legality and thus legitimacy. Only lawyers could have performed these services” (abstract).

Responsible investment research

Rule of law: Does Rule of Law Matter For Firms? Evidence From Shifting Political Control in Hong Kong by Jonathan S. Hartley as of Dec. 12th, 2023 (#58): “This paper analyzes Hong Kong’s 2020 National Security Law as introduced and imposed by the Communist Party of China as a natural experiment in diminishing the rule of law in a trade-financial hub …. this paper presents evidence that the National Security Law caused significant uncertainty in the rule of law, emigration of residents and foreign firms, and declines in the valuations of Hong Kong firms and residential real estate as well as a decline in real GDP per capita. … stock prices were most particularly sensitive in the real estate, air travel, and financial/banking sectors while less sensitive in the power and utility, hospital/gaming, and multinational/other industry categories“ (p. 11). My comment: I replaced my minimum country selection requirements for “Human Rights” with demanding minimum requirements for “Rule of Law” a few years ago, because rule of law is a broader “responsibility” measurement criterion. Therefore, I exclude e.g. investments in companies headquartered in BRICS countries.

Biodiversity premium: Do Investors Care About Biodiversity? by Alexandre Garel, Arthur Romec, Zacharias Sautner and Alexander F. Wagner as of Dec. 28th, 2023 (#2210): “… biodiversity preservation can clash with actions taken to address climate change. For example, renewable energy and electric cars require lithium, cobalt, magnesium, and nickel, the mining of which comes with severe impacts on biodiversity (and on the human communities that rely on biodiversity). … Examining a large sample of international stocks, we find that over our sample period, investors did not care about the impact of firms on biodiversity, on average. However, things appear to be changing, as we document the emergence of a biodiversity footprint premium following the Kunming Declaration (the first part of the COP15). Consistent with this effect, we document negative stock price reactions for firms with large biodiversity footprints in the days following the Kunming Declaration. Stock prices of firms with large biodiversity footprints further dropped after the Montreal Agreement (the second part of the COP15). Our results indicate that investors start to ask for a return premium in light of the uncertainty associated with future biodiversity regulation“ (p. 29/30).

Unknown climate risks: The effects of climate change-related risks on banks: A literature review by Olivier de Bandt, Laura-Chloé Kuntz, Nora Pankratz, Fulvio Pegoraro, Haakon Solheim, Greg Sutton, Azusa Takeyama and Dora Xia as of Dec. 6th, 2023: “The survey acknowledges the great number of new research papers that have very recently been made available … Apart from a few outliers … the microeconomic impacts of climate change on particular portfolios are relatively small, below 50 bp on loan and bond spreads. … several authors conclude that realized returns on climate change-related risks are below expected return, providing evidence of an underestimation of risk. … Liquidity issues arising from climate change-related shocks are still insufficiently researched. … The overall impact of climate change, which becomes multifaceted and affects various portfolios at the same time and in a correlated fashion, may therefore be more significant. In particular, the difficulty to model possible non-linear effects related to climate change and to capture tipping points might lead to an underestimation of risks. … There are still data issues, notably in terms of granularity, as well as methodological issues, which prevent a definite assessment of the situation, both for physical risks (lack of exact location of the exposures in many instances) and transition risks (notably lack of evaluation for SMEs)” (p. 28/29). My comment: I try to invest in listed stocks with low ESG-risks and high SDG-alignments which should reduce risks, see Divestments: 49 bei 30 Aktien meines Artikel 9 Fonds – Responsible Investment Research Blog (prof-soehnholz.com)

Voting deficits: Climate Votes: The Great Deception: An assessment of asset managers’ climate votes in 2023 by Agathe Masson from Reclaim Finance as of December 2023: “… the assessment of 2023 voting reveals that asset managers are encouraging fossil fuel companies to pursue expansion plans, exacerbating the global warming crisis. They therefore fail their responsibility to make long-term investment decisions integrating climate-related risks, and are at real risk of being accused of greenwashing“ (p. 4). My comment: For my direct equity portfolios, I only accept 0% fossil energy production. Unfortunately, many of the strictest “sustainable” ETFs still include such production so that I cannot make sure that my responbile ETF-Portfolios have 0% exposure to fossil energy production. Regarding my opinion on “transition investments” see ESG Transition Bullshit? – Responsible Investment Research Blog (prof-soehnholz.com)

ESG affects PE: ESG Incidents and Fundraising in Private Equity by Teodor Duevski, Chhavi Rastogi, and Tianhao Yao as of Dec. 14th, 2023 (#55): “Using a sample of global buyout investments, we find that experiencing an environvimental and social (E&S) incident in its portfolio companies … Affected PE firms are less likely to raise a subsequent fund and the subsequent funds are smaller. The relative size of subsequent funds are 7.6% smaller for PE firms experiencing higher-than-median number of E&S incidents, compared to those with no incidents. The effect is stronger for less reputable PE firms” (abstract).

Other investment research (in: Houseowner risks)

Innovative VC: How Resilient is Venture-Backed Innovation? Evidence from Four Decades of U.S. Patenting by Sabrina T. Howell, Josh Lerner, Ramana Nanda, and Richard Townsend as of Oct. 5th, 2023 (#742): “This paper shows that while patents filed by VC-backed firms are of significantly higher quality than the average patent, VC-backed innovation is substantially more procyclical. We trace this to changes in innovation by early-stage VC-backed startups“ (p. 22).

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Sponsor my research by investing in and/or recommending my global small/midcap mutual fund (SFDR Art. 9). The fund focuses on social SDGs and uses separate E, S and G best-in-universe minimum ratings and broad shareholder engagement with currently 27 of 30 companiesFutureVest Equity Sustainable Development Goals R – DE000A2P37T6 – A2P37T or Noch eine Fondsboutique? – Responsible Investment Research Blog (prof-soehnholz.com)

2023: Bild von Gerd Altmann von Pixabay

2023: Passive Allokation und ESG gut, SDG nicht gut

2023: Vereinfacht zusammengefasst haben meine Portfolioregeln in 2023 diese Wirkung gehabt: Passive Allokation und ESG gut, SDG schlecht und Trendfolge sehr schlecht…. Im Jahr 2022 hatten dagegen besonders meine Trendfolge und SDG-Portfolios gut rentiert (vgl. SDG und Trendfolge: Relativ gut in 2022).

Passives Allokations-Weltmarktportfolio 2023 mit guter Rendite

Das nicht-nachhaltige Alternatives ETF-Portfolio hat in 2023 mit 7,2% rentiert, also deutlich schlechter als Aktien insgesamt mit ca. 17%. Das regelbasierte „most passive“ Multi-Asset Weltmarkt ETF-Portfolio hat mit +9,9% trotz seines hohen Anteils an Alternatives dagegen relativ gut abgeschnitten, denn die Performance ist sogar etwas besser als die flexibler aktiver Mischfonds (+8,2%).

Das  Alternatives-ETF Portfolio (Start 2016) wird künftig nicht mehr aktiv angeboten (vgl. Alternatives: Thematic replace alternative investments (prof-soehnholz.com)). Damit ist künftig das Weltmarkt ETF-Portfolio (Start 2016) das einzige verbleibende traditionelle Portfolio im Angebot.

ESG ETF-Portfolios OK

Eine vergleichbare Performance gilt für das ebenfalls breit diversifizierte ESG ETF-Portfolio mit +9%. Das ESG ETF-Portfolio ex Bonds lag dagegen mit +12,8% aufgrund des hohen Alternatives- und geringen Tech-Anteils erheblich hinter traditionellen Aktien-ETFs. Die Rendite ist aber ganz ähnlich wie die +12,1% traditioneller aktiv gemanagter globaler Aktienfonds. Das ESG ETF-Portfolio ex Bonds Income verzeichnete ein geringeres Plus von +9,1%. Das ist etwas schlechter als die +9,8% traditioneller Dividendenfonds.

Mit +0,8% schnitt das ESG ETF-Portfolio Bonds (EUR) ähnlich wie die +1,5% für vergleichbare traditionelle Anleihe-ETFs ab. Aktive Fonds haben jedoch +4,6% erreicht. Anders als in 2022, hat meine Trendfolge mit -1,8% für das ESG ETF-Portfolio ex Bonds Trend aber nicht gut funktioniert.

SDG ETF-Portfolio: 2023 naja

Das aus thematischen Aktien-ETFs bestehende SDG ETF-Portfolio lag mit +2,6% stark hinter traditionellen Aktienanlagen zurück und das SDG ETF-Trendfolgeportfolio zeigt mit -10% eine sehr schlechte Performance. Für thematische Investments mit ökologischem Fokus lief es allerdings in 2023 generell nicht so gut.

Um das Portfolioangebot zu straffen, werden künftig nur noch 4 ESG ETF-Portfolios aktiv angeboten: Multi-Asset (Start 2016), Aktien, renditeorientierte Anleihen und sicherheitsorientierte Anleihen (alle Start 2019). Hinzu kommen, wie gehabt, die beiden SDG ETF-Portfolios (Start 2019 und 2020).

Direkte pure ESG-Aktienportfolios OK

Das aus 30 Aktien bestehende Global Equities ESG Portfolio hat +14,6% gemacht und liegt damit besser als traditionelle aktive Fonds (+12,1%) aber hinter traditionellen Aktien-ETFs, was vor allem an den im Portfolio nicht vorhandenen Mega-Techs lag. Das nur aus 5 Titeln bestehende Global Equities ESG Portfolio S war mit +8,9% etwas schlechter, liegt aber seit dem Start in 2017 immer noch vor dem 30-Aktien Portfolio.

Das Infrastructure ESG Portfolio hat -5,1% verloren und liegt damit erheblich hinter den +0,8% traditioneller Infrastrukturfonds und den +9,2% eines traditionellen Infrastruktur-ETFs. Das Real Estate ESG Portfolio hat +7,2% gewonnen, während traditionelle globale Immobilienaktien-ETFs +6,9% und aktiv gemanagte Fonds +7,9% gewonnen haben. Das Deutsche Aktien ESG Portfolio hat +6,7% zugelegt. Das wiederum liegt erheblich hinter aktiv gemanagten traditionellen Fonds mit +15,1% und nennenswert hinter vergleichbaren ETFs mit +16,2%.

Direkte ESG plus SDG-Aktienportfolios: Nicht so gut

Das auf soziale Midcaps fokussierte Global Equities ESG SDG hat mit -0,7% im Vergleich zu allgemeinen Aktienfonds sehr schlecht abgeschnitten. Das ist vor allem auf den hohen Gesundheitsanteil zurückzuführen. Das Global Equities ESG SDG Trend Portfolio hat mit -8,4% – wie die anderen Trendfolgeportfolios – besonders schlecht abgeschnitten. Das Global Equities ESG SDG Social Portfolio hat dagegen mit +10,4% im Vergleich zum Beispiel zu Gesundheits-ETFs bzw. aktiven Fonds (-0,6 bzw. -1,0%) dagegen ziemlich gut abgeschnitten.

Aufgrund mangelnder Nachfrage werden die direkten ESG-Aktienportfolios für globale Aktien, deutsche Aktien, Infrastrukturaktien und Immobilienaktien (alle Start 2016 und 2017) künftig nicht mehr aktiv angeboten, sondern nur noch die ESG + SDG-Aktienportfolios (Start 2017 und 2022).

Fondsperformance: Nicht so gut

Mein FutureVest Equity Sustainable Development Goals R Fonds (Start 2021) zeigt nach einem im Vergleich zu anderen Portfolios sehr guten Jahr 2022 (-8,1%) in 2023 mit +0,5% eine starke Underperformance gegenüber traditionellen Aktienmärkten. Das liegt vor allem an der Branchenzusammensetzung des Portfolios mit Fokus auf Gesundheit und an den relativ hohen nachhaltigen Infrastruktur- und Immobilienanteilen (weitere Informationen wie z.B. auch den aktuellen detaillierten Engagementreport siehe FutureVest Equity Sustainable Development Goals R – DE000A2P37T6 – A2P37T). Hinzu kommt, dass die sogenannten Glorreichen 7 bewusst in keinem meiner direkten Portfolios enthalten sind (vgl. Glorreiche 7: Sind sie unsozial? – Responsible Investment Research Blog (prof-soehnholz.com)). Dafür sind das letzte Quartal 2023 mit +9,4% und vor allem der Dezember mit +9,0% besonders gut gelaufen.

Anmerkungen: Die Performancedetails siehe www.soehnholzesg.com und zu allen Regeln und Portfolios siehe Das Soehnholz ESG und SDG Portfoliobuch. Benchmarkdaten: Eigene Berechnungen u.a. auf Basis von www.morningstar.de

Sustainable investment: Picture by Peggy and Marco-Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay

Sustainable investment = radically different?

Sustainable investment can be radically different from traditional investment. „Asset Allocation, Risk Overlay and Manager Selection“ is the translation of the book-title which I wrote in 2009 together with two former colleagues from FERI in Bad Homburg. Sustainability plays no role in it. My current university lecture on these topics is different.

Sustainability can play a very important role in the allocation to investment segments, manager and fund selection, position selection and also risk management. Strict sustainability can even lead to radical changes: More illiquid investments, lower asset class diversification, significantly higher concentration within investment segments, more active instead of passive mandates and different risk management. Here is why:

Central role of investment philosophy and sustainability definition for sustainable investment

Investors should define their investment philosophy as clearly as possible before they start investing. By investment philosophy, I mean the fundamental convictions of an investor, ideally a comprehensive and coherent system of such convictions (see Das-Soehnholz-ESG-und-SDG-Portfoliobuch 2023, p. 21ff.). Sustainability can be an important element of an investment philosophy.

Example: I pursue a strictly sustainable, rule-based, forecast-free investment philosophy (see e.g. Investment philosophy: Forecast fans should use forecast-free portfolios). To this end, I define comprehensive sustainability rules. I use the Policy for Responsible Investment Scoring Concept (PRISC) tool of the German Association for Asset Management and Financial Analysis (DVFA) for operationalization.

When it comes to sustainable investment, I am particularly interested in the products and services offered by the companies and organizations in which I invest or to which I indirectly provide loans. I use many strict exclusions and, above all, positive criteria. In particular, I want that the revenue or service is as compatible as possible with the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations (UN SDG) („SDG revenue alignment“). I also attach great importance to low absolute environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks. However, I only give a relatively low weighting to the opportunities to change investments („investor impact“) (see The Soehnholz ESG and SDG Portfolio Book 2023, p. 141ff). I try to achieve impact primarily through shareholder engagement, i.e. direct sustainability communication with companies.

Other investors, for whom impact and their own opportunities for change are particularly important, often attach great importance to so-called additionality. This means, that the corresponding sustainability improvements only come about through their respective investments. If an investor finances a new solar or wind park, this is considered additional and therefore particularly sustainable. When investing money on stock exchanges, securities are only bought by other investors and no money flows to the issuers of the securities – except in the case of relatively rare new issues. The purchase of listed bonds or shares in solar and wind farm companies is therefore not considered an impact investment by additionality supporters.

Sustainable investment and asset allocation: many more unlisted or alternative investments and more bonds?

In extreme cases, an investment philosophy focused on additionality would mean investing only in illiquid assets. Such an asset allocation would be radically different from today’s typical investments.

Better no additional allocation to illiquid investments?

Regarding additionality, investor and project impact must be distinguished. The financing of a new wind farm is not an additional investment, if other investors would also finance the wind farm on their own. This is not atypical. There is often a so-called capital overhang for infrastructure and private equity investments. This means, that a lot of money has been raised via investment funds and is competing for investments in such projects.

Even if only one fund is prepared to finance a sustainable project, the investment in such a fund would not be additional if other investors are willing to commit enough money to this fund to finance all planned investments. It is not only funds from renowned providers that often have more potential subscriptions from potential investors than they are willing to accept. Investments in such funds cannot necessarily be regarded as additional. On the other hand, there is clear additionality for investments that no one else wants to make. However, whether such investments will generate attractive performance is questionable.

Illiquid investments are also far from suitable for all investors, as they usually require relatively high minimum investments. In addition, illiquid investments are usually only invested gradually, and liquidity must be held for uncertain capital calls in terms of timing and amount. In addition, illiquid investments are usually considerably more expensive than comparable liquid investments. Overall, illiquid investments therefore have hardly any higher return potential than liquid investments. On the other hand, mainly due to the methods of their infrequent valuations, they typically exhibit low fluctuations. However, they are sometimes highly risky due to their high minimum investments and, above all, illiquidity.

In addition, illiquid investments lack an important so-called impact channel, namely individual divestment opportunities. While liquid investments can be sold at any time if sustainability requirements are no longer met, illiquid investments sometimes have to remain invested for a very long time. Divestment options are very important to me: I have sold around half of my securities in recent years because their sustainability has deteriorated (see: Divestments: 49 bei 30 Aktien meines Artikel 9 Fonds).

Sustainability advantages for (corporate) bonds over equities?

Liquid investment segments can differ, too, in terms of impact opportunities. Voting rights can be exercised for shares, but not for bonds and other investment segments. However, shareholder meetings at which voting is possible rarely take place. In addition, comprehensive sustainability changes are rarely put to the vote. If they are, they are usually rejected (see 2023 Proxy Season Review – Minerva).

I am convinced that engagement in the narrower sense can be more effective than exercising voting rights. And direct discussions with companies and organizations to make them more sustainable are also possible for bond buyers.

Irrespective of the question of liquidity or stock market listing, sustainable investors may prefer loans to equity because loans can be granted specifically for social and ecological projects. In addition, payouts can be made dependent on the achievement of sustainable milestones. However, the latter can also be done with private equity investments, but not with listed equity investments. However, if ecological and social projects would also be carried out without these loans and only replace traditional loans, the potential sustainability advantage of loans over equity is put into perspective.

Loans are usually granted with specific repayment periods. Short-term loans have the advantage that it is possible to decide more often whether to repeat loans than with long-term loans, provided they cannot be repaid early. This means that it is usually easier to exit a loan that is recognized as not sustainable enough than a private equity investment. This is a sustainability advantage. In addition, smaller borrowers and companies can probably be influenced more sustainably, so that government bonds, for example, have less sustainability potential than corporate loans, especially when it comes to relatively small companies.

With regard to real estate, one could assume that loans or equity for often urgently needed residential or social real estate can be considered more sustainable than for commercial real estate. The same applies to social infrastructure compared to some other infrastructure segments. On the other hand, some market observers criticize the so-called financialization of residential real estate, for example, and advocate public rather than private investments (see e.g. Neue Studie von Finanzwende Recherche: Rendite mit der Miete). Even social loans such as microfinance in the original sense are criticized, at least when commercial (interest) interests become too strong and private debt increases too much.

While renewable raw materials can be sustainable, non-industrially used precious metals are usually considered unsustainable due to the mining conditions. Crypto investments are usually considered unsustainable due to their lack of substance and high energy consumption.

Assuming potential additionality for illiquid investments and an impact primarily via investments with an ecological or social focus, the following simplified assessment of the investment segment can be made from a sustainability perspective:

Sustainable investment: Potential weighting of investment segments assuming additionality for illiquid investments:

Source: Soehnholz ESG GmbH 2023

Investors should create their own such classification, as this is crucial for their respective sustainable asset allocation.

Taking into account minimum capital investment and costs as well as divestment and engagement opportunities, I only invest in listed investments, for example. However, in the case of multi-billion assets with direct sustainability influence on investments, I would consider additional illiquid investments.

Sustainable investment and manager/fund selection: more active investments again?

Scientific research shows that active portfolio management usually generates lower returns and often higher risks than passive investments. With very low-cost ETFs, you can invest in thousands of securities. It is therefore no wonder that so-called passive investments have become increasingly popular in recent years.

Diversification is often seen as the only „free lunch“ in investing. But diversification often has no significant impact on returns or risks: With more than 20 to 30 securities from different countries and sectors, no better returns and hardly any lower risks can be expected than with hundreds of securities. In other words, the marginal benefit of additional diversification decreases very quickly.

But if you start with the most sustainable 10 to 20 securities and diversify further, the average sustainability can fall considerably. This means that strictly sustainable investment portfolios should be concentrated rather than diversified. Concentration also has the advantage of making voting and other forms of engagement easier and cheaper. Divestment threats can also be more effective if a lot of investor money is invested in just a few securities.

Sustainability policies can vary widely. This can be seen, among other things, in the many possible exclusions from potential investments. For example, animal testing can be divided into legally required, medically necessary, cosmetic and others. Some investors want to consistently exclude all animal testing. Others want to continue investing in pharmaceutical companies and may therefore only exclude „other“ animal testing. And investors who want to promote the transition from less sustainable companies, for example in the oil industry, to more sustainability will explicitly invest in oil companies (see ESG Transition Bullshit?).

Indices often contain a large number of securities. However, consistent sustainability argues in favor of investments in concentrated, individual and therefore mostly index-deviating actively managed portfolios. Active, though, is not meant in the sense of a lot of trading. In order to be able to exert influence by exercising voting rights and other forms of engagement, longer rather than shorter holding periods for investments make sense.

Still not enough consistently sustainable ETF offerings

When I started my own company in early 2016, it was probably the world’s first provider of a portfolio of the most consistently sustainable ETFs possible. But even the most sustainable ETFs were not sustainable enough for me. This was mainly due to insufficient exclusions and the almost exclusive use of aggregated best-in-class ESG ratings. However, I have high minimum requirements for E, S and G separately (see Glorious 7: Are they anti-social?). I am also not interested in the best-rated companies within sectors that are unattractive from a sustainability perspective (best-in-class). I want to invest in the best-performing stocks regardless of sector (best-in-universe). However, there are still no ETFs for such an approach. In addition, there are very few ETFs that use strict ESG criteria and also strive for SDG compatibility.

Even in the global Socially Responsible Investment Paris Aligned Benchmarks, which are particularly sustainable, there are still several hundred stocks from a large number of sectors and countries. In contrast, there are active global sustainable funds with just 30 stocks, which is potentially much more sustainable (see 30 stocks, if responsible, are all I need).

Issuers of sustainable ETFs often exercise sustainable voting rights and even engage, even if only to a small extent. However, most providers of active investments do no better (see e.g. 2023 Proxy Season Review – Minerva). Notably, index-following investments typically do not use the divestment impact channel because they want to replicate indices as directly as possible.

Sustainable investment and securities selection: fewer standard products and more individual mandates or direct indexing?

If there are no ETFs that are sustainable enough, you should look for actively managed funds, award sustainable mandates to asset managers or develop your own portfolios. However, actively managed concentrated funds with a strict ESG plus impact approach are still very rare. This also applies to asset managers who could implement such mandates. In addition, high minimum investments are often required for customized mandates. Individual sustainable portfolio developments, on the other hand, are becoming increasingly simple.

Numerous providers currently offer basic sustainability data for private investors at low cost or even free of charge. Financial technology developments such as discount (online) brokers, direct indexing and trading in fractional shares as well as voting tools help with the efficient and sustainable implementation of individual portfolios. However, the variety of investment opportunities and data qualities are not easy to analyze.

It would be ideal if investors could also take their own sustainability requirements into account on the basis of a curated universe of particularly sustainable securities and then have them automatically implemented and rebalanced in their portfolios (see Custom ESG Indexing Can Challenge Popularity Of ETFs (asiafinancial.com). In addition, they could use modern tools to exercise their voting rights according to their individual sustainability preferences. Sustainability engagement with the securities issuers can be carried out by the platform provider.

Risk management: much more tracking error and ESG risk monitoring?

For sustainable investments, sustainability metrics are added to traditional risk metrics. These are, for example, ESG ratings, emissions values, principal adverse indicators, do-no-significant-harm information, EU taxonomy compliance or, as in my case, SDG compliance and engagement success.

Sustainable investors have to decide how important the respective criteria are for them. I use sustainability criteria not only for reporting, but also for my rule-based risk management. This means that I sell securities if ESG or SDG requirements are no longer met (see Divestments: 49 bei 30 Aktien meines Artikel 9 Fonds).

The ESG ratings I use summarize environmental, social and governance risks. These risks are already important today and will become even more important in the future, as can be seen from greenwashing and reputational risks, for example. Therefore, they should not be missing from any risk management system. SDG compliance, on the other hand, is only relevant for investors who care about how sustainable the products and services of their investments are.

Voting rights and engagement have not usually been used for risk management up to now. However, this may change in the future. For example, I check whether I should sell shares if there is an inadequate response to my engagement. An inadequate engagement response from companies may indicate that companies are not listening to good suggestions and thus taking unnecessary risks that can be avoided through divestments.

Traditional investors often measure risk by the deviation from the target allocation or benchmark. If the deviation exceeds a predefined level, many portfolios have to be realigned closer to the benchmark. If you want to invest in a particularly sustainable way, you have to have higher rather than lower traditional benchmark deviations (tracking error) or you should do without tracking error figures altogether.

In theory, sustainable indices could be used as benchmarks for sustainable portfolios. However, as explained above, sustainability requirements can be very individual and, in my opinion, there are no strict enough sustainable standard benchmarks yet.

Sustainability can therefore lead to new risk indicators as well as calling old ones into question and thus also lead to significantly different risk management.

Summary and outlook: Much more individuality?

Individual sustainability requirements play a very important role in the allocation to investment segments, manager and fund selection, position selection and risk management. Strict sustainability can lead to greater differences between investment mandates and radical changes to traditional mandates: A lower asset class diversification, more illiquid investments for large investors, more project finance, more active rather than passive mandates, significantly higher concentration within investment segments and different risk management with additional metrics and significantly less benchmark orientation.

Some analysts believe that sustainable investment leads to higher risks, higher costs and lower returns. Others expect disproportionately high investments in sustainable investments in the future. This should lead to a better performance of such investments. My approach: I try to invest as sustainably as possible and I expect a normal market return in the medium term with lower risks compared to traditional investments.

First published in German on www.prof-soehnholz.com on Dec. 30th, 2023. Initial version translated by Deepl.com

Sustainable investment: Picture by Peggy and Marco-Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay

Nachhaltige Geldanlage = Radikal anders?

Nachhaltige Geldanlage kann radikal anders sein als traditionelle. „Asset Allocation, Risiko-Overlay und Manager-Selektion: Das Diversifikationsbuch“ heißt das Buch, dass ich 2009 mit ehemaligen Kollegen der Bad Homburger FERI geschrieben habe. Nachhaltigkeit spielt darin keine Rolle. In meiner aktuellen Vorlesung zu diesen Themen ist das anders. Nachhaltigkeit kann eine sehr wichtige Rolle spielen für die Allokation auf Anlagesegmente, die Manager- bzw. Fondsselektion, die Positionsselektion und auch das Risikomanagement (Hinweis: Um die Lesbarkeit zu verbessern, gendere ich nicht).

Strenge Nachhaltigkeit kann sogar zu radikalen Änderungen führen: Mehr illiquide Investments, erheblich höhere Konzentration innerhalb der Anlagesegmente, mehr aktive statt passive Mandate und ein anderes Risikomanagement. Im Folgenden erkläre ich, wieso:

Zentrale Rolle von Investmentphilosophie und Nachhaltigkeitsdefinition für die nachhaltige Geldanlage

Dafür starte ich mit der Investmentphilosophie. Unter Investmentphilosophie verstehe ich die grundsätzlichen Überzeugungen eines Geldanlegers, idealerweise ein umfassendes und kohärentes System solcher Überzeugungen (vgl.  Das-Soehnholz-ESG-und-SDG-Portfoliobuch 2023, S. 21ff.). Nachhaltigkeit kann ein wichtiges Element einer Investmentphilosophie sein. Anleger sollten ihre Investmentphilosophie möglichst klar definieren, bevor sie mit der Geldanlage beginnen.

Beispiel: Ich verfolge eine konsequent nachhaltige regelbasiert-prognosefreie Investmentphilosophie. Dafür definiere ich umfassende Nachhaltigkeitsregeln. Zur Operationalisierung nutze ich das Policy for Responsible Investment Scoring Concept (PRISC) Tool der Deutschen Vereinigung für Asset Management und Finanzanalyse (DVFA, vgl. Standards – DVFA e. V. – Der Berufsverband der Investment Professionals).

Für die nachhaltige Geldanlage ist mir vor allem wichtig, was für Produkte und Services die Unternehmen und Organisationen anbieten, an denen ich mich beteilige oder denen ich indirekt Kredite zur Verfügung stelle. Dazu nutze ich viele strenge Ausschlüsse und vor allem Positivkriterien. Dabei wird vor allem der Umsatz- bzw. Serviceanteil betrachtet, der möglichst gut mit Nachhaltigen Entwicklungszielen der Vereinten Nationen (UN SDG) vereinbar ist („SDG Revenue Alignment“). Außerdem lege ich viel Wert auf niedrige absolute Umwelt-, Sozial- und Governance-Risiken (ESG). Meine Möglichkeiten zur Veränderung von Investments („Investor Impact“) gewichte ich aber nur relativ niedrig (vgl. Das-Soehnholz-ESG-und-SDG-Portfoliobuch 2023, S. 141ff). Impact möchte ich dabei vor allem über Shareholder Engagement ausüben, also direkte Nachhaltigkeitskommunikation mit Unternehmen.

Andere Anleger, denen Impact- bzw. eigene Veränderungsmöglichkeiten besonders wichtig sind, legen oft viel Wert auf sogenannte Additionalität bzw. Zusätzlichkeit. Das bedeutet, dass die entsprechenden Nachhaltigkeitsverbesserungen nur durch ihre jeweiligen Investments zustande gekommen sind. Wenn ein Anleger einen neuen Solar- oder Windparkt finanziert, gilt das als additional und damit als besonders nachhaltig. Bei Geldanlagen an Börsen werden Wertpapiere nur anderen Anlegern abgekauft und den Herausgebern der Wertpapiere fließt – außer bei relativ seltenen Neuemissionen – kein Geld zu. Der Kauf börsennotierter Anleihen oder Aktien von Solar- und Windparkunternehmen gilt bei Additionalitätsanhängern deshalb nicht als Impact Investment.

Nachhaltige Geldanlage und Asset Allokation: Viel mehr nicht-börsennotierte bzw. alternative Investments und mehr Anleihen?

Eine additionalitätsfokussierte Investmentphilosophie bedeutet demnach im Extremfall, nur noch illiquide zu investieren. Die Asset Allokation wäre radikal anders als heute typische Geldanlagen.

Lieber keine Mehrallokation zu illiquiden Investments?

Aber wenn Additionalität so wichtig ist, dann muss man sich fragen, welche Art von illiquiden Investments wirklich Zusätzlichkeit bedeutet. Dazu muss man Investoren- und Projektimpact trennen. Die Finanzierung eines neuen Windparks ist aus Anlegersicht dann nicht zusätzlich, wenn andere Anleger den Windpark auch alleine finanzieren würden. Das ist durchaus nicht untypisch. Für Infrastruktur- und Private Equity Investments gibt es oft einen sogenannten Kapitalüberhang. Das bedeutet, dass über Fonds sehr viel Geld eingesammelt wurde und um Anlagen in solche Projekte konkurriert.

Selbst wenn nur ein Fonds zur Finanzierung eines nachhaltgien Projektes bereit ist, wäre die Beteiligung an einem solchen Fonds aus Anlegersicht dann nicht additional, wenn alternativ andere Anleger diese Fondsbeteiligung kaufen würden. Nicht nur Fonds renommierter Anbieter haben oft mehr Anfragen von potenziellen Anlegern als sie akzeptieren wollen. Investments in solche Fonds kann man nicht unbedingt als additional ansehen. Klare Additionalität gibt es dagegen für Investments, die kein anderer machen will. Ob solche Investments aber attraktive Performances versprechen, ist fragwürdig.

Illiquide Investments sind zudem längst nicht für alle Anleger geeignet, denn sie erfordern meistens relativ hohe Mindestinvestments. Hinzu kommt, dass man bei illiquiden Investments in der Regel erst nach und nach investiert und Liquidität in Bezug auf Zeitpunkt und Höhe unsichere Kapitalabrufe bereithalten muss. Außerdem sind illiquide meistens erheblich teurer als vergleichbare liquide Investments. Insgesamt haben damit illiquide Investments kaum höhere Renditepotenziale als liquide Investments. Durch die Art ihrer Bewertungen zeigen sie zwar geringe Schwankungen. Sie sind durch ihre hohen Mindestinvestments und vor allem Illiquidität aber teilweise hochriskant.

Hinzu kommt, dass illiquiden Investments ein wichtiger sogenannter Wirkungskanal fehlt, nämlich individuelle Divestmentmöglichkeiten. Während liquide Investments jederzeit verkauft werden können wenn Nachhaltigkeitsanforderungen nicht mehr erfüllt werden, muss man bei illiquiden Investments teilweise sehr lange weiter investiert bleiben. Divestmentmöglichkeiten sind sehr wichtig für mich: Ich habe in den letzten Jahren jeweils ungefähr die Hälfte meiner Wertpapiere verkauft, weil sich ihre Nachhaltigkeit verschlechtert hat (vgl. Divestments: 49 bei 30 Aktien meines Artikel 9 Fonds – Responsible Investment Research Blog (prof-soehnholz.com)).

Nachhaltigkeitsvorteile für (Unternehmens-)Anleihen gegenüber Aktien?

Auch liquide Anlagesegmente können sich in Bezug auf Impactmöglichkeiten unterscheiden. Für Aktien kann man Stimmrechte ausüben (Voting), für Anleihen und andere Anlagesegmente nicht. Allerdings finden nur selten Aktionärsversammlungen statt, zu denen man Stimmrechte ausüben kann. Zudem stehen nur selten umfassende Nachhaltigkeitsveränderungen zur Abstimmung. Falls das dennoch der Fall ist, werden sie meistens abgelehnt (vgl. 2023 Proxy Season Review – Minerva-Manifest).

Ich bin überzeugt, dass Engagement im engeren Sinn wirkungsvoller sein kann als Stimmrechtsausübung. Und direkte Diskussionen mit Unternehmen und Organisationen, um diese nachhaltiger zu machen, sind auch für Käufer von Anleihen möglich.

Unabhängig von der Frage der Liquidität bzw. Börsennotiz könnten nachhaltige Anleger Kredite gegenüber Eigenkapital bevorzugen, weil Kredite speziell für soziale und ökologische Projekte vergeben werden können. Außerdem können Auszahlungen von der Erreichung von nachhaltigen Meilensteinen abhängig gemacht werden können. Letzteres kann bei Private Equity Investments aber ebenfalls gemacht werden, nicht jedoch bei börsennotierten Aktieninvestments. Wenn ökologische und soziale Projekte aber auch ohne diese Kredite durchgeführt würden und nur traditionelle Kredite ersetzen, relativiert sich der potenzielle Nachhaltigkeitsvorteil von Krediten gegenüber Eigenkapital.

Allerdings werden Kredite meist mit konkreten Rückzahlungszeiten vergeben. Kurz laufende Kredite haben dabei den Vorteil, dass man öfter über die Wiederholung von Kreditvergaben entscheiden kann als bei langlaufenden Krediten, sofern man sie nicht vorzeitig zurückbezahlt bekommen kann. Damit kann man aus einer als nicht nachhaltig genug erkannter Kreditvergabe meistens eher aussteigen als aus einer privaten Eigenkapitalvergabe. Das ist ein Nachhaltigkeitsvorteil. Außerdem kann man kleinere Kreditnehmer und Unternehmen wohl besser nachhaltig beeinflussen, so dass zum Beispiel Staatsanleihen weniger Nachhaltigkeitspotential als Unternehmenskredite haben, vor allem wenn es sich dabei um relativ kleine Unternehmen handelt.

In Bezug auf Immobilien könnte man annehmen, dass Kredite oder Eigenkapital für oft dringend benötigte Wohn- oder Sozialimmobilien als nachhaltiger gelten können als für Gewerbeimmobilien. Ähnliches gilt für Sozialinfrastruktur gegenüber manch anderen Infrastruktursegmenten. Andererseits kritisieren manche Marktbeobachter die sogenannte Finanzialisierung zum Beispiel von Wohnimmobilien (vgl. Neue Studie von Finanzwende Recherche: Rendite mit der Miete) und plädieren grundsätzlich für öffentliche statt private Investments. Selbst Sozialkredite wie Mikrofinanz im ursprünglichen Sinn wird zumindest dann kritisiert, wenn kommerzielle (Zins-)Interessen zu stark werden und private Verschuldungen zu stark steigen.

Während nachwachsende Rohstoffe nachhaltig sein können, gelten nicht industriell genutzte Edelmetalle aufgrund der Abbaubedingungen meistens als nicht nachhaltig. Kryptoinvestments werden aufgrund fehlender Substanz und hoher Energieverbräuche meistens als nicht nachhaltig beurteilt.

Bei der Annahme von potenzieller Additionalität für illiquide Investments und Wirkung vor allem über Investments mit ökologischem bzw. sozialem Bezug kann man zu der folgenden vereinfachten Anlagesegmentbeurteilung aus Nachhaltigkeitssicht kommen:

Nachhaltige Geldanlage: Potenzielle Gewichtung von Anlagesegmenten bei Annahme von Additionalität für illiquide Investments und meine Allokation

Quelle: Eigene Darstellung

Anleger sollten sich ihre eigene derartige Klassifikation erstellen, weil diese entscheidend für ihre jeweilige nachhaltige Asset Allokation ist. Unter Berücksichtigung von Mindestkapitaleinsatz und Kosten sowie Divestment- und Engagementmöglichkeiten investiere ich zum Beispiel nur in börsennotierte Investments. Bei einem Multi-Milliarden Vermögen mit direkten Nachhaltigkeits-Einflussmöglichkeiten auf Beteiligungen würde ich zusätzliche illiquide Investments aber in Erwägung ziehen. Insgesamt kann strenge Nachhaltigkeit also auch zu wesentlich geringerer Diversifikation über Anlageklassen führen.

Nachhaltige Geldanlage und Manager-/Fondsselektion: Wieder mehr aktive Investments?

Wissenschaftliche Forschung zeigt, dass aktives Portfoliomanagement meistens geringe Renditen und oft auch höhere Risiken als passive Investments einbringt. Mit sehr günstigen ETFs kann man in tausende von Wertpapieren investieren. Es ist deshalb kein Wunder, dass in den letzten Jahren sogenannte passive Investments immer beliebter geworden sind.

Diversifikation gilt oft als der einzige „Free Lunch“ der Kapitalanlage. Aber Diversifikation hat oft keinen nennenswerten Einfluss auf Renditen oder Risiken. Anders ausgedrückt: Mit mehr als 20 bis 30 Wertpapieren aus unterschiedlichen Ländern und Branchen sind keine besseren Renditen und auch kaum niedrigere Risiken zu erwarten als mit hunderten von Wertpapieren. Anders ausgedrückt: Der Grenznutzen zusätzlicher Diversifikation nimmt sehr schnell ab.

Aber wenn man aber mit den nachhaltigsten 10 bis 20 Wertpapiern startet und weiter diversifiziert, kann die durchschnittliche Nachhaltigkeit erheblich sinken. Das bedeutet, dass konsequent nachhaltige Geldanlageportfolios eher konzentriert als diversifiziert sein sollten. Konzentration hat auch den Vorteil, dass Stimmrechtsausübungen und andere Formen von Engagement einfacher und kostengünstiger werden. Divestment-Androhungen können zudem wirkungsvoller sein, wenn viel Anlegergeld in nur wenige Wertpapiere investiert wird.

Nachhaltigkeitspolitiken können sehr unterschiedlich ausfallen. Das zeigt sich unter anderem bei den vielen möglichen Ausschlüssen von potenziellen Investments. So kann man zum Beispiel Tierversuche in juristisch vorgeschriebene, medizinisch nötige, kosmetische und andere unterscheiden. Manche Anleger möchten alle Tierversuche konsequent ausschließen. Andere wollen weiterhin in Pharmaunternehmen investieren und schließen deshalb vielleicht nur „andere“ Tierversuche aus. Und Anleger, welche die Transition von wenig nachhaltigen Unternehmen zum Beispiel der Ölbranche zu mehr Nachhaltigkeit fördern wollen, werden explizit in Ölunternehmen investieren (vgl. ESG Transition Bullshit? – Responsible Investment Research Blog (prof-soehnholz.com)).

Indizes enthalten oft sehr viele Wertpapiere. Konsequente Nachhaltigkeit spricht aber für Investments in konzentrierte, individuelle und damit meist indexabweichende aktiv gemanagte Portfolios. Dabei ist aktiv nicht im Sinne von viel Handel gemeint. Um über Stimmrechtsausübungen und andere Engagementformen Einfluss ausüben zu können, sind eher längere als kürzere Haltedauern von Investments sinnvoll.

Immer noch nicht genug konsequent nachhaltige ETF-Angebote

Bei der Gründung meines eigenen Unternehmens Anfang 2016 war ich wahrscheinlich weltweit der erste Anbieter eines Portfolios aus möglichst konsequent nachhaltigen ETFs. Aber auch die nachhaltigsten ETFs waren mir nicht nachhaltig genug. Grund waren vor allem unzureichende Ausschlüsse und die fast ausschließliche Nutzung von aggregierten Best-in-Class ESG-Ratings. Ich habe aber hohe Mindestanforderungen an E, S und G separat (vgl. Glorreiche 7: Sind sie unsozial? – Responsible Investment Research Blog (prof-soehnholz.com). Ich interessiere mich auch nicht für die am besten geraten Unternehmen innerhalb aus Nachhaltigkeitssicht unattraktiven Branchen (Best-in-Class). Ich möchte branchenunabhängig in die am besten geraten Aktien investieren (Best-in-Universe). Dafür gibt es aber auch heute noch keine ETFs. Außerdem gibt es sehr wenige ETFs, die strikte ESG-Kriterien nutzen und zusätzlich SDG-Vereinbarkeit anstreben.

Auch in den in besonders konsequent nachhaltigen globalen Socially Responsible Paris Aligned Benchmarks befinden sich noch mehrere hundert Aktien aus sehr vielen Branchen und Ländern. Aktive globale nachhaltige Fonds gibt es dagegen schon mit nur 30 Aktien, also potenziell erheblich nachhaltiger (vgl. 30 stocks, if responsible, are all I need – Responsible Investment Research Blog (prof-soehnholz.com)).

Emittenten nachhaltiger ETFs üben oft nachhaltige Stimmrechtsausübungen und sogar Engagement aus, wenn auch nur in geringem Umfang. Das machen die meisten Anbieter aktiver Investments aber auch nicht besser (vgl. z.B. 2023 Proxy Season Review – Minerva-Manifest). Indexfolgende Investments nutzen aber typischerweise den Impactkanal Divestments nicht, weil sie Indizes möglichst direkt nachbilden wollen.

Nachhaltige Geldanlage und Wertpapierselektion: Weniger Standardprodukte und mehr individuelle Mandate oder Direct Indexing?

Wenn es keine ETFs gibt, die nachhaltig genug sind, sollte man sich aktiv gemanagte Fonds suchen, nachhaltige Mandate an Vermögensverwalter vergeben oder seine Portfolios selbst entwickeln. Aktiv gemanagte konzentrierte Fonds mit strengem ESG plus Impactansatz sind aber noch sehr selten. Das gilt auch für Vermögensverwalter, die solche Mandate umsetzen könnten. Außerdem werden für maßgeschneiderte Mandate oft hohe Mindestanlagen verlangt. Individuelle nachhaltige Portfolioentwicklungen werden dagegen zunehmend einfacher.

Basis-Nachhaltigkeitsdaten werden aktuell von zahlreichen Anbietern für Privatanleger kostengünstig oder sogar kostenlos angeboten. Finanztechnische Entwicklungen wie Discount-(Online-)Broker, Direct Indexing und Handel mit Bruchstücken von Wertpapieren sowie Stimmrechtsausübungstools helfen bei der effizienten und nachhaltigen Umsetzung von individuellen Portfolios. Schwierigkeiten bereiten dabei eher die Vielfalt an Investmentmöglichkeiten und mangelnde bzw. schwer zu beurteilende Datenqualität.

Ideal wäre, wenn Anleger auf Basis eines kuratierten Universums von besonders nachhaltigen Wertpapieren zusätzlich eigene Nachhaltigkeitsanforderungen berücksichtigen können und dann automatisiert in ihren Depots implementieren und rebalanzieren lassen (vgl. Custom ESG Indexing Can Challenge Popularity Of ETFs (asiafinancial.com). Zusätzlich könnten sie mit Hilfe moderner Tools ihre Stimmrechte nach individuellen Nachhaltigkeitsvorstellungen ausüben. Direkte Nachhaltigkeitskommunikation mit den Wertpapieremittenten kann durch den Plattformanbieter erfolgen.

Risikomanagement: Viel mehr Tracking-Error und ESG-Risikomonitoring?

Für nachhaltige Geldanlagen kommen zusätzlich zu traditionellen Risikokennzahlen Nachhaltigkeitskennzahlen hinzu, zum Beispiel ESG-Ratings, Emissionswerte, Principal Adverse Indicators, Do-No-Significant-Harm-Informationen, EU-Taxonomievereinbarkeit oder, wie in meinem Fall, SDG-Vereinbarkeiten und Engagementerfolge.

Nachhaltige Anleger müssen sich entscheiden, wie wichtig die jeweiligen Kriterien für sie sind. Ich nutze Nachhaltigkeitskriterien nicht nur für das Reporting, sondern auch für mein regelgebundenes Risikomanagement. Das heißt, dass ich Wertpapiere verkaufe, wenn ESG- oder SDG-Anforderungen nicht mehr erfüllt werden.

Die von mir genutzten ESG-Ratings messen Umwelt-, Sozial- und Unternehmensführungsrisiken. Diese Risiken sind heute schon wichtig und werden künftig noch wichtiger, wie man zum Beispiel an Greenwashing- und Reputationsrisiken sehen kann. Deshalb sollten sie in keinem Risikomanagement fehlen. SDG-Anforderungserfüllung ist hingegen nur für Anleger relevant, denen wichtig ist, wie nachhaltig die Produkte und Services ihrer Investments sind.

Stimmrechtsausübungen und Engagement wurden bisher meistens nicht für das Risikomanagement genutzt. Das kann sich künftig jedoch ändern. Ich prüfe zum Beispiel, ob ich Aktien bei unzureichender Reaktion auf mein Engagement verkaufen sollte. Eine unzureichende Engagementreaktion von Unternehmen weist möglicherweise darauf hin, dass Unternehmen nicht auf gute Vorschläge hören und damit unnötige Risiken eingehen, die man durch Divestments vermeiden kann.

Traditionelle Geldanleger messen Risiko oft mit der Abweichung von der Soll-Allokation bzw. Benchmark. Wenn die Abweichung einen vorher definierten Grad überschreitet, müssen viele Portfolios wieder benchmarknäher ausgerichtet werden. Für nachhaltige Portfolios werden dafür auch nachhaltige Indizes als Benchmark genutzt. Wie oben erläutert, können Nachhaltigkeitsanforderungen aber sehr individuell sein und es gibt meiner Ansicht nach viel zu wenige strenge nachhaltige Benchmarks. Wenn man besonders nachhaltig anlegen möchte, muss man dementsprechend höhere statt niedrigere Benchmarkabweichungen (Tracking Error) haben bzw. sollte ganz auf Tracking Error Kennzahlen verzichten.

Nachhaltigkeit kann also sowohl zu neuen Risikokennzahlen führen als auch alte in Frage stellen und damit auch zu einem erheblich anderen Risikomanagement führen.

Nachhaltige Geldanlage – Zusammenfassung und Ausblick: Viel mehr Individualität?

Individuelle Nachhaltigkeitsanforderungen spielen eine sehr wichtige Rolle für die Allokation auf Anlagesegmente, die Manager- bzw. Fondsselektion, die Positionsselektion und auch das Risikomanagement. Strenge Nachhaltigkeit kann zu stärkeren Unterschieden zwischen Geldanlagemandaten und radikalen Änderungen gegenüber traditionellen Mandaten führen: Geringere Diversifikation über Anlageklassen, mehr illiquide Investments für Großanleger, mehr Projektfinanzierungen, mehr aktive statt passive Mandate, erheblich höhere Konzentration innerhalb der Anlagesegmente und ein anderes Risikomanagement mit zusätzlichen Kennzahlen und erheblich geringerer Benchmarkorientierung.

Manche Analysten meinen, nachhaltige Geldanlage führt zu höheren Risiken, höheren Kosten und niedrigeren Renditen. Andere erwarten zukünftig überproportional hohe Anlagen in nachhaltige Investments. Das sollte zu einer besseren Performance solcher Investments führen. Meine Einstellung: Ich versuche so nachhaltig wie möglich zu investieren und erwarte dafür mittelfristig eine marktübliche Rendite mit niedrigeren Risiken im Vergleich zu traditionellen Investments.

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Achtung: Werbung für meinen Fonds

Mein Fonds (Art. 9) ist auf soziale SDGs fokussiert. Ich nutze separate E-, S- und G-Best-in-Universe-Mindestratings sowie ein breites Aktionärsengagement bei derzeit 27 von 30 Unternehmen: FutureVest Equity Sustainable Development Goals R – DE000A2P37T6 – A2P37T oder Divestments: 49 bei 30 Aktien meines Artikel 9 Fonds