Biodiversity Diversgence illustration with seed toto by Claudenil Moraes from Pixaby

Biodiversity diversion: Researchpost #165

Biodiversity diversion: 14x new research on donations, brown indices, ESG ETFs, ESG investing fees, greenwashing, labeled bonds, climate engagement, framing, female finance, and risk measurement (“’#” shows full paper SSRN downloads as of Feb. 29th, 2024).

Social and ecological research

Facebook donations: Does Online Fundraising Increase Charitable Giving? A Nationwide Field Experiment on Facebook by Maja Adena and Anselm Hager as of Feb. 27th, 2024 (#4): “Using the Facebook advertising tool, we implemented a natural field experiment across Germany, randomly assigning almost 8,000 postal codes to Save the Children fundraising videos or to a pure control. … We found that (i) video fundraising increased donation revenue and frequency to Save the Children during the campaign and in the subsequent five weeks; (ii) the campaign was profitable for the fundraiser; and (iii) the effects were similar independent of video content and impression assignment strategy. However, we also found some crowding out of donations to other similar charities or projects.” (abstract).

Biodiversity diversion (1)? The 30 by 30 biodiversity commitment and financial disclosure: Metrics matter by Daniele Silvestro, Stefano Goria, Ben Groom, Thomas Sterner, and Alexandre Antonelli as of Nov. 23rd, 2023 (#93): “The recent adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework commits nearly 200 nations to protect 30% of their land by 2030 – a substantial increase from the current global average of c. 17%. … the easiest approach to reach compliance would be to protect the cheapest areas. … Here we explore biological and financial consequences of area protection … We find substantial differences in performance, with the cheapest solution always being the worst for biodiversity. Corporate disclosure provides a powerful mechanism for supporting conservation but is often dependent on simplistic and underperforming metrics. We show that conservation solutions optimized through artificial intelligence are likely to outperform commonly used biodiversity metrics“ (abstract).

ESG investment research (in: „Biodiversity diversion“)

Biodiversity diversion (2): A Bibliometric and Systemic Literature Review of Biodiversity Finance by Mark C. Hutchinson and Brian Lucey as of Feb. 19th, 2024 (#140): “This study presents a short bibliometric analysis of biodiversity finance …. Six focal areas emerge, with Conservation, Conservation Finance, and Ecosystem Finance prominent. Thematic emphasis revolves around biodiversity challenges and the inefficiency of financial mechanisms in addressing them. Our analysis reveals an exploitable gap in the lack of finance-led solutions” (abstract).

Brown stock indices: International trade in brown shares and economic development by Harald Benink, Harry Huizinga, Louis Raes, and Lishu Zhang as of Feb. 22nd, 2024 (#9): “Using global stock ownership data, we find a robust negative relation between the tendency by investors to hold brown assets and economic development as measured by log GDP per capita. … First, at the country level, economic development is likely to lead to a greening of the national stock portfolio. Second, cross-sectionally, richer countries will tend to hold greener portfolios. … Finally, we find that investors in richer countries have a lower propensity to divest from browner firms that are included in the MSCI World index, which does not consider firms’ carbon intensities” (p. 31/32). My comment: Most (institutional) investors use benchmarks. Green benchmarks should be used more often to foster transition (regarding benchmark selection compare Globale Small-Caps: Faire Benchmark für meinen Artikel 9 Fonds? (

ESG ETF dispersion: From ESG Confusion to Return Dispersion: Fund Selection Risk is a Material Issue for ESG Investors by Giovanni Bruno and Felix Goltz from Scientific Beta as of Feb. 22nd, 2024: “… we construct a dataset of Sustainable ETFs – passive ETFs that have explicit ESG objectives. … Overall, our results indicate that ESG investors face a large fund selection risk. Over the full sample dispersion is 6.5% (4.9%) in terms of annualised CAPM Alpha (Industry Adjusted Returns), and it can reach 22.5% (25.3%) over single calendar years. We also show that past performance and tracking error do not contain useful information on future performance. … dispersion in performance allows ETF providers to always present investors some strategy that has recently outperformed“ (p. 31). My comment: It would be nice to have more details in the research article regarding conceptual differences e.g. between ESG Leader, Transition and SRI indics/ETFs, see e.g. Verantwortungsvolle Investments im Vergleich: SRI ETFs sind besser als ESG ETFs ( from 2018

Good ESG ETFs: Unraveling the Potential: A Comprehensive Analysis of ESG ETFs in Diversified Portfolios across European and U.S. Markets by Andrea Martínez-Salgueiro as of Feb. 15th, 2024 (#10): “… results indicate substantial benefits of ESG ETFs in Europe and notable hedge, diversification, and safe-haven potential in the U.S. Simulated data further demonstrate ESG portfolios‘ outperformance, especially in Europe, highlighting the risk-return tradeoff” (abstract).

Responsible fees: Responsible Investment Funds Build Consistent Market Presence by Jordan Doyle as of Feb. 21st, 2024: “… during the study period from 31 December 2012 to 31 December 2022. Total net assets for “responsible investments” as defined by Lipper increased by a factor of 2.7×, from $2,215.6 billion in 2012 to $5,974.6 billion in 2022. The market share of responsible investment funds remained relatively constant during the same period, increasing from 14.2% in 2012 to 15.4% in 2022. … Retail ownership dominates institutional ownership of responsible investment funds globally. In the United States, however, institutional assets surpassed retail assets in 2018, indicating a relative shift in demand preferences. … they both invest more assets into negative screening funds than any other type of responsible investment strategy …fund fees of responsible investing funds are largely in line with those of non-responsible investment fund fees in the United States. In Europe, however, responsible investment fund fees tend to be lower than non-responsible investment fund fees“ ( p. 3).

Unsustainable institutions? Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation: voluntary signaling or mandatory disclosure? by Lara Spaans, Jeroen Derwall, Joop Huij, and Kees Koedijk as of Feb. 19th, 2024 (#38): “… we point out that (i) the SFDR similarly to voluntary disclosure enables funds to signal their sustainability commitments to the market, while (ii) like mandatory disclosure, requires these funds to be transparent about the sustainability outcomes of their underlying portfolio … we show that investors indeed respond to the Article signals, but that this effect is driven by retail investors. … we see that mutual funds that take on an Article 8(/9) label after the SFDR announcement improve their sustainability outcomes compared to Article 6 funds. Specifically, we note that retail funds behave in accordance with their signal, while for institutional funds we do not find that Article 8(/9) funds behave differently from Article 6 funds. We disregard the hypothesis that these institutional funds partake in ‘window-dressing’, instead we find evidence that mandatory disclosure induces European institutional funds to significantly improve their sustainability outcomes compared to untreated, US-domiciled institutional funds“ (p. 32). My comment: For my Article 9 (global smallcap fund) see and My fund (

Less greenwashing: Do US Active Mutual Funds Make Good of Their ESG Promises? Evidence from Portfolio Holdings by Massimo Guidolin and Monia Magnani as of Feb. 23rd, 2024 (#22): “… our findings indicate a distinct shift towards greater sustainability within the mutual equity fund industry. Notably, this trend is not exclusive to self-labelled ESG funds; all types of funds have enhanced their ESG ratings and reduced their investments in sin stocks. The number of self-labelled ESG funds has continued to rise in recent years, and importantly, most of these ESG funds, on average, appear to genuinely adhere to their claims of prioritizing sustainable investing. Consequently, they demonstrate significantly higher actual ESG scores in their portfolio holdings. Moreover, we are witnessing a noticeable reduction in sin stocks within their portfolios“ (p. 34).

SDG- aligned and impact investment research

Sustainable returns: Labeled Bonds: Quarterly Market Overview Q4 2023 by Jakub Malich and Anett Husi from MSCI Research as of Feb. 21st, 2024:  Green, social, sustainability and sustainability-linked “Labeled-bond issuance reached a similar level in 2023 as in 2022, which was notably below the peak issuance of 2021. … The market continued to grow both in size and diversity, as hundreds of new and recurring corporate and government-related issuers brought labeled bonds to the market. … Most newly issued and outstanding labeled bonds were investment-grade and issued by ESG leaders … the performance of labeled bonds, despite their distinctions from conventional bonds, was primarily driven by key fixed-income risk and return drivers, such as interest-rate sensitivity, currency fluctuations and credit risk“ (p. 18). … “Corporate issuers led issuance in the fourth quarter, with USD 75 billion worth of labeled bonds (63% of the total), while supranational, sovereign and agency (SSA) entities issued USD 44 billion (37%). This continues a shift in the labeled-bond market, with corporate issuers taking a more central role” (p. 4).

Index impact: The Impact of Climate Engagement: A Field Experiment by Florian Heeb and  Julian F. Kölbel as of Feb. 6th, 2024 (#361): “A randomly chosen group of 300 out of 1227 international companies received a letter from an index provider, encouraging the company to commit to setting a science-based climate target to remain included in its climate transition benchmark indices. After one year, we observed a significant effect: 21.0% of treated companies have committed, vs. 15.7% in the control group. This suggests that engagement by financial institutions can affect corporate policies when a feasible request is combined with a credible threat of exit” (abstract). My comment: It would be interesting to know the assets of the funds threatening to divest (index funds are often large). Hopefully, this type of shareholder engagement also works for active (and small) asset managers. Further shareholder engagement research see e.g. Shareholder engagement: 21 science based theses and an action plan – (

ESG nudging: Optimistic framing increases responsible investment of investment professionals by Dan Daugaard, Danielle Kent, Maroš Servátka, and Lyla Zhang as of Jan. 1zh, 2024 (#33): “… we report insights from an incentivized online experiment with investment professionals … The analyzed sample consists of individuals who stated their intention to increase their investment in ESG within the next 10 years … We demonstrate that framing divestment decisions in a more optimistic orientation, with an emphasis on the transitory nature of costs and the permanency of future benefits, significantly increases responsible investment by 3.6%. With total professionally managed assets valued at USD $98.4 trillion globally, a comparable effect size would represent a USD $3.6 trillion shift in asset allocations” (p. 12).

Other investment research (in: „Biodiversity diversion“)

Gender differences: The Gender Investment Gap: Reasons and Consequences by Alexandra Niessen-Ruenzi and Leah Zimmerer as of Jan. 27th, 2024 (#31): „ Women, compared to men, report larger financial constraints, higher risk aversion, perceived stress in financial matters, and lower trust in financial institutions. As a result, women save and invest less consistently than men. Conditional on investing, women use fewer financial products, particularly in equity investments. We find a significant gender gap in stock market participation, with 17.6% of women and 32.3% of men investing. The motives and barriers influencing stock market participation also diverge, with men leaning towards short-term gains and the thrill of investing, while women commonly cite unfamiliarity with stocks and fear of potential losses as primary reasons for non-participation” (abstract).

New performance indicator: Maximum Cumulative Underperformance: A New Metric for Active Performance Management by Kevin Khang and Marvin Ertl from The Vanguard Group as of Jan. 18th, 2024 (#29): “… we define maximum cumulative underperformance (MaxCU)—the maximum underperformance of an active fund relative to the benchmark … The greater the benchmark return environment and the longer the investment horizon, the greater MaxCU investors should expect … Ex-ante, our framework can be used to articulate the investor’s tolerance for underperformance relative to the benchmark and inform the final active allocation decision at the outset. Ex-post, our framework can be used to set the base rate for terminating a manager who has suffered a sizeable underperformance“ (p. 19/20). My comment: Useful concept, but benchmark selection is very important for this approach. For the latter problem see e.g. Globale Small-Caps: Faire Benchmark für meinen Artikel 9 Fonds? (


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