Archiv der Kategorie: Engagement

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

Advert for German investors

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)

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)

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

ESG and Impact: Illuminaed mushroom as illustration

ESG and impact: Researchpost #154

ESG and impact: 12x new research on AI, poverty, crime, green demand, ESG risks, brown lending, green agency issues, voting, engagement, impact investing, CEO compensation, small caps etc.  (# shows the number of SSRN downloads as of Nov. 30th, 2023)

Social and ecological research

AI job-booster: New technologies and jobs in Europe by Stefania Albanesi, António Dias da Silva, Juan F. Jimeno, Ana Lamo and Alena Wabitsch as of Aug. 24th, 2023 (#111): “… we … find that AI-enabled automation in Europe is associated with employment increases. This positive relationship is mostly driven by occupations with relatively higher proportion of skilled workers … the magnitude of the estimates largely varies across countries, possibly reflecting different economics structures, such as the pace of technology diffusion and education, but also to the level of product market regulation (competition) and employment protection laws. … wages do not appear to be affected in a statistically significant manner from software exposure“ (p. 28).

Climate-induced poverty: Does Global Warming Worsen Poverty and Inequality? An Updated Review by Hai-Anh H. Dang, Stephane Hallegatte, and Trong-Anh Trinh from the World Bank as of Mov. 4th, 2023 (#38): “Our findings suggest that while studies generally find negative impacts of climate change on poverty, especially for poorer countries, there is less agreement on its impacts on inequality. … Our results suggest that temperature change has larger impacts over the short-term than over the long-term and more impacts on chronic poverty than transient poverty” (p. 32).

Refugee crimes: Do Refugees Impact Crime? Causal Evidence From Large-Scale Refugee Immigration to Germany by Martin Lange and Katrin Sommerfeld as of Nov. 14th, 2023 (#21): “Our results indicate that crime rates were not affected during the year of refugee arrival, but there was an increase in crime rates one year later. This lagged effect is small per refugee but large in absolute terms and is strongest for property and violent crimes. The crime effects are robust across specifications and in line with increased suspect rates for offenders from refugees’ origin countries. Yet, we find some indication of over-reporting“ (abstract).

ESG investment research (ESG and impact)

Green demand: Responsible Consumption, Demand Elasticity, and the Green Premium by Xuhui Chen, Lorenzo Garlappi, and Ali Lazrak as of Nov. 27th, 2023 (#122): “… decreasing product price are signals of high price competition and hence high demand elasticity. We sort firms into portfolios based on their demand elasticity and their ESG score. We refer the spread return on this portfolio as the Green Minus Brown (GMB) spread, or green premium” (p. 3). … “… when consumers have a “green” bias, green firms producing high demand elasticity goods are riskier than brown firms producing high demand elasticity products. The riskiness of these firms flips for firms that produce low demand elasticity goods. …. we find that the green-minus-brown (GMB) spread is increasing in the price elasticity of demand. Specifically, the annual spread is 2.6% and insignificant in the bottom elasticity tercile and 11.7% and significant in the top tercile. … we show that the cumulative positive return spread of green vs. brown stocks over the last decade is mainly attributed to high-demand-elasticity stocks, with low demand elasticity stocks earning an insignificant or negative spread“ (p. 32).

Risky calls: ESG risk by Najah Attig and Abdlmutaleb Boshanna as of Oct. 5th, 2022 (#62): “… using Natural Language Processing, we measure firm-level ESGR (Sö: ESG risk) faced by US firms, as reflected in the discussion of ESG issues associated with words capturing risk and uncertainty in the transcripts of firms’ earning calls. We first validate ESGR as measure of risk by documenting its positive association with the volatility of stock returns and CSR concerns. We then show that ESGR is associated with a deterioration in corporate value … We show also that ESGR bears negatively on conference call short-term returns during the COVID-19 pandemic“ (p. 31). My comment: I try to only invest in the best E/S/G rated companies, see e.g. Glorreiche 7: Sind sie unsozial? – Responsible Investment Research Blog (prof-soehnholz.com)

Retail ESG: Better Environmental Performance Attracts the Retail Investor Crowd during Crisis by Anil Gautam and Grace Lepone as of Nov. 24th, 2023 (#12): “… we use the Robinhood data set to examine the firm size-adjusted changes in investor numbers. We find that investors moved away from holding securities with low (Sö: ESG) scores following the COVID-19 pandemic shock. The observation holds for the bottom quartile of securities sorted by ESG, E, emissions, corporate social responsibility (CSR), human rights, management, shareholder and community scores. … No significant reaction to S and G scores is observed for either quartile“ (p. 16).

Green bank disclosure: Do banks practice what they preach? Brown lending and environmental disclosure in the euro area by Leonardo Gambacorta, Salvatore Polizzi, Alessio Reghezza, and Enzo Scannella from the ECB as of Nov. 14th, 2023 (#21): “… we found that banks that provide higher levels of environmental disclosure lend more to low polluting firms and less to highly polluting firms. … we found that banks that use a more negative tone (i.e. those that are more aware and genuinely concerned about environmental risks and climate change) lend less to brown firms, while banks that use a more positive tone (i.e. those that are less aware and concerned about environmental risks) tend to finance more brown firms. Therefore, we show that the tone of disclosures plays a crucial role in assessing whether a bank is engaging in window dressing or its willingness to inform stakeholders and investors on environmental matters results in actual behaviour to tackle environmental risks by reducing brown lending“ (p. 21).

Good transparency? The Eco-Agency Problem and Sustainable Investment by Moran Ofir and Tal Elmakiess as of Nov. 28th, 2023 (#10): “… we first define the eco-agency problem—the special conflict of interest between the corporate officers who focus on short-term profitability and the other stakeholders who seek long-term profitability and sustainability—and then discuss existing coping measures, such as green bonds, CoCo bonds, and ESG compensation metrics. To assess the extent of the eco-agency problem, we have conducted an experimental study of both professional and nonprofessional investors. According to our findings, both groups exhibit strong and significant preferences for sustainable investments. Revealing the preferences of investors towards sustainability can inspire corporate officers to embrace their role as sustainability advocates, encouraging them to align their decisions with investor preferences, and can thus drive positive change both within their organizations and across industries. … By embracing transparency as a strategic advantage, corporations can transcend traditional reporting boundaries, heralding a new era in which investors implement their ecological preferences in the capital market pricing mechanism” (abstract). My comment: My shareholder engagement strategy seems to focus on the right topics, see Shareholder engagement: 21 science based theses and an action plan – (prof-soehnholz.com)

Impact investing research (ESG and impact)

Voting and engagement approaches: UK Asset Owner Stewardship Review 2023: Understanding the Degree & Distribution of Asset Manager Voting Alignment by Andreas Hoepner as of Nov. 17th, 2023 (#33): “… Empirically, we observe misalignment between UK asset owners and asset managers to varying degrees. Specifically, misalignment is more pronounced (i) in recent years, (ii) for shareholder resolutions than for management resolutions, (iii) for issuers in the Americas compared with European issuers, (iv) and, on average, for non-participating than for participating asset managers (Sö regarding the survey). … (a) Only very selected asset managers publicly reason like asset owners. (b) Some asset managers somehow see voting and ESG engagement as mutually exclusive and appear to fear the loss of access to management if they voted against management. (c) Among asset managers, there appears to be a substantial divergence as to their interpretation of shareholders’ and even society’s interests. Some asset managers are aligned with asset owners, while others have fundamentally different views that may be consistent with short term commercial interest but do not reflect scientific evidence. Third, we reviewed the ESG Engagement success across all relevant issuers, which revealed three different engagement process types. Type 1 is “textbook style” persistent, long duration, large scale engagement with considerable progress. Type 2 appears to be “quick fix style” engagements which are characterised by less consistency, shorter duration, and more mixed progress. Type 3 engagements are “jumping the bandwagon style” as they appear to target only firms that already have been improved by others” (abstract). My comment: My approach and other potential shareholder engagement strategies see Shareholder engagement: 21 science based theses and an action plan – (prof-soehnholz.com) and DVFA-Fachausschuss Impact veröffentlicht Leitfaden Impact Investing – DVFA e. V. – Der Berufsverband der Investment Professionals

Risky impact? What Do Impact Investors Do Differently? by Shawn Cole, Leslie Jeng, Josh Lerner, Natalia Rigol, and Benjamin N. Roth as of Nov. 16th, 2023 (#340): “In recent years, impact investors – private investors who seek to generate simultaneously financial and social returns – have attracted intense interest and controversy. … we document that they are more likely to invest in disadvantaged areas and nascent industries and exhibit more risk tolerance and patience. We then examine the degree to which impact investors expand the financing frontier, versus investing in companies that could have attracted traditional private financing. … we find limited support for the assertion that impact investors expand the financing frontier, either in the deal-selection stage or the post-investment stage“ (abstract).

Other investment research

Lower-paid CEOs? CEO Compensation: Evidence From the Field by Alex Edmans, Tom Gosling, and Dirk Jenter as of Oct. 13th, 2023 (#3130): “We survey directors and investors on the objectives, constraints, and determinants of CEO pay. We find .. that pay matters not to finance consumption but to address CEOs’ fairness concerns. 67% of directors would sacrifice shareholder value to avoid controversy, leading to lower levels and one-size-fits-all structures. Shareholders are the main source of constraints, suggesting directors and investors disagree on how to maximize value. Intrinsic motivation and reputation are seen as stronger motivators than incentive pay“ (abstract). My comment: Within my shareholder engagement activities, I ask to disclose the CEO-medium employee pay ratio so that other interested parties can engage with the companies to reduce this typically vey large difference

Better big or small? The Size Premium in a Granular Economy by Logan P. Emery and Joren Koëter as of Nov. 21st., 2023 (#81): “… Our analysis provides robust evidence that the expected size premium increases during periods of higher stock market concentration. … we find that smaller firms receive less attention, are less likely to complete a seasoned equity offering, and have higher fundamental volatility during periods of higher stock market concentration. Moreover, our results occur predominantly among firms in industries with a greater dependence on external equity financing, or for firms with relatively low book-to-market ratios (i.e., growth firms). … we find that the expected size premium weakens following idiosyncratic shocks to the largest firms in the stock market” (p. 32).

ESG and Impact + Engagement advert for German investors

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 25 of 30 companiesFutureVest Equity Sustainable Development Goals R – DE000A2P37T6 – A2P37T or Noch eine Fondsboutique? – Responsible Investment Research Blog (prof-soehnholz.com)

Purpose scrabble word by wokandapix from pixabay

Purpose – Researchpost #149

Purpose: 14x new interesting research on free data, AI, biodiversity, gender gaps, purpose and ESG washing, geodata, shareholder engagement, financial education, ETFs, private equity and asset allocation (# shows SSRN downloads as of Oct. 26th, 2023)

Social and ecological research (Purpose)

Much (free) data: A Compendium of Data Sources for Data Science, Machine Learning, and Artificial Intelligence by Paul Bilokon, Oleksandr Bilokon, and Saeed Amen from Thalesians as of Sept. 12th, 2023 (#942): “… compendium – of data sources across multiple areas of applications, including finance and economics, legal (laws and regulations), life sciences (medicine and drug discovery), news sentiment and social media, retail and ecommerce, satellite imagery, and shipping and logistics, and sports”. My comment: My skeptical view on big data see Big Data und Machine Learning verschlechtern die Anlageperformance und Small Data ist attraktiv from 2018 and more recently How can sustainable investors benefit from artificial intelligence? – GITEX Impact – Leading ESG Event 2023

Unclear AI-Labor relation: Labor Market Exposure to AI: Cross-country Differences and Distributional Implications by Carlo Pizzinelli, Augustus Panton, Marina M. Tavares, Mauro Cazzaniga, Longji Li from the IMF as of Oct. 6th,2023 (#5): “…. a detailed cross-country analysis encompassing both Advanced Economies (AEs) and Emerging Markets (EMs) … high-skill occupations that are more prevalent in AEs, despite being more exposed, can also greatly benefit from AI. Overall, AEs have more employment than EMs in exposed occupations at both ends of the complementarity spectrum. This finding suggests that AEs may expect a more polarized impact of AI on the labor market and are thus poised to face greater risk of labor substitution but also greater benefits for productivity” (p. 31/32).

Pay for biodiversity? Revealing preferences for urban biodiversity as an environmental good by Leonie Ratzke as of Oct. 25th, 2022 (#26): “… relatively little research on urban dwellers’ preferences and willingness to pay (WTP) for urban biodiversity exists. … using a revealed preference approach based on a real estate dataset comprising around 140,000 unique entries of rental and sales transactions of apartments. I find that WTP for biodiversity is exclusively positive and economically relevant” (abstract).

Insurance gender issues: Gender-inclusive Financial and Demographic Literacy: Lessons from the Empirical Evidence by  Giovanna Apicella, Enrico G. De Giorgi, Emilia Di Lorenzo, and Marilena Sibillo as of Jan. 24th, 2023 (#104): “Consistent empirical evidence shows that women have historically experienced lower mortality rates than men. In this paper, we study a measure of the gender gap in mortality rates, we call “Gender Gap Ratio” … The evidence we provide about a Gender Gap Ratio that ranges between 1.5 and 2.5, depending on age and country, translate into a significant reduction of up to 25% in the benefits from a temporary life annuity contract for women with respect to men, against the same amount invested in the annuity. The empirical evidence discussed in this paper documents the crucial importance of working towards a more widespread demographic literacy, e.g., a range of tools and strategies to raise longevity consciousness among individuals and policy makers, in the framework of gender equality policies“ (abstract).

Corporate purpose: Sustainability Through Corporate Purpose: A New Framework for the Board of Directors by Mathieu Blanc and Jean-Luc Chenaux as of July 27th, 2023 (#106): “The definition and implementation of a corporate purpose is the most appropriate process for the board of directors and management to achieve a sustainable as well as profitable business activity, which necessarily encompasses economic, social and environmental components. The corporate purpose statement offers guidance to the managing bodies of a company to determine the necessary and difficult trade-offs between the different stakeholders and set priorities in the long-term interest of the company. In our opinion, this concept is most likely the best tool to reconcile society with business activities and remind shareholders, business leaders, customers and employees that what unites them for the development of society is much stronger that what divides them“ (p. 32). My comment: My corporate purpose is very simple: Offer liquid investment portfolios that are as sustainable as possible.

Purpose-washing? Putting Social Purpose into Your Business by Philip Mirvis of the Babson Institute for Social innovation as of Oct. 15th, 2023 (#9): “… there’s a massive “purpose gap”—large majorities of companies have purportedly proclaimed their purpose but it has not been built into their business and is either unknown to or doubted by their employees and customers. Who get this right? The research reports on how Ben & Jerry’s, Nike, Novo Nordisk, PepsiCo, and Unilever developed and implemented a “social purpose”—a pledge to address serious social problems their business operations, products, partnerships, and social issue campaigns” (abstract).

Responsible investment research (Purpose)

Costly ESG washing: When Non-Materiality is Material: Impact of ESG Emphasis on Firm Value by Sonam Singh, Ashwin V. Malshe, Yakov Bart, and Serguei Netessine as of Oct. 18th, 2023 (#63): “ESG factors are nonmaterial (material) when excluding them from corporate disclosure would not (would) significantly alter the overall information available to a reasonable investor. Using a deep learning model to earnings call transcripts of 6,730 firms from 2005 to 2021 to measure ESG emphasis the authors estimate panel data models for testing this framework. The analysis reveals a 1% increase in nonmaterial ESG emphasis decreases firm value by .30%. This negative impact on firm value is 2.12 times higher than the positive impact of material ESG emphasis. Furthermore, the negative impact of nonmaterial ESG emphasis on firm value grows over time and is more pronounced in regulated industries“ (abstract).

Geodata for ESG: Breaking the ESG rating divergence: an open geospatial framework for environmental scores by Cristian Rossi, Justin G D Byrne, and Christophe Christiaen as of Oct. 19th, 2023 (#20): “… geospatial datasets offer ESG analysts and rating agencies the ability to verify claims of company reported data, to fill in gaps where none is otherwise reported or available, or to provide new types of data that companies would not be able to provide themselves. Free to use geospatial datasets that have broad geographic coverage exist, and some are updated over time. … This paper has proposed a novel framework … to mitigate the reported divergence in ESG scores by using consistent and trusted geospatial data for environmental impact analysis at the physical asset level“ (p. 19).

Green owner success: Divestment and Engagement: The Effect of Green Investors on Corporate Carbon Emissions by Matthew E. Kahn, John Matsusaka, and Chong Shu as of Oct. 13th, 2023 (#72): “We focus on public pension funds, classifying them as green or non-green based on which political party controlled the fund. … Our main finding is that companies reduced their greenhouse gas emissions when stock ownership by green funds increased and did not alter their emissions when ownership by non-green funds changed. We find evidence that ownership and constructive engagement was more effective than confrontational tactics such as voting or shareholder proposals. We do not find that companies with green investors were more likely to sell off their polluting facilities (greenwashing). Overall, our findings suggest that (a) corporate managers respond to the environmental preferences of their investors; (b) divestment in polluting companies may be counterproductive, leading to greater emissions; and (c) private markets may be able to address environmental challenges without explicit government regulation“ (abstract). My comment: My shareholder and stakeholder engagement approach is documented here Shareholder engagement: 21 science based theses and an action plan – (prof-soehnholz.com)

Political Private Equity: ESG Disclosures in Private Equity Fund Prospectuses and Fundraising Outcomes by John L. Campbell, Owen Davidson, Paul Mason, and Steven Utke as of Sept. 9th, 2023 (#105): “We use a large language model to identify Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) disclosures in private equity (PE) brochures (Form ADV Part 2) … First, we find environmental, but not social or governance, disclosures are negatively associated with the likelihood a PE adviser raises a new fund. Second, using disclosure tone, we separately identify disclosures of ESG risk from disclosures of ESG related investment activity. We find environmental risk disclosure is negatively associated with new fund formation. In contrast, the effect of environmental investment disclosure is positive or negative depending on the political leaning of investors home state” (abstract).

Other investment research

Literate delegation: Household portfolios and financial literacy: The flight to delegation by Sarah Brown, Alexandros Kontonikas, Alberto Montagnoli, Harry Pickard, and Karl Taylor as of Oct. 17th, 2023 (#6): “ … we analyse the asset allocation of European households, focusing on developments during the period that followed the recent twin financial crises. … We provide novel evidence which suggests that the “search for yield” during the post-crisis period of low interest rates took place not by raising the direct holdings of stocks and bonds, but rather indirectly through higher mutual funds’ holdings, in line with a “flight to delegation”. Importantly, this behaviour is strongly linked to the level of financial literacy, with the most literate households displaying significantly higher use of mutual funds“ (abstract).

Fin-Ed returns: Selection into Financial Education and Effects on Portfolio Choice by Irina Gemmo, Pierre-Carl Michaud, and Olivia S. Mitchell as of Sept. 25th, 2023 (#34): “The more financially literate and those expecting higher gains pay more to purchase education, while those who consider themselves very financially literate pay less. Using portfolio allocation tasks, we show that the financial education increases portfolio efficiency and welfare by almost 20 and 3 percentage points, respectively. In our setting, selection does not greatly influence estimated program effects, comparing those participating and those who do not“ (abstract). My comment: I try to contribute to B2B financial literacy with (free) www.prof-soehnholz.com

Passive problems: Passive Investing and Market Quality by Philipp Höfler, Christian Schlag, and Maik Schmeling as of Oct. 5th, 2023 (#127): “We show that an increase in passive exchange-traded fund (ETF) ownership leads to stronger and more persistent return reversals. … we further show that more passive ownership causes higher bid-ask spreads, more exposure to aggregate liquidity shocks, more idiosyncratic volatility and higher tail risk. We … show that higher passive ETF ownership reduces the importance of firm-specific information for returns but increases the importance of transitory noise and a firm’s exposure to market-wide sentiment shocks” (abstract).

New allocation model: The CAPM, APT, and PAPM by Thomas M. Idzorek, Paul D. Kaplan, and Roger G. Ibbotson as of Sept. 9th, 2023 (#114): “Important insights and conclusions include: In the CAPM, there is only one “taste” and that is a single dimension of risk aversion. The CAPM assumes homogeneous expectations, so there is no “disagreement”. Both the APT and the PAPM have a linear structure, but in the APT an unknown factor structure is supplied by the economy, whereas in the PAPM the structure arises out of the investor demand for security characteristics, which need not be risk based. … The PAPM with “disagreement” leads to mispricing, inefficient markets, and the potential for active management. The CAPM, as well as a number of new ESG equilibrium asset pricing models, are special cases of the PAPM, which allows for any number of tastes for any number of characteristics and disagreement“ (p. 25). My comment: I prefer a much simpler and optimization-free passive asset allocation see 230720 Das Soehnholz ESG und SDG Portfoliobuch

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Liquid impact advert for German investors

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 28 of 30 companiesFutureVest Equity Sustainable Development Goals R – DE000A2P37T6 – A2P37T or Noch eine Fondsboutique? – Responsible Investment Research Blog (prof-soehnholz.com)

Liquid impact picture shows water drop by rony michaud from pixabay

Liquid impact – Researchpost #148

Liquid impact: 10x new and interesting research on greentech, sustainable jobs, ESG exclusions and ratings, green performance, greenwashing and advisor growth by Ulrich Atz, Thomas Dangl, Michael Halling and many more  (# show SSRN downloads on Oct. 19th)

Ecological and social research

Greentech: The global environmental effects of FinTech market growth by Charilaos Mertzanis as of Sept. 25th, 2023 (#13): “We contribute to the existing literature by examining the impact of aggregate values of FinTech finance on environmental performance across a sample of fifty-eight countries during the period of 2013-2019. Our findings show a small but statistically significant positive effect of FinTech finance on environmental performance within our sample. … government effectiveness emerges as a crucial factor in driving environmental performance, promoting it both directly and indirectly through fostering higher growth effects in the FinTech market“ (p. 20).

Good jobs: Hidden Figures: The State of Human Capital Disclosures for Sustainable Jobs by Ulrich Atz and Tensie Whelan as of Oct. 11th, 2023 (#34): “Sustainable jobs … can lead to better financial performance, and represent a material impact for most corporations. … Using data from six leading ESG rating providers, we demonstrate substantial reporting gaps. For example, we find that only 20% of social metrics are decision-useful and quantitative measures are missing for most firms (70-90% per metric across raters). Even turnover, a financially material metric, is only available for half of firms at best and lacks details. Two case studies, on Amazon and the quick-service restaurant industry, further illustrate the financial costs of ignoring employment quality. We also provide several practical recommendations for managers and other stakeholders“ (abstract).

Responsible investment research: Liquid impact

Rating differences: ESG Reporting Divergence by Qiang Cheng, Yun Lou, and Mengjie Yang as of Sept. 9th,2023 (#128): “ … the ESG reporting divergence measure is lower for firm-pairs using the same ESG reporting framework, with similar size, and with similar ESG performance than for other firm-pairs. We also find that the level of divergence in firms’ reporting of environmental or social activities is significantly higher than that of governance reporting … we find that a higher level of ESG reporting divergence is associated with more ESG rating disagreement among ESG rating providers and weaker association between ESG ratings and ESG fund allocation. … We also find that the informativeness of ESG ratings about firms’ future ESG performance declines with ESG reporting divergence“ (p. 34/35).

ESG exclusions: Green Dilution: How ESG Scores Conflict with Climate Investing by Noel Amenc, Felix Goltz, and Antoine Naly from EDHEC as of June 2023: “By comparing the greenness of portfolios built to have both higher ESG scores and lower carbon intensity to that of portfolios solely built to reduce carbon intensity, we are able to compute the incremental impact of the inclusion of ESG scores on carbon intensity reduction, which we call green dilution. We show green dilution is pervasive, regardless of which ESG scores are targeted as objectives, substantial, with an average of 92% across our portfolios, and robust across several alternative specifications. A 92% green dilution means that 92% of the carbon intensity reduction investors could have reached by solely weighting stocks to minimise carbon intensity is lost when adding ESG scores as a partial weight determinant. … A more sensible alternative is to separate the two objectives, by first screening out stocks with low ESG scores, and then weighting the remaining stocks by the investor’s key objective, carbon intensity in our case. Since both dimensions are unrelated, screening out stocks by ESG scores does not affect the carbon intensity distribution of the stock universe. ESG exclusions thus result in a neutral impact on portfolio carbon intensity, with a green dilution close to zero” (p. 6). My comment: I exclude low (best-in-universe and separate E, S and G) rated stocks since many years, see e.g. 140227 ESG_Paper_V3 1 (naaim.org) and Artikel 9 Fonds: Kleine Änderungen mit großen Wirkungen? – (prof-soehnholz.com)

Low emissions, high returns: Carbon emissions, stock returns and portfolio performance by Papa Orgen as of Oct. 11th, 2023 (#28): “This study offers an explanation for the absence of a carbon risk premium on the basis of firm carbon intensity. The results suggest investors became more responsive to firm-level climate risks proxied by carbon intensity in the aftermath of the Paris Climate Conference. The relationship between carbon intensity and stock performance is underpriced before the Paris Conference, but strong and economically significant afterwards. The estimated carbon premium can neither be diversified away by risk factors or size, nor can it be attributed to highly carbon-intensive sectors such as Energy, Utilities and Industrials. Moreover, portfolios with a low carbon intensity focus broadly outperform the benchmark and/or high carbon intensity portfolios regardless of firm size, beta and alpha“ (abstract).

Green performance: The impact of green investors on stock prices by Gong Cheng, Eric Jondeau, Benoit Mojon and Dimitri Vayanos from the Bank of International Settlements as of Sept. 29th, 2023: “We study the impact of green investors on stock prices in a dynamic equilibrium asset-pricing model … Contrary to the literature, we find a large fall in the stock prices of the high-emitting firms that are excluded and in turn an increase in stock prices of greener firms when the exclusion strategy is announced and during the transition process” (abstract).

Green advantage? Firm-specific Climate Risk Estimated from Public News by Thomas Dangl, Michael Halling, and Stefan Salbrechter as of Oct. 5th, 2023 (#48): “… we propose a fully data-driven methodology to estimate firm-specific climate risk from public news. … A portfolio that is long “green” stocks (low regulatory risk) and short “brown” stocks (high regulatory risk) reveals a regime shift occurring around 2012. The regulatory risk premium is positive from 2002 to 2012 (1.54% p.a.), but switches sign in the subsequent period from 2012 to 2020 and becomes significantly negative with a point estimate of -2.56%. … In addition, we find a significant positive risk premium of 1.5% p.a. for physical climate risk over the period 2002 to 2020“ (p. 51).

Costly lies: Greenwashing: Do Investors, Markets and Boards Really Care? By Erdinc Akyildirim, Shaen Corbet, Steven Ongena, and Les Oxley as of Oct. 12th, 2023 (#97): “What are the financial repercussions of corporate greenwashing? … We find a broad devaluation, with an average abnormal stock return of -0.63% …. We further find a shift in investor sentiment in parallel with the growth of social media, underscoring the potential for future swift and extensive reputational damage. … Industries inherently associated with environmental concerns, particularly energy and manufacturing, experienced more pronounced market reactions …. Furthermore, nations with robust environmental values and consciousness witnessed intensified market penalties for greenwashing …” (abstract).

Liquid impact and other investment research

Liquid impact strategies: DVFA-Leitfaden Impact Investing vom DVFA-Fachausschuss Impact vom 18. Oktober 2023: „… Additionalität nicht als notwendige Bedingung für Impact Investments gesehen werden. Stattdessen sollte besser der Beitrag einer Investition zur Lösung von ökologischen und sozialen Problemen transparent dargestellt werden. Hierfür spielen die Intentionalität sowie die Nachweisbarkeit bei der Erzielung der (netto-) positiven Wirkung eine wichtige Rolle … Erstmals werden unterschiedliche Impact- bzw. Engagementstrategien definiert (risiko- bzw. prozessorientiertes, reportingorientiertes, stakeholder- und outputorientiertes Engagement), deren Ergebnisse unterschiedlich gemessen werden können … “. Mein Kommentar: Die aktive Mitarbeit im Fachausschuß war sehr interessant und ich habe versucht, Impulse zu liefern für Engagement, vor allem Strategien, Priorisierungen und Messung, vgl. auch Shareholder engagement: 21 science based theses and an action plan – (prof-soehnholz.com)

Advisor growth: Investment Advisors to Individual Investors by Harry Mamaysky and Yuqi Zhang as of Sept. 29th, 2023 (#43): “Investment advisors are individuals who work at firms called registered investment advisors (RIAs). We focus specifically on vanilla RIAs, whose main business is advising individuals on how they should invest. Using a novel data set of annually mandated SEC filings, we document how services, fees, advertising, misconduct, and M&A activity have evolved in the vanilla RIA sector. We show how these factors impact RIA growth, as well as how their impact on RIA growth is related to future industry evolution. We introduce a novel measure of vanilla RIA performance and show it is related to future asset flows” (abstract).

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Liquid impact advert for German investors

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 29 of 30 engaged companiesFutureVest Equity Sustainable Development Goals R – DE000A2P37T6 – A2P37T or Noch eine Fondsboutique? – Responsible Investment Research Blog (prof-soehnholz.com)

ESG inlfationn illustration with green globe by Geerd Atmann from Pixabay

ESG inflation – Researchpost #147

ESG inflation: 18x interesting new research on real estate, pharma, monetary policy, fires, innovation, banks, corporate culture, ESG and climate funds, carbon premium, greenium, purpose, shareholder engagement, ETFs, structured products, art and crypto investing (# shows the number of full paper downloads at SSRN as of Oct. 13th, 2023)

Social research: ESG inflation

Positive big real estate: The Impact of Institutional Investors on Homeownership and Neighborhood Access by Joshua Coven as of Sept. 19th, 2023 (#89): “(Sö: Institutional buy to rent) … investors made it harder for households to purchase homes, but easier for the financially constrained to live in neighborhoods that previously had few rental options. B2R investors, by raising prices, benefited homeowners who held housing in B2R regions because they experienced capital gains. … I find that for every home B2R bought, they decreased the housing available for owner occupancy by 0.3 homes. It was not a 1:1 decrease because the demand shock triggered a supply response, and B2R investors crowded out other landlords. … I find that B2R increased the supply of rentals and lowered rents. … I also show with individual location data that B2R increased access to the neighborhoods for the financially constrained by providing rentals in areas with few rentals” (p.28/29). My comment: I consider residential listed real estate companies (REITs) to be typically aligned with SDG-goals. This research supports my hypothesis.

Pharma ESG: Aligning Environmental, Social, and Governance to Clinical Development: Moving 2 Towards More Sustainable Clinical Trials by Sandeep N. Athalye, Shylashree Baraskar, Shivani Mittra, and Elena Wolff-Holz as of Oct. 5th, 2023 (#13): “Innovation in clinical trials that delivers affordable access to life-saving therapeutics for patients worldwide is fast becoming the core of the ESG strategy. The way clinical trials are conducted has a significant impact on the environment and planetary health. Drug development is among the highest producers of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, with about 4.4-4.6% of the worldwide GHG emissions coming from the Pharma sector. … This article discusses/reviews how clinical researchers can align with the ESG goals for efficient conduct of clinical trials of biologics as well as their biosimilars“ (abstract).

Ecological research: ESG inflation

Carbon money policy: Does Monetary Policy Shape the Path to Carbon Neutrality? by Robin Döttling and Adrian Lam as of Oct. 4th, 2023 (#76): “… this paper documents that — in the US — stock prices of firms with relatively higher carbon emissions are more sensitive to monetary policy shocks. Consistent with the valuation results, we find that high-emission firms reduce their emissions relative to low-emission firms, but slow down emission-reduction efforts when monetary policy is tight“ (p. 28).

Northern problem: Explosive Temperatures by Marc Gronwald as of Oct. 9th, 2023 (#18):“The paper finds, first, that global temperatures are explosive. Second, the paper also finds clear evidence of temporary explosiveness in Northern hemispheric data while in the Southern hemisphere respective evidence is much weaker. … The empirical pattern described here is attributable to so-called Arctic amplification, a phenomenon widely discussed in the climate science literature …” (p. 14/15).

Fire locations: Forest Fires: Why the Large Year-to-Year Variation in Forests Burned? By Jay Apt, Dennis Epple, and Fallaw Sowell as of Oct. 9th, 2023 (#10): “California has 4% of the land area of the United States, but over the 36-year period of our sample (1987-2022) California averaged 13% of the total US forest area burned. … We find that 75 percent of the variability in forest area burned can be accounted for by variation in six variables: the mean of maximum annual temperatures, prior year precipitation, new housing construction, net electricity imports, and variation in AMO and ENSO (Sö: Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation (AMO) and El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO)“ (p. 17).

Climate cooperation: Induced Innovation and International Environmental Agreements: Evidence from the Ozone Regime by Eugenie Dugoua as of Oct. 6th, 2023 (#11): “This paper revisits one of the rare success stories in global environmental cooperation: the Montreal Protocol and the phase-out of ozone-depleting substances. I show that the protocol increased science and innovation on alternatives to ozone-depleting substances, and argue that agreements can indeed be useful to solving global public goods problems. This contrasts with game-theoretical predictions that agreements occur only when costs to the players are low, and with the often-heard narrative that substitutes were readily available“ (abstract)

Unclear GHG bank data: Assessing the data challenges of climate-related disclosures in European banks. A text mining study by Angel Ivan Moreno and Teresa Caminero of Banco de Espana as of Oct. 5th, 2023 (#25): “The Climate Data Steering Committee (CDSC) is working on an initiative to create a global central digital repository of climate disclosures, which aims to address the current data challenges. … Using a text-mining approach, coupled with the application of commercial Large Language Models (LLM) for context verification, we calculate a Greenhouse Gas Disclosure Index (GHGDI), by analysing 23 highly granular disclosures in the ESG reports between 2019 and 2021 of most of the significant banks under the ECB’s direct supervision. This index is then compared with the CDP score. The results indicate a moderate correlation between institutions not reporting to CDP upon request and a low GHGDI. Institutions with a high CDP score do not necessarily correlate with a high GHGDI“ (abstract).

Cleaner culture: Environmental Externalities of Corporate Culture: Evidence from Firm Pollution by Wenquan Li, Suman Neupane, and Kelvin Jui Keng Tan as of Oct. 9th, 2023 (#48): “We find that firms with a strong culture tend to have lower toxic emission levels and pollution intensity compared to those with a weak culture. … Further evidence shows that cultural values related to teamwork, innovation, respect, and integrity mainly drive the negative relationship between corporate culture and firm pollution. … Moreover, we find that enhanced diversity and increased investment in R&D activities serve as two potential channels through which a strong corporate culture affects firms’ pollution reduction efforts. Moreover, our results suggest that the decrease in firm pollution does not come at the expense of production. … when facing a less regulatory burden, firms with a strong culture proactively address environmental concerns, whereas firms with a weak culture increase toxic releases” (p. 36/37).

Responsible investment research: ESG Inflation

ESG inflation? ESG names and claims in the EU fund industry by European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) as of October 2nd, 2023: “Focussing on EU investment funds … Using a novel dataset with historical information on 36,000 funds managing EUR 16 trillion of assets, we find that funds increasingly use ESG-related language in their names, and that investors consistently prefer funds with ESG words in their name“ (p. 3). My comment: My fund has no ESG in it’s name although it applies very strict Best-in-Universe ESG criteria and many 100% exclusions, see e.g. Active or impact investing? – (prof-soehnholz.com)

Climate fund deficits: Investing in Times of Climate Change 2023 by Hortense Bioy, Boya Wang, Alyssa Stankiewicz and Biddappa A R from Morningstar as of September 2023: “We identified more than 1,400 open-end and exchange-traded funds with a climate-related mandate as of June 2023, compared with fewer than 200 in 2018. Assets in these funds have surged 30% in the past 18 months to USD 534 billion, boosted by inflows and product development. Fueled by higher investor interest and regulation, Europe remains the largest and most diverse climate fund market, accounting for 84% of global assets. … Against a backdrop of high oil and gas prices, falling valuations in renewable energy stocks, and despite the Inflation Reduction Act, assets in U.S. climate funds have grown by only 4% in the past 18 months to USD 31.7 billion. … Funds offering exposure to climate solutions also exhibit high carbon intensity. These funds tend to invest in transitioning companies that operate in high-emitting sectors, such as utilities, energy, and industrials, and that are developing solutions to help reduce their own emissions and those of others. None of the most common companies in climate funds are aligned to 1.5° Celsius. The most popular stocks in broad market climate portfolios are more misaligned than those in portfolios that target climate solutions, with average Implied Temperature Rises of 3.3°C versus 2.4°C. This can be explained by the high and difficult-to-manage carbon emissions coming from the supply chain and/or customers (Scope 3 upstream and downstream) of top companies in broad market portfolios“ (p. 1). My comment: My SDG-aligned fund avoids fossil fuels but is only partly focused on climate solutions, clean energy and cleantech. Current data shows a 1.9°C Temperature Alignment for Scope 1+2 and 2.9°C including Scope 3, see www.futurevest.fund

Emissions pay: Does the Carbon Premium Reflect Risk or Mispricing? by Yigit Atilgan, K. Ozgur Demirtas, and Alex Edmans as of Sept. 25th, 2023 (#12782): “… the level of and change in all three scopes of carbon emissions is significantly associated with both higher earnings surprises and higher earnings announcement returns, but carbon intensities are not. The four earnings announcements each year account for 30- 50% of the carbon premium in both levels and changes. … emitting firms are able to enjoy superior earnings surprises, earnings announcement returns, and realized returns because they do not fully bear the consequences (nor are they expected to fully bear the consequences) of their polluting activity“ (p. 11).

Green hedge: Greenium Fluctuations and Climate Awareness in the Corporate Bond Market Massimo Dragottoa , Alfonso Dufoura , and Simone Varotto as of Sept. 19th, 2023 (#55): “… green bonds generally trade at a premium in comparison to their non-green counterparts. Further, we have identified dynamic fluctuations in the greenium over time, which correspond to major climate change-related events and policy decisions. … Bonds that have been externally reviewed exhibit an (up to five time) larger greenium than non-certified bonds. …. certified green bonds can also garner a ‘green premium’ during these (Sö: natural disaster) events, with the scale of this premium directly being influenced by the extent of disaster damages. … increased demand for environmentally responsible investments translates into lower spreads for green and conventional bonds issued by companies that are actively working to address climate change issues, such as the green issuers in our sample. The effect is even stronger for certified green bonds“ (p. 17/18).

ESG compensation? What Purpose Do Corporations Purport? Evidence from Letters to Shareholders by Raghuram Rajan, Pietro Ramella, and Luigi Zingales as of March 18th, 2023 (#877): “In spite of the proliferation of corporate goals, we find that executive compensation remains overwhelmingly focused on shareholder value, as measured by stock prices and financial performance. While we do observe an increase in the use of environmental and social metrics in compensation, especially by firms that announce such goals, the magnitude of this relationship is still small. We also find corporate statements of ESG goals are associated with policies and programs that favor those goals, but there is little evidence that it improves the firm’s measurable ESG outcomes“ (p. 37).

No engagement monopoly? Big Three (Dis)Engagements by Dhruv Aggarwal, Lubomir Litov, and Shivaram Rajgopal as of Oct. 5th, 2023 (#117): “This paper uses newly available data to empirically analyze how the three largest asset managers (BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street) engage with portfolio companies” (abstract). … “The revelation that a portfolio firm is targeted for engagement leads it to exhibit negative abnormal returns. However, the magnitude of value destruction is tiny, ranging from 10 to 50 basis points, and transient, concentrated in the days immediately around the public revelation of the engagement effort. … engagement is significantly correlated with the extent of the asset managers’ ownership stake in the firm and the CEO’s total compensation. Both these variables are easily available heuristics that can be used by the Big Three’s understaffed stewardship teams to select engagement targets. … BlackRock and Vanguard become less likely to vote against management the year after they select a portfolio company for engagement. … Companies do not reduce CEO compensation, increase female board representation, or become less likely to have dual class structures after being targeted for engagement by the largest asset managers“ (p. 26/27). My comment: If Blackrock has only 15 engagement professionals, then my fund has relatively more shareholder engagement resources. My approach see Shareholder engagement: 21 science based theses and an action plan – (prof-soehnholz.com)

Other investment research

Active index funds? Discretionary Investing by ‘Passive’ S&P 500 Funds by Peter Molk and Adriana Robertson as of Aug.28th, 2023 (#169): “… we examine funds that track the most prominent index, the S&P 500. S&P 500 index funds do not typically commit, in a legally enforceable sense, to holding even a representative sample of the underlying index, nor do they commit to replicating the returns of that index. Managers therefore have the legal flexibility to depart substantially from the underlying index’s holdings. We also show that these departures are commonplace: S&P 500 index funds routinely depart from the underlying index by meaningful amounts, in both percentage and dollar terms. While these departures are largest among smaller funds, they are also present among mega-funds: even among the largest S&P 500 funds, holdings differ from the index by a total of between 1.7% and 7.5% in the fourth quarter of 2022” (abstract).

Structured product markets: Essays on Structured Products 2022 by Jacob H Schmidt and Esha Pilinja as of Sept. 26th, 2023 (#78): “Over the past 30 years structured products (SP) have become popular with all investors – institutional, family offices, high-net-worth individuals and retail investors. But what are structured products? Put simply, SP are investment products linked to equities, fixed income (bonds or interest rates), commodities or any other market or underlying asset, with or without derivatives overlay, with or without leverage, with or without capital guarantee. Crypto-linked products are the latest variant. …. we present ten essays on structured products in wealth management … The focus is on the role, risk-return profile and applications of structured products in wealth management, in different countries and for different investors“ (abstract). My comment: Several essays seem to be too optimistic but I find the ones from Karl David Bok on risks and from Fereydoun Valizadeh on Switzerland and Anna Sandberg on Germany interesting.

Art investment research: A Bilbliometric Analysis of Art in Financial Markets by  Diana Barro, Antonella Basso, Stefania Funari, Guglielmo Alessandro Visentin as of Oct. 6th, 2023 (#25): “Over 250 scholars contributed to writing 181 articles on art in financial markets, published in almost 100 journals. … a relatively small fraction of authors is responsible for a large percentage of the contributions. We have identified the most relevant papers, journals, and authors in the field …“ (p. 23).

Crypto infections: New Evidence on Spillovers Between Crypto Assets and Financial Markets by Roshan Iyer and Adina Popescu from the International Monetary Fund as of October 5th, 2023 (#52): „The paper finds that crypto asset markets exhibit a high level of integration, potentially surpassing other asset classes, with significant spillovers in terms of both returns and volatilities. Over time, this connectedness has shown an upward trend, especially following 2017, reaching its peak during the early phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. … Although Ethereum stands out in terms of the number of spillovers to other coins in the more recent period, various other coins also play significant roles in transmitting spillovers … we find that crypto assets exhibit a significant level of connectedness with global equities, while the spillovers with bond indices and the USD are relatively modest. Volatility spillovers between crypto assets and the VIX and commodity prices are also pronounced, with gold in particular receiving substantial spillovers from crypto assets” (p. 31/32).

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Advert for German investors:

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 30 of 30 engaged companiesFutureVest Equity Sustainable Development Goals R – DE000A2P37T6 – A2P37T or Noch eine Fondsboutique? – Responsible Investment Research Blog (prof-soehnholz.com)

Impactinvsting ideas illustrated by picture of tree by umut avci from Puxabay

Impactinvesting ideas – Researchblog #145

Impactinvesting ideas: 12x new research on terrorism, migrants, emissions, innovations, ESG-ratings, sustainable debt, impactinvesting, directors, ETFs, gamification and concentration by Timo Busch, Harald Hau, Ulrich Hege, Thorsten Hens and many more (#: SSRN downloads on Sept. 28th, 2023)

Social research

Terror success: Terrorism and Voting: The Rise of Right-Wing Populism in Germany by Navid Sabet, Marius Liebald, Guido Friebel as of Sept. 25th, 2023 (#15): “… we find that successful (Sö terror) attacks lead to significant increases in the vote share for the right-wing, populist Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party. Our results are predominantly observable in state elections, though attacks that receive high media coverage increase the AfD vote share in Federal elections. These patterns hold even though most attacks are motivated by right-wing causes and target migrants. Using a longitudinal panel of individuals, we find successful terror leads individuals to prefer the AfD more and worry more about migration” (abstract).

Integration deficits: The Integration of Migrants in the German Labor Market: Evidence over 50 Years by Paul Berbée and Jan Stuhler as of Sept. 25th, 2023 (#47): “First, employment profiles tend to be concave, with low initial employment but rapidly increasing employment in the first years after arrival (convergence). However, income gaps widen with more time in Germany (divergence). … Second, for most groups the employment gaps do not close, despite the initial catch-up. … Third, the income and employment gaps close partially in the second generation, but the employment gaps shrink by only 25% and remain large for some groups. Finally, the perhaps most striking observation is the sudden collapse of employment among earlier arrivals from Turkey in the early 1990s. … The employment shares of the refugees arriving around 2015 are similar to earlier refugee cohorts, despite the unusual favorable labor market conditions and the increased focus on integration policies. Their predicted long-term gaps in employment (about 20-25 pp.) are more than twice as large as the corresponding gap for Ukrainian refugees (about 10 pp.). … Summing up, immigration has become indispensable for the German economy, and the experience from more than 50 years shows that many migrant groups achieve substantial employment rates and incomes. However, barriers to integration persist, and while integration policies have improved along some dimensions, as yet we see no systematic improvements in integration outcomes over time (“p. 36/37).

Ecological research

Loose commitments: Behind Schedule: The Corporate Effort to Fulfill Climate Obligations by Joseph E. Aldy, Patrick Bolton, Zachery M. Halem, and Marcin Kacperczyk as of Sept. 20th, 2023 (#66):  “We analyze corporate commitments to reduce carbon emissions. We show that companies in their decisions to commit are more driven by external shareholder pressure and reputational concerns rather than economic motives due to cost of capital effects. We further show that many companies focus on short-term pledges many of which get revised over time. Despite the growth in commitment movement, we find that most companies have fallen behind on their commitments for reasons that could be both systematic and idiosyncratic in nature“ (abstract).

Innovative suppliers: Climate Innovation and Carbon Emissions: Evidence from Supply Chain Networks by Ulrich Hege, Kai Li, and Yifei Zhang as of Sept. 14th, 2023 (#83): “… we ask (i) whether climate innovation invented by a supplier firm allows its customer firms to reduce CO2 emissions, and (ii) whether climate innovation facilitates the acquisition of new business customers and what types of customers. We find that climate innovations help customer firms to reduce carbon emissions …. Emissions savings are accentuated for high-emission firms and firm with stronger environmental concerns. … We show that customer firms generally have a strong preference for suppliers’ climate innovations. Moreover, we show that climate innovation allows suppliers to expand their customer base. We find that the capacity to attract new customers is more pronounced for customers with a strong preference for reducing their carbon footprint: these include firms with a strong preference for environmental protection, measured by their high environmental scores in their ESG ratings, but also firms with elevated GHG emissions that presumably anticipate regulatory or investor pressure to curtail their GHG emissions“ (p. 31/32). My comment regarding supplier relations see Supplier engagement – Opinion post #211 – Responsible Investment Research Blog (prof-soehnholz.com)

ESG investment research: Impactinvesting ideas

E-Rating divergence: Environmental data and scores: Lost in translation by Enrico Bernardini, Marco Fanari, Enrico Foscolo, and Francesco Ruggiero from the Bank of Italy as of Sept. 19th, 2023 (#26): “… we find that environmental data have meaningful, although limited, explanatory power for the E-scores. … the scores of some providers are more related to raw data …. We identify some variables as significant and common across several providers, such as forward-looking measures like the presence of reduction targets for emissions and resource use as well as environmental and renewable energy policies. … We find the latent component to be heterogeneous across providers and this evidence may be due to different materiality in the providers’ assessments. Indeed, some providers focus their analysis on how the corporate financial conditions are affected by environmental issues, while others consider how corporate conduct can affect environmental conditions and others consider both perspectives (”double materiality”)” (p. 20).

More “sustainable” debt: Do Sustainable Companies Receive More Debt? The Role of Sustainability Profiles and Sustainability-related Debt Instruments by Julia Meyer and Beat Affolter as of Aug. 20th, 2023 (#89): “We have made use of three different sources of data to classify companies into one of three groups: (i) companies avoiding ESG risks (using the ESG rating), (ii) companies contributing to the SDGs (SDG score), and (iii) companies committed to transformation (SBTi targets or commitments). First, our results show that sustainability-related debt is largely issued by sustainable companies in all three dimensions. — Secondly, … we find a significant increase in levels of debt for more sustainable companies in all three dimensions. However, this increase seems not to be linked to the issuance of sustainability related debt instruments …. Our results, therefore, indicate that lenders have started to incorporate sustainability and transformation assessments over time and that good sustainability performance (again in all three dimensions) has led to additional debt financing compared to companies with a low sustainability performance” (p. 20).

Impactinvesting ideas: Research

Reactions to pollution: Sustainable Investing in Imperfect Markets by Thorsten Hens and Ester Trutwin as of Sept. 21st, 2023 (#42): “Given that the price for polluting the environment is too low, we show that impact investing can lead to a second-best solution. If at the margin the technology is ”clean”, investment should be increased while a capital reduction is appropriate if at the margin the firm’s technology is ”dirty”. However, sustainable investing requires households to anticipate the firm’s pollution activity. Therefor we show how the same solution can be implemented with ESG investing in which the burden of knowledge lies on the rating agency. Finally, we indicate that the first-best solution can be achieved by sustainable consumption” (abstract) My comment on impactinvesting ideas see Active or impact investing? – (prof-soehnholz.com)

Few Institutional directors: Do Institutional Directors Matter? by Heng Geng, Harald Hau, Roni Michaely, and Binh Nguyen as of Feb. 21st, 2023 (#168): “We find that board representation by institutional investors is relatively rare in U.S. public firms compared to the high institutional ownership in U.S. public firms. Only 7.61% of Compustat firm-years from 1999-2016 feature at least one institutional director representing an institutional shareholder owning more than 1% of outstanding shares. Second, Additional analyses indicate that banks, sophisticated investors (e.g., hedge funds, private equity), and activist shareholders are likely to obtain board seats. By contrast, large retail funds generally do not seek board representation. Common institutional directors representing the so-called “Big Three” asset management companies, which are concerned most for the potential antitrust implications, are only found in only 37 intra-industry firm pairs. Our third set of results reveals that rival firms sharing institutional investors rarely feature joint board representation by the same institutional investor. More importantly, in the rare cases of joint board representation, we do not find evidence that such overlapping board representation is related to higher profit margins than what is already predicted by common institutional ownership in a firm pair” (p. 23/24). My comment: Selecting adequate board directors is one of many potential of impactinvesting ideas

Practical Impactinvesting ideas: Principles for Impact Investments: Practical guidance for measuring and assessing the life cycle, magnitude, and tradeoffs of impact investments by Timo Busch, Eric Pruessner and Hendrik Brosche as of Sept. 26th, 2023 (#62): “For the impact life cycle, we propose a clear set of principles that create a standard for how impact-aligned and impact-generating investments should measure and assess impact. Regarding the topic of impact magnitude, the principles provide guidance for how large a company impact must be for impact investments to be considered significant. Ideally by using thresholds to determine the magnitude of a company impact, impact investments are directly connected to sustainable development objectives“ (p. 19).

Other investment research

ETF effects: Rise of Passive Investing – Effects on Price Level, Market Volatility, and Price Informativeness by Paweł Bednarek as of Sept. 12th, 2023 (#117): “I find that the growth of passive investing did not increase the overall price level, thus contradicting the common ETF bubble hypothesis, which postulated that rapid growth in passive strategies may lead to the detachment of prices of these securities from fundamentals. … We estimate that about 10% of current market volatility can be attributed to the rise of passive investing. It also resulted in diminished price informativeness due to weakened information acquisition. Further reduction in passive management fees will strengthen these effects“ (abstract).

The bank wins: The Gamification of Banking by Colleen Baker and Christopher K. Odinet as of Sept. 26th, 2023 (#42): “After providing an overview of gamification in general, we examined its rise in the context of stock trading … We next turned to early appearances of gamification in banking … we think that its pace is about to accelerate. Our perspective is supported by a number of examples involving banks and fintechs partnering or combining to offer banking services through a game-like interface. As in Truist’s case, bank-fintech partnerships are on the cusp of the gamification of banking that we predict will develop in three stages, culminating with meg one-stop-shop financial intermediary platforms anchored by cloud computing service providers“ (p. 39/40).

Better >10 stocks: Underperformance of Concentrated Stock Positions by Antti Petajisto as of Aug. 28th, 2023 (#473): “… we find that the median stock has underperformed the cap-weighted market portfolio by 7.9% over rolling ten-year investment periods (or 0.82% per year) since 1926. The relative underperformance over rolling ten-year periods increases to 17.8% (or 1.94% per year) when considering only stocks whose performance ranked in the top 20% over the prior five years. … the observed underperformance of the median stock applies across all industry groups and among both the smallest and largest stocks“ (p. 18/19). My comment: In this research concentrated means 10% or higher allocation to every stock. Here you find more research and my opinion: 30 stocks, if responsible, are all I need – Responsible Investment Research Blog (prof-soehnholz.com)

………………………………………………………………………………….

Advert for German investors:

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 29 of 30 engaged companiesFutureVest Equity Sustainable Development Goals R – DE000A2P37T6 – A2P37T

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Customer ESG engagement picture shows sales increase by Elle Ritter from Pixabay

Customer ESG engagement – Opinion Post #212

Customer ESG engagement is my term for shareholder engagement with the goal to address corporate customers regarding ESG-topics. First, I want to help my respective portfolio companies to improve their ESG-profiles. In addition, I want to help to increase corporate revenues and thus to improve the returns for the clients in my investment portfolios.

Here I provide an overview of current scientific research regarding customer ESG engagement topics. I also explain my respective recommendations for the companies I am invested in.

The other two stakeholder groups which I address with my “leveraged shareholder engagement” are suppliers (see Supplier engagement – Opinion post #211 – Responsible Investment Research Blog (prof-soehnholz.com)) and employees (compare HR-ESG shareholder engagement: Opinion-Post #210 – Responsible Investment Research Blog (prof-soehnholz.com)).

Unfortunately, I did not find much research on the link between ESG quality of companies (which is typically measured with ESG ratings) and corporate revenues.

Customer ESG engagement goal 1: Avoid or reduce negative aspects

My first hypothesis: If ESG quality (ratings) declines and customers are informed about the reasons for this change, they may react in buying less from the negatively affected companies. Here are two recent studies which support this hypothesis:

Negative ESG aspects (1): How Does ESG Shape Consumption? by Joel F. Houston, Chen Lin, Hongyu Shan, and Mo Shen as of June 11, 2023: “Our study explores the effects of more than 1600 negative events captured from the RepRisk database, on 150 million point-of-sale consumption observations … Our baseline findings show that the average negative event generates a 5 – 10 % decrease in sales for the affected product in the six months following the event“ (p. 23/24).

Negative aspects (2): Assessing the Impact of ESG Violations on Brand-Level Sales by Yao Chen, Rakesh Mallipeddi, M. Serkan Akturk, and Arvind Mahajan as of June 22nd, 2023 (no full paper free download): “This study examines the effects of negative Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) news on the sales of retail brands. … our results reveal that news coverage of firms‘ violations related to ESG significantly affects brand sales” (abstract).

The effects in the business-to-business market may be even larger. On the other hand, substituting a professional supplier with another one is typically time-consuming and costly.

Customer ESG engagement goal 2: Support positive aspects

My second hypothesis: If ESG quality (ratings) improves and customers are informed about the reasons for this change, they may react in buying more (volume effect) from the positively affected companies or pay them more (price effect).

Here are two recent studies which support this hypothesis:

Positive aspects (1): Do Consumers Care About ESG? Evidence from Barcode-Level Sales Data by Jean-Marie Meier, Henri Servaes, Jiaying Wei, and Steven Chong Xiao as of July 11th, 2023: “… we find that higher E&S ratings positively affect subsequent local product sales. … revenue also declines after the release of negative E&S news. … we find a significant increase in the sensitivity of local retail sales to firm E&S performance after … (Sö: natural and environmental) disaster events for counties located closer to the events“ (p. 23).

Positive aspects (2): The Return on Sustainability Investment (ROSI): Monetizing Financial Benefits of Sustainability Actions in Companies by Ulrich Atz, Tracy Van Holt, Elyse Douglas and Tensie Whelan as of Jan. 23rd, 2022: “The beef supply chain yielded a potential net present value (NPV) between 0.01 percent to 12 percent of annual revenue, depending on the supply chain segment. For one automotive company, the five-year NPV (Sö: Net present value) based on realized benefits was 12 percent of annual revenue“ (abstract).

Investors can influence corporations

If corporate ESG quality can influence revenues and if investors can influence corporate ESG quality, this can be a win-win situation.

I have written in the past about the potential impact of investors on corporations and my shareholder engagement approach (see Shareholder engagement: 21 science based theses and an action plan – (prof-soehnholz.com)). Here is an exemplary research study explicitly mentioning the potential for customer ESG engagement:

Good for stakeholders: Engagement on Environmental, Social, and Governance Performance by Tamas Barko, Martijn Cremers, and Luc Renneboog as of Nov. 18th, 2022: “Our results thus suggest that the activism regarding corporate social responsibility generally improves ESG practices and corporate sales and is profitable to the activist. Taken together, we provide direct evidence that ethical investing and strong financial performance, both from the activist’s and the targeted firm’s perspective, can go hand-in-hand together” (abstract).

I try to invest in the already most sustainable companies (see for example Active or impact investing? – (prof-soehnholz.com)). Therefore, my customer ESG engagement focuses on informing customers, that ESG is important for the respective companies. In addition, I want to encourage customers to suggest ESG improvements for the companies I am invested in.

My customer ESG engagement recommendations

I expect easier and faster adoption of my shareholder proposals for simple and low cost recommendations. Many companies already use regular customer surveys. Adding additional questions to such surveys should be rather easy for them.

I propose regular and formal questions to customers such as “How satisfied are you with the environmental, social and corporate governance activities of “your company”?” and “Which environmental, social and corporate governance improvements do you suggest to “your company”?” plus the publication of the main results of the answers in the next sustainability report“

With these questions, I also want to help to educate customers on ESG topics, since the surveys should be accompagnied by some basic ESG information. Also, if customers find ESG important, as I expect, then company internal ESG-sceptics may become less negative on ESG. Thirdly, regularly measuring customer ESG satisfaction can help to monitor customers ESG perception changes. With the publication of the main survey results e.g. in regular sutainability reports, other stakeholders can monitor these perception changes and intervene, if they want.

Since I only started my shareholder engagement by the end of last year, I cannot report much adoption of my proposals yet. But the good news is that I am currently in more or less active discussions with 29 of my 30 portfolio companies. I am confident, that at least a few companies will introduce such survey questions and thus position themselves even more as ESG-leaders.

Research such as “A Test of Stakeholder Governance” by Stavros Gadinis and Amelia Miazad as of Aug. 25th, 2021 is one of the reasons for optimism on my part. They summarise: „Our findings suggest that companies turned to stakeholders during the pandemic with increasing frequency and asked for input on issues that are central to their business … Today, stakeholder governance seeks to proactively cover the company’s social profile as comprehensively as possible, collecting information in a regular and standardized manner“ (abstract).

And, with publications such as this blog post, maybe I can encourage others to support such broad stakeholder engagement activities as well.

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