Archiv der Kategorie: Impact

Nutrition changes: Picture shows aubergine caricature by nneem from Pixabay

Nutrition changes: Researchpost #163

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

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

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

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

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

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

Responsible investment research (in: “Nutrition changes”)

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

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

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

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

Impact investment research (in: “Nutrition changes”)

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

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

Other investment research

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

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

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

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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)

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

Impact washing? Researchpost #162

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

Responsible investment research (In: Impact washing?)

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

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

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

Other investment research (In: Impact washing?)

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

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

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

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

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

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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)

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)

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

Diversification myths: Researchpost #159

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

Social and ecological research

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

ESG investment research (Diversification myths)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Impact investing research

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

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

Other investment research (Diversification myths)

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

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

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

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

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

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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 research criticism illustration with detective picture from Mariana Anatoneag from Pixabay

ESG research criticism? Researchpost #156

ESG research criticism: 13x new research on e-commerce, petrochemical and corruption problems, good and average sustainable performance, high transition risks, EU Taxonomy, Greenium, climate disaster effects, good investment constraints and private equity benchmarks (# shows SSRN full paper downloads as of Dec. 14th, 2023)

Social and ecological research (ESG research criticism)

Brown e-commerce: Product flows and GHG emissions associated with consumer returns in the EU by Rotem Roichman, Tamar Makov, Benjamin Sprecher, Vered Blass, and Tamar Meshulam as of Dec. 6th, 2023 (#5):“Building on a unique dataset covering over 630k returned apparel items in the EU … Our results indicate that 22%-44% of returned products never reach another consumer. Moreover, GHG emissions associated with the production and distribution of unused returns can be 2-14 times higher than post-return transport, packaging, and processing emissions combined“ (abstract).

US financed European petrochemicals: Toxic Footprints Europe by Planet Tracker as of December 2023: “Petrochemicals, which provide feedstocks for numerous products embedded in the global economy, carry a significant environmental footprint. One of the most important is toxic emissions. The financial market appears largely unconcerned by toxic emissions. This could be for several reasons: • perhaps because they are viewed as an unpriced pollutant or investors’ focus remains on carbon rather than other discharges or for those monitoring the plastic industry the spotlight is on plastic waste rather than toxic releases. In the Trilateral Chemical Region of Europe – an area consisting of Flanders (Belgium), North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany), Planet Tracker identified 1,093 facilities …. These facilities have released and transferred 125 million tonnes of chemicals since 2010 resulting in an estimated 24,640 years of healthy life being lost and 57 billion fractions of species being potentially affected. … BASF and Solvay are the most toxic polluters in the region, appearing in the top 5 of all four metrics analysed (physical releases, ecotoxicity, human toxicity and RSEI hazard).  The financiers behind these toxic footprints are led by BlackRock (5.4% of total investments by equity market value), Vanguard (5.2%) and JPMorgan Chase (3.6%). In terms of debt financing, Citigroup leads with 6.4% of total 10-year capital underwriting (including equity, loans and bonds), followed closely by JPMorgan Chase (6.3%) and Bank of America (5.2%)“ (p. 3).

Corruption Kills: Global Evidence from Natural Disasters by Serhan Cevik and João Tovar Jalles from the International Monetary Fund as of Nov. 2nd, 2023 (#12): “… we use a large panel of 135 countries over a long period spanning from 1980 to 2020 … The empirical analysis provides convincing evidence that widespread corruption increases the number of disaster-related deaths … the difference between the least and most corrupt countries in our sample implies a sixfold increase in the number of deaths per population caused by natural disaster in a given year. Our results show that this impact is stronger in developing countries than in advanced economies, highlighting the critical relationship between economic development and institutional capacity in strengthening good governance and combating corruption“ (p. 11/12).

Investment ESG research criticsm

Complex sustainability: Sustainability of financial institutions, firms, and investing by Bram van der Kroft as of Dec. 7th, 2023 (#22): “… financial institutions will take on additional risk in ways unpriced by regulators when facing financial constraints. Throughout the paper, we provide evidence that this additional risk-taking harms society as banks and insurance corporations acquire precisely those assets most affected in economic downturns” (p. 194) … “we find for over four thousand listed firms in 77 countries, as two-thirds of firms substantively improve their sustainable performance when institutional pressure is imprecise and increases, while one-third of firms are forced to start symbolically responding” (p. 196) … “One critical assumption underlining .. sustainable performance advances is that socially responsible investors can accurately identify sustainable firms. In practice, we show that these investors rely on inaccurate estimates of sustainable performance and accidentally “tilt the wrong firms” (p. 196) … “First, we find that MSCI IVA, FTSE, S&P, Sustainalytics, and Refinitiv ESG ratings do not reflect the sustainable performance of firms but solely capture their forward-looking sustainable aspirations. On average, these aspirations do not materialize up to 15 years in the future” (p. 84). …“Using unique identification in the real estate market and property-level sustainable performance information, we find that successful socially responsible engagement improves the sustainable performance of firms”(p. 196). My comment regarding the already published ESG rating criticism: Not all rating agencies work in the criticized way. My main ESG ratings supplier shifted its focuses to actual from planned sustainability (see my Researchpost #90 as of July 5th, 2022 relating to this paper: Tilting the Wrong Firms? How Inflated ESG Ratings Negate Socially Responsible Investing under Information Asymmetries).

ESG research criticism (1)? Comment and Replication: The Impact of Corporate Sustainability on Organizational Processes and Performance by Andrew A. King as of Dec. 7th, 2023 (#186): “Do High Sustainability companies have better financial performance than their Low Sustainability counterparts? An extremely influential publication in Management Science, “The Impact of Corporate Sustainability on Organizational Processes and Performance”, claims that they do. … after reviewing the report, I conclude that its critical findings are unjustified by its own evidence: its main method appears unworkable, a key finding is miscalculated, important results are uninterpretable, and the sample is biased by survival and selection. … Despite considering estimates from thousands of models, I find no reliable evidence for the proposed link between sustainability and financial performance” (abstract). My comment: If there is no negative effect of sustainability on performance, shouldn’t all investors invest 100% sustainably

ESG research criticism (2)? Does Corporate Social Responsibility Increase Access to Finance? A Commentary on Cheng, Ioannou, and Serafeim (2014) by Andrew A. King as of Dec. 12th, 2023 (#7): “Does Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) facilitate access to finance? An extremely influential article claims that it does … I show that its research method precludes any insight on either access to finance or its connection to CSR. … I correct the original study by substituting more suitable measures and conducting further analysis. Contrary to the original report, I find no robust evidence for a link between CSR and access to finance” (abstract).

High transition risk: The pricing of climate transition risk in Europe’s equity market by Philippe Loyson, Rianne Luijendijk, and Sweder van Wijnbergen as of Aug. 22nd, 2023 (#46): “We assessed the effect of carbon intensity (tCO2/$M) on relative stock returns of clean versus polluting firms using a panel data set consisting of 1555 European companies over the period 2005-2019. We did not find empirical evidence that carbon risk is being priced in a diversified European equity portfolio, implying that investors do not seem to be aware of or at least do not require a risk premium for the risk they bear by investing in polluting companies“ (p. 32). My comment: Apparently, at least until 2019, there has not been enough sustainable investment to have a carbon risk impact

Green indicator confusion: Stronger Together: Exploring the EU Taxonomy as a Tool for Transition Planning by Clarity.ai and CDP as of Dec. 5th, 2023: „We find that out of the 1,700 NFRD (Sö: EU’s Non-Financial Reporting Directive) companies that published EU Taxonomy reports this year, around 600 identified their revenues and spending as part of their transition plans, and approximately 300 have validated science-based targets, both of which correlate to higher taxonomy alignment overall. There is a large dispersion of eligibility across companies within similar sectors which suggests that individual companies are involved in a variety of economic activities. This influences the low correlation between corporate GHG emissions and Taxonomy eligibility and alignment, as non-eligibility can be the result of exposure to either very high-impact or very low-impact economic activities. We observe that higher taxonomy alignment does not necessarily lead to lower carbon intensity when comparing companies within sectors. It is important to highlight that the largest source of corporate emissions might not always be well reflected in revenue shares” (p. 38). My comment: My experience is that the huge part of Scope 3 CO2 emissions and almost all non-CO2 emissions like methane are still seriously neglected by many corporations and investors

Greenium: Actions Speak Louder Than Words: The Effects of Green Commitment in the Corporate Bond Market by Peter Pope, Yang Wang, and Hui Xu as of Nov. 22nd, 2023 (#64): “This paper studies the effects of green bond issuance on the yield spreads of other conventional bonds from the same issuers. A traditional view of new bond issuance suggests that new bonds (whether green or brown) will increase secondary market bond yields if higher leverage increases default risk and dilutes creditors’ claim over assets. However, we find that the issuance of green bonds reduces conventional bond yield spreads by 8 basis points in secondary markets, on average. The effect is long-lasting (beyond two years) … An event study shows that the “bond” attribute of the green bonds still increases the yield spreads of outstanding conventional bonds by 1 basis point. It is the “green” attribute that lowers the yield spreads and ultimately dominates the net effects. … we show that socially responsible investors increase their demand for, and hold more, conventional bonds in their portfolios following the issuance of green bonds … we show that shareholders submit fewer environment-related proposals following green bond issuance. … Finally, our analysis highlights that green bonds give rise to positive real effects, though such effects are confined to the issuer“ (p. 42/43).

Costly values? Perceived Corporate Values by Stefano Pegoraro, Antonino Emanuele Rizzo, and Rafael Zambrana as of Dec. 4th, 2023 (#54): “…. analyzing the revealed preferences of values-oriented investors through their portfolio holdings … Using this measure of perceived corporate values, we show that values-oriented investors consider current and forward-looking information about corporate misconduct and controversies in their investment decisions. We also show that values-oriented investors sacrifice financial performance to align their portfolios with companies exhibiting better corporate values and lower legal risk” (p. 24). My comment: According to traditional investment theories, lower (ESG or other) risk should lead to lower returns. Any complaints about that?

Some investor impact: Propagation of climate disasters through ownership networks by Matthew Gustafson, Ai He, Ugur Lel, and Zhongling (Danny) Qin as of Dec. 5th, 2023 (#127): “We find that climate-change related disasters increase institutional investors’ awareness of climate change issues and accordingly these investors engage with the unaffected firms in their portfolios to influence corporate climate policies. In particular, we observe that such institutional investors vote in greater support of climate-related shareholder proposals at unaffected firms only after getting hit by climate change disasters in their portfolios and compared to other institutional investors. … In the long-run, firm-level GHG emissions and energy usage cumulatively decline at the same time as the unaffected firms adopt specific governance mechanisms such as linking their executive pay policies to GHG emission reductions, suggesting that changes in governance mechanisms potentially incentivize firms to internalize some of the negative externalities from their activities. … our results are more pronounced in brown industries“ (p. 26). My comment: When changing executive pay, negative effects have to be mitigated, see Wrong ESG bonus math?

Other investment research

Good constraints: Performance Attribution for Portfolio Constraints by Andrew W. Lo and Ruixun Zhang as of Nov. 1st, 2023 (#57): “While it is commonly believed that constraints can only decrease the expected utility of a portfolio, we show that this is only true when they are treated as static. … our methodology can be applied to common examples of constraints including the level of a particular characteristic, such as ESG scores, and exclusion constraints, such as divesting from sin stocks and energy stocks. Our results show that these constraints do not necessarily decrease the expected utility and returns of the portfolio, and can even contribute positively to portfolio performance when information contained in the constraints is sufficiently positively correlated with asset returns“ (p. 42). My comment: Traditional investment constraints are typically used to reduce risks. Looking at a actively managed funds, that does not always work as expected. Maybe responsible investment constraints are better than traditional ones?

PE Benchmark-Magic: Benchmarking Private Equity Portfolios: Evidence from Pension Funds by Niklas Augustin, Matteo Binfarè, and  Elyas D. Fermand as of Oct. 31st, 2023 (#245): “We document significant heterogeneity in the benchmarks used for US public pension fund private equity (PE) portfolios. … We show that general (Soe: investment) consultant turnover predicts changes in PE benchmarks. … we find that public pension funds only beat their PE benchmarks about 50% of the time, that they tend to use public market benchmark indices that underperform private market benchmark indices, and that their benchmarks have become easier to beat over the last 20 years“ (abstract).

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

Skilled fund managers: illustrated with woman by Gerd Altman from Pixabay

Skilled fund managers – Researchpost #155

Skilled fund managers: 22x new research on skyscrapers, cryptos, ESG-HR, regulation, ratings, fund names, AI ESG Tools, carbon credits and accounting, impact funds, voting, Chat GPT, listed real estate, and fintechs (# shows the SSRN full paper downloads as of Dec. 7th, 2023):

Social and ecological research

Skyscaper impact: The Skyscraper Revolution: Global Economic Development and Land Savings by Gabriel M. Ahlfeldt, Nathaniel Baum-Snow, and Remi Jedwab as of Nov. 30th, 2023 (#20): “Our comprehensive examination of 12,877 cities worldwide from 1975 to 2015 reveals that the construction of tall buildings driven by reductions in the costs of height has allowed cities to accommodate greater populations on less land. … one-third of the aggregate population in cities of over 2 million people in the developing world, and 20% for all cities, is now accommodated because of the tall buildings constructed in these cities since 1975. Moreover, the largest cities would cover almost 30% more land without these buildings, and almost 20% across all cities. …. Given the gap between actual and potential building heights we calculate for each city in our data, only about one-quarter of the potential welfare gains and land value losses from heights have been realized, with per-capita welfare gains of 5.9% and 3.1% available by eliminating height regulations in developed and developing economies, respectively. As the cost of building tall structures decreases with technical progress, such potential for welfare gains will only increase into the future. … in most cities it is in landowners’ interest to maintain regulatory regimes that limit tall building construction, … benefits may be greatest for those who would move into the city with the new construction to take advantage of the higher real wages and lower commuting costs“ (p. 47).

Hot cryptos: Cryptocarbon: How Much Is the Corrective Tax? by Shafik Hebous and Nate Vernon from the International Monetary Fund as of Nov. 28th, 2023 (#14): “We estimate that the global demand for electricity by crypto miners reached that of Australia or Spain, resulting in 0.33% of global CO2 emissions in 2022. Projections suggest sustained future electricity demand and indicate further increases in CO2 emissions if crypto prices significantly increase and the energy efficiency of mining hardware is low. To address global warming, we estimate the corrective excise on the electricity used by crypto miners to be USD 0.045 per kWh, on average. Considering also air pollution costs raises the tax to USD 0.087 per kWh“ (abstract).  

ESG attracts employees: Polarizing Corporations: Does Talent Flow to “Good’’ Firms? by Emanuele Colonnelli, Timothy McQuade, Gabriel Ramos, Thomas Rauter, and Olivia Xiong as of Nov. 30th, 2023 (#48): “Using Brazil as our setting, we make two primary contributions. First, in partnership with Brazil’s premier job platform, we design a nondeceptive incentivized field experiment to estimate job-seekers’ preferences to work for socially responsible firms. We find that, on average, job-seekers place a value on ESG signals equivalent to about 10% of the average wage. … Quantitatively, skilled workers value firm ESG activities substantially more than unskilled workers. … results indicate that ESG increases worker utility relative to the baseline economy without ESG. The reallocation of labor in the economy with ESG improves assortative matching and yields an increase in total output. Moreover, skilled workers benefit the most from the introduction of ESG, ultimately increasing wage differentials between skilled and unskilled workers“ (p. 32). My comment: see HR-ESG shareholder engagement: Opinion-Post #210 – Responsible Investment Research Blog (prof-soehnholz.com)

Always greenwashing: Can Investors Curb Greenwashing? Fanny Cartellier, Peter Tankov, and Olivier David Zerbib as of Dec. 1st, 2023 (#40): “… we show that companies greenwash all the time as long as the environmental score is not too high relative to the company’s fundamental environmental value. The tolerable deviation increases with investors’ pro-environmental preferences and decreases with their penalization. Moreover, the greenwashing effort is all the more pronounced the higher the pro-environmental preferences, the lower the disclosure intensity, and the lower the marginal unit cost of greenwashing. In particular, we show that beyond a certain horizon, on average, companies always greenwash“ (p. 31).

Insufficient ESG regulation? ESG Demand-Side Regulation – Governing the Shareholders by Thilo Kuntz as of Nov. 30th, 2023 (#45): “Instead of addressing the corporate board and its international equivalents as a supplier of ESG-friendly management, demand-side regulation targets investors and shareholders. It comes in two basic flavors, indirect and direct demand-side regulation. Whereas the first attempts to let only those retail investors become stockholders or fund members who already espouse the correct beliefs and attitudes, the latter pushes professional market participants towards ESG through a double commitment, that is, to the public at large via disclosure and to individual investors through pre-contractual information. .. Judging from extant empirical studies, indirect demand-side regulation in its current form will change the equation only slightly. … for most retail investors, including adherents to ESG, .. beliefs and attitudes seem to lie more on the side of monetary gains“ (p. 49/50).

Big bank climate deficits: An examination of net-zero commitments by the world’s largest banks by Carlo Di Maio, Maria Dimitropoulou, Zoe Lola Farkas, Sem Houben, Georgia Lialiouti, Katharina Plavec, Raphaël Poignet, Eline Elisabeth, and Maria Verhoeff from the European Central Bank as of Nov. 29th, 2023 (#25): “We examined the net-zero commitments made by Global Systemically Important Banks (G-SIBs). In recent years, large banks have significantly increased their ambition and now disclose more details regarding their net-zero targets. … The paper … identifies and discusses a number of observations, such as the significant differences in sectoral targets used despite many banks sharing the same goal, the widespread use of caveats, the missing clarity regarding exposures to carbon-intensive sectors, the lack of clarity of “green financing” goals, and the reliance on carbon offsets by some institutions. The identified issues may impact banks’ reputation and litigation risk and risk management” (abstract).

ESG investment research (Skilled fund managers)

Good fund classification: Identifying Funds’ Sustainability Goals with AI: Financial, Categorical Morality, and Impact by Keer Yang and Ayako Yasuda as of Nov. 30ths, 2023 (#23): “… developing a supervised machine-learning model-based method that classifies investment managers’ stated goals on sustainability into three distinct objectives: financial value, categorical morality, and impact. This is achieved by evaluating two dimensions of investor preferences: (i) whether investors have nonpecuniary preferences or not (value vs. values) and (ii) whether investors have ex ante, categorical moral preferences or ex post, consequentialist impact preferences. … Among the funds identified as sustainable by Morningstar, 54% state they incorporate ESG to enhance financial performance, while 39% practice categorical morality via exclusion and only 33% state they seek to generate impact. Stated goals meaningfully correlate with how the funds are managed. Financially motivated funds systematically hold stocks with high MSCI ESG ratings relative to industry peers, which is consistent with ESG risk management. Morally motivated funds categorically tilt away from companies in controversial industries (e.g., mining), but are otherwise insensitive to relative ESG ratings. Impact funds hold stocks with lower ESG performance than the others, which is consistent with them engaging with laggard firms to generate positive impact. Impact funds are also more likely to support social and environmental shareholder proposals. Hybrid funds are common. Funds combining financial and moral goals are the largest category and are growing the fastest” (p. 37/38). My comment: My fund may be unique: It holds stocks with high ESG ratings, is morally motivated and tries to achieve impact by engaging with the most sustainable companies.

ESG ratings explanations: Bridging the Gap in ESG Measurement: Using NLP to Quantify Environmental, Social, and Governance Communication by Tobias Schimanski, Andrin Reding, Nico Reding, Julia Bingler, Mathias Kraus, and Markus Leippold as of Nov. 30th, 2023 (#345): “… we propose and validate a new set of NLP models to assess textual disclosures toward all three subdomains … First, we use our corpus of over 13.8 million text samples from corporate reports and news to pre-train new specific E, S, and G models. Second, we create three 2k datasets to create classifiers that detect E, S, and G texts in corporate disclosures. Third, we validate our model by showcasing that the communication patterns detected by the models can effectively explain variations in ESG ratings” (abstract). My comments: I selected my ESG ratings agency (also) because of its AI capabilities

AI ESG Tools: Artificial Intelligence and Environmental Social Governance: An Exploratory Landscape of AI Toolkit by Nicola Cucari, Giulia Nevi, Francesco Laviola, and Luca Barbagli as of Nov. 29th, 2023 (#35): “This paper presents an initial mapping of AI tools supporting ESG pillars. Through the case study method, 32 companies and tools supporting environmental social governance (ESG) management were investigated, highlighting which of the different AI systems they use and enabling the design of the new AI-ESG ecosystem” (abstract).

Cheaper green loans: Does mandatory sustainability reporting decrease loan costs? by Katrin Hummel and Dominik Jobst as of Dec. 1st, 2023 (#31): “We focus on the passage of the NFRD, the first EU-wide sustainability reporting mandate. Using a sample of global loan deals from 2010 to 2019, we begin our analysis by documenting a negative relationship between borrowers’ levels of sustainability performance and loan costs. … In our main analysis, we find that loan costs significantly decrease among borrowers within the scope of the reporting mandate. This decrease is concentrated in firms with better sustainability performance. In a further analysis, we show that this effect is stronger if the majority of lead lenders are also operating in the EU and are thus potentially also subject to the reporting mandate themselves “ (p. 26/27).

Widepread ESG downgrade costs: Do debt investors care about ESG ratings? by Kornelia Fabisik, Michael Ryf, Larissa Schäfer, and Sascha Steffen from the European Central Bank as of Nov. 27th, 2023 (#53): “We use a major ESG rating agency‘s methodology change to firms’ ESG ratings to study its effect on the spreads of syndicated U.S. corporate loans traded in the secondary market. We find that loan spreads temporarily increase by 10% relative to the average spread of 4%. … we find some evidence that the effect is stronger for smaller and financially constrained firms, but not for younger firms. We also find that investors penalize firms for which ESG-related aspects seem to play a more prominent role. Lastly, when we explore potential spillover effects on private firms that are in the same industry as the downgraded firms, we find evidence supporting this channel. We find that private firms in highly affected industries face higher loan spreads after ESG downgrades of public firms in the same industry, suggesting that investors of private (unrated) firms also price in ESG downgrades of public firms“ (p. 28).

High ESG risks: Measuring ESG risk premia with contingent claims by Ioannis Michopoulos, Alexandros Bougias, Athanasios Episcopos and Efstratios Livanis as of Nov. 9th, 2023 (#109): “We find a statistically significant relationship between the ESG score and the volatility and drift terms of the asset process, suggesting that ESG factors have a structural effect on the firm value. We establish a mapping between ESG scores and the cost of equity and debt as implied by firm’s contingent claims, and derive estimates of the ESG risk premium across different ESG and leverage profiles. In addition, we break down the ESG risk premia by industry, and demonstrate how practitioners can adjust the weighed average cost of capital of ESG laggard firms for valuation and decision making purposes“ (abstract). … “We find that ESG risk has a large effect on the concluded cost of capital. Assuming zero ESG risk premia during the valuation process could severely underestimate the risky discount rate of ESG laggard firms, leading to distorted investment and capital budget decisions, as well as an incorrect fair value measurement of firm’s equity and related corporate securities” (p. 20).

ESG fund benefits: Renaming with purpose: Investor response and fund manager behaviour after fund ESG-renaming by Kayshani Gibbon, Jeroen Derwall, Dirk Gerritsen, and Kees Koedijk as of Nov. 27th, 2023 (#42): “Using a unique sample of 740 ESG-related name changes …. Our most conservative estimates … suggest that mutual funds domiciled in Europe may enjoy greater average flows by renaming … we provide consistent evidence that mutual funds improve the ESG performance and reduce the ESG risks of their portfolios after signalling ESG repurposing through fund name changes. Finally, we find that renaming has no material impact on funds’ turnover rates or on the fees charged to investors“ (p. 15/16). My comment: Maybe I should have integrated ESG in my FutureVest Equity Sustainable Develeopment Goals fund name (ESG and more see in the just updated 31pager 231120_Nachhaltigkeitsinvestmentpolitik_der_Soehnholz_Asset_Management_GmbH).

Green for the rich? Rich and Responsible: Is ESG a Luxury Good? Steffen Andersen, Dmitry Chebotarev, Fatima Zahra Filali Adib, and Kasper Meisner Nielsen as of Nov. 27th, 2023 (#91): “… we examine the rise of responsible investing among retail investors in Denmark. … from 2019 to 2021. The fraction of retail investors that hold socially responsible mutual funds in their portfolios has increased from less than 0.5% to 6.8%, equivalent to an increase in the portfolio weight on socially responsible mutual funds for all investors from 0.1% to 1.6%. At the same time, the fraction of investors holding green stock has increased from 8.7% to 15.9%, equivalent to an increase in portfolio weight on green stocks from 2.4% to 3.3%. Collectively, the rise of sustainable investments implies that more than 4.9% of the risky assets are allocated to sustainable investments by 2021. The rise in responsible investments is concentrated among wealthy investors. Almost 13% of investors in the top decile of financial wealth holds socially responsible mutual funds and one out of four holds green stocks. Collectively, the portfolio weight on socially responsible assets among wealth investors is 4.8% in 2021. … Using investors’ charitable donations prior to inheritance, we document that the warm glow effect partially explains the documented results“ (p. 20/21).

Emissions control: Carbon Accounting Quality: Measurement and the Role of Assurance by Brandon Gipper, Fiona Sequeira, and Shawn X. Shi as of Nov. 29th, 2023 (#135): “We document a positive association between (Sö: third party) assurance and carbon accounting quality for both U.S. and non-U.S. countries. This relation is stronger when assurance is more thorough. We also document how assurance improves carbon accounting quality: first, assurors identify issues in the carbon accounting system and communicate them to the firm; subsequently, firms take remedial actions, resulting in updated disclosures, faster release of emissions information, and more positive perceptions of emissions figures by reporting firms. …. our findings suggest that even limited assurance can shape carbon accounting quality“ (p. 34).

Impact investment research (Skilled fund managers)

Carbon credit differences: Paying for Quality State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets 2023 by Stephen Donofrio Managing Director Alex Procton from Ecosystem Marketplace as of Oct. 10th, 2023: “Average voluntary carbon markets (VCM) … volume of VCM credits traded dropped by 51 percent, the average price per credit skyrocketed, rising by 82 percent from $4.04 per ton in 2021 to $7.37 per ton in 2022. This price hike allowed the overall value of the VCM to hold relatively steady in 2022, at just under $2 billion. To date in 2023, the average credit price is down slightly from 2022, to $6.97 per ton. … Nature-based projects, including Forestry and Land Use and Agriculture projects, made up almost half of the market share at 46 percent. … Credits that certified additional robust environmental and social co-benefits “beyond carbon” had a significant price premium. Credits from projects with at least one co-benefit certification had a 78 percent price premium in 2022, compared to projects without any co-benefit certification. … Projects working towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) also demonstrated a substantial price premium at 86 percent higher prices than projects not associated with SDGs … Newer credits are attracting higher prices” (p. 6).

Unsuccessful voting: Minerva Briefing 2023 Proxy Season Review as of November 2023: “Most resolutions are proposed by management (96.90% overall) … In 2023, there were 621 proposals from shareholders, mostly in the US (530), and mostly Social- and Governance-related (259 and 184 respectively). However, an increasing number of proposals are also being put forward on Environmental issues. The higher number of shareholder proposals in the US may reflect more supportive regulations on the filing of proposals and the absence of an independent national corporate governance code, as there is in the UK. Although well-crafted shareholder proposals can receive majority support, the overall proportion doing so has decreased (5.80% in 2023 vs. 11.56% in 2022), partly dragged down by ‘anti-ESG’ proposals” (p. 3/4). My comment: 621*6%=37 majority supported shareholder proposals including non ESG-topics seems to a very low number compared to the overall marketing noise asset managers produce regarding their good impact on listed companies. Direct shareholder engagement with companies seems to have more potential for change. My respective policy see Shareholder engagement: 21 science based theses and an action plan – (prof-soehnholz.com)

Good impact returns: Impact investment funds and the equity market: correlation, performance, risk and diversification effects – A global overview by Lucky Pane as of July 2021: “Impact investing funds from the twelve economies reported an average return of 10.7% over the period 2004-2019, higher than the average return of the MSCI World Equity Index (8.7%). … Negative/low correlations were observed between impact investment funds and traditional assets of the following countries: Germany, Australia, UK, Brazil, China, Poland, South Korea and Turkey” (p. 35/36). My comment: Unfortunately, there are very few (liquid) impact investing studies. A study including 2022 and 2023 would come to less favorable return conclusions, though.

Other investment research

Skilled fund managers (1): Sharpening the Sharpe Style Analysis with Machine-Learning ― Evidence from Manager Style-Shifting Skill of Mutual Funds by George J. Jiang, Bing Liang, and Huacheng Zhang as of Dec. 3rd, 2023 (#38): “Nine out of 32 indexes are selected as the proxy of style set in the mutual fund industry. We … find that most active equity funds are multi-style funds and more than 85% of them allocate capitals among three to six styles. Single-style funds count less than 3% of the total number of funds. We further find that around 3% of funds shift their investment styles in each quarter and each shifting fund switches styles three times over the whole period … We find that shifting funds perform better in the post-shifting quarter than in the pre-shifting quarter in terms of both total returns and style-adjusted returns, but we do not find performance improvement by non-shifting funds. We further find that style-shifting decision is positively related to future fund returns. … We find that style-shifting in the mutual fund industry is mostly driven by fund managers’ expertise in the new style“ (p. 42).

Skilled fund managers (2): Do mutual fund perform worse when they get larger? Anticipated flow vs unanticipated flow by Yiming Zhang as of Nov. 14th, 2023 (#17): “… I provide empirical evidence from a novel setting that supports the decreasing returns to scale in active mutual funds. My identification strategy relies on the nature of Morningstar Rating, which has a large impact on fund flow. … I find that for each 1% of inflow (outflow), the return will decrease (increase) by around 0.6% on average in the next month, and the return will decrease (increase) by around 0.2% on average in the next month. … I find that for experienced manager, they make more new investment after the flow shock and their performance does not decrease. For inexperienced manager, it is quite the opposite. These results indicate that if fund managers can anticipate the 36th month flow shock, they will try to generate more investment ideas, and execute them when the flow arrives“ (p. 22/23).

Skilled fund managers (3)? Can ChatGPT assist in picking stocks? Matthias Pelster and Joel Val as of Nov. 29th, 2023 (#199): “… we find that ratings of stocks by ChatGPT positively correlate to future (out-of-sample) stock returns. … ChatGPT seems to be able to successfully identify stocks that yield superior performance over the next month. ChatGPT-4 seems to have some ability to evaluate news information and summarize its evaluation into a simple score. We find clear evidence that ChatGPT is able to distinguish between positive and negative news events, and adjusts its recommendation following negative news” (p. 11). My comment: Interesting, because most active fund managers underperform their benchmarks most of the time, but I am skeptical regarding AI investment benefits see How can sustainable investors benefit from artificial intelligence? – GITEX Impact – Leading ESG Event 2023

Listed real estate: Drivers of listed and unlisted real estate returns by Michael Chin and Pavol Povala as of Nov. 2nd, 2023 (#25): “The differences between listed and unlisted real estate appear to reduce over the longer term, where the return correlations between the two segments increases with horizon. In addition, the correlations with the broader equity market are lower at longer horizons for both real estate segments. … We find that both segments of real estate hedge inflation risk more than the aggregate equity market, and that listed real estate has a high exposure to transitory risk premium shocks“ (abstract). My comment: I started “my” first listed real estate fund more than 10 years ago and still like the market segment despite all of its problems

Fintech success factors: Fintech Startups in Germany: Firm Failure, Funding Success, and Innovation Capacity by Lars Hornuf and Matthias Mattusch as of Nov. 29th, 2023 (#75): “ … using a hand-collected dataset of 892 German fintechs founded between 2000 and 2021 … We find that founders with a business degree and entrepreneurial experience have a better chance of obtaining funding, while founder teams with science, technology, engineering, or mathematics backgrounds file more patents. Early third-party endorsements and foreign partnerships substantially increases firm survival. … Fintechs focusing on business-to-business models and which position themselves as technical providers have proven more effective. Fintechs competing in segments traditionally attributed to banks are generally less successful and less innovative.” (abstract).

Skilled fund managers (?) 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)

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)