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 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 – (

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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