SUSTAINABLE INVESTING SEMINAR:
Our most recent Sustainble Investing seminar took place in November 2016.
We're already planning our 2017 Sustainable Investing Seminar.
If you have questions, please contact Stephanie Field.
BSAS SUSTAINABILITY CONFERENCE: THE IMPORTANCE OF DATA AND REPORTING
On November 17, 2016, BSAS held its annual sustainability conference, Sustainable Investing: Moving into the Mainstream
. An impressive array of industry professionals presented on topics that included engagement, fixed income and performance, and quantitative analysis. Throughout all the presentations, there was an underlying focus on data and its future direction in the industry.
John Streur, President and CEO of Calvert Investments, opened the day as the keynote speaker, with a call for everyone to work together to formalize environmental, social and governance (ESG) data reporting and transparency. Companies in general are moving to be more environmental and socially responsible, with 86% of S&P companies now publishing a Corporate Social Responsibility report. However, much remains to be done as sustainable investing continues to move into the mainstream and more investors consider it less as risk mitigation and more as a way to find investment opportunities. Currently, companies are self-reporting on ESG factors; there is no formal audit system in place and little oversight by regulators. Companies in general would like to see required disclosures in order to level the playing field and investors can benefit as data becomes more reliable and transparent. Not only can the use of SASB guidelines help to formalize reporting but traditional Wall Street can become more involved as ESG factors are considered more in fundamental analysis.
The availability of products and services offering access to ESG data and company and fund ratings continues to evolve. Noel Friedman from MSCI, Sarah Smith from Sustainalytics and Jon Hale from Morningstar detailed the breadth of data covered by their respective services as well as how clients use their company and fund ratings. Ratings are often used by investors as a starting point although it is common to look beyond the ratings to the underlying data. Ratings can also be used to pinpoint unanticipated risks. For example, poorly scoring companies may respond weakly to issues that arise. Morningstar in particular has been working to add ESG ratings to their fund data, with scoring relative to category peers. Quantitative research is also more commonly in use as a way to fill in the gaps of fundamental research.
Fixed income is an area of growth in the use of ESG data in investment analysis. Green bonds are now widely recognized as a viable investment vehicle. Sustainable investors have also become more interested on municipal bonds as well, recognizing their focus on issues such as education, infrastructure and health care. Challenges remain as ESG data, particularly corporate governance data, may be more targeted to equity investors.
As companies have become more environmentally and socially focused, sustainable investors are moving away from divestment and towards using ESG data to look for opportunities as well as moving into thematic and impact investing. New platforms continue to be developed to measure sustainability and provide more transparent and reliable data. However, work continues to standardize company reporting and educate both investors and advisors on the best way to use ESG data in constructing investment portfolios.