ESG Integration in Investment Management: Myths and Realities

Journal of Applied Corporate Finance, Volume 28 / Number 2 / Spring 2016
Sakis Kotsantonis, Chris Pinney, George Serafeim

The authors’ aim in this article is to set the record straight on the financial performance of sustainable investing while also correcting a number of other widespread misconceptions about this rapidly growing set of principles and methods.

The number of public companies reporting ESG information grew from fewer than 20 in the early 1990s to 8,500 by 2014. Moreover, by the end of 2014, over 1,400 institutional investors that manage some $60 trillion in assets had signed the UN Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI). Nevertheless, companies with high ESG “scores” have continued to be viewed by mainstream investors as unlikely to produce competitive shareholder returns, in part because of the findings of older studies showing low returns from the social responsibility investing of the 1990s. But studies of more recent periods suggest that companies with significant ESG programs have actually outperformed their competitors in a number of important ways. 


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