The ESG Investor’s Challenges
It isn’t easy being an environmentally guided investor.
Consider Joe Hobbs. In picking stocks or funds for his investment portfolio, he tends to favor companies that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than they emit. But finding them is a lot harder than the 17-year-old student from Columbia, Md., ever imagined.
“Before investing, I usually have to go to the companies’ websites and dive into it a bit to find out more,” Mr. Hobbs says. “But most of the time they don’t publicly say it or they don’t have a page that’s easily accessible to learn more about it.”
The challenges underscore how individual investors often struggle to find companies and funds that live up to their expectations on environmental and social metrics.
“A lot of retail investors go into the search with their hopes really high, and then their hopes get dashed because they can’t be as progressive as they want with their investments,” says Derek Horstmeyer, an associate professor of finance at George Mason University School of Business.
乔治梅森大学商学院(George Mason University School Of Business)金融学副教授德里克·霍斯特迈尔(Derek Horstmeyer)表示：“许多散户投资者怀着非常高的希望寻找投资，然后他们的希望破灭了，因为他们的投资不能像他们想要的那样进步。”
In the U.S., many publicly listed companies disclose environmental, social and corporate-governance (ESG) data in voluntary sustainability reports but not in their financial statements. As a result, the information companies report is inconsistent, making comparisons difficult if not impossible. It also is often incomplete, because companies might only report the metrics in which they perform well. And it’s difficult in many cases to relate the reported information to the company’s operating performance—a major drawback for investors who value a company’s profitability as well as what they see as its social responsibility.
On top of all that, even when companies want to be as forthcoming as possible, they don’t always know how sustainable their businesses are, because of their reliance on suppliers that don’t detail their own social and environmental impact. “It remains difficult for companies to gain transparency about where and how their products are sourced, the natural resources used, the level of sustainability and environmental impact, and even the labor practices throughout the supply chain,” says Christophe Schilling, chief executive of Genomatica, a bioengineering company that develops technology processes to make chemicals from renewable feedstocks.
Investors’ difficulties don’t end there. It also can be hard to tell the difference between real environmental and social commitments and the overstated claims companies make that are known as greenwashing.
A new ranking from The Wall Street Journal’s ESG research analysts of the world’s 100 most sustainably managed businesses is intended to provide benchmarks to help consumers and investors bring their personal values into the decisions they make about where to invest, work and shop. The companies were ranked based on various environmental, social, governance and other factors, using publicly available data and an analysis of millions of news stories about the companies. To be included in the ranking, a company had to meet minimum disclosure thresholds set by the Journal research team.
“华尔街日报”(The Wall Street Journal)ESG研究分析师对全球100家管理最可持续的企业进行了一项新的排名，旨在提供基准，帮助消费者和投资者将个人价值观纳入他们在哪里投资、工作和购物的决策中。这些公司是根据各种环境、社会、治理和其他因素进行排名的，使用了公开可用的数据和对数百万条关于这些公司的新闻报道的分析。要进入排行榜，一家公司必须达到《华尔街日报》研究团队设定的最低披露门槛。
Half of U.S. investors don’t have, or are unsure if they have, the information they need to make socially responsible investment decisions, a survey of individual investors by Natixis Investment Managers found. And many investment pros are also in the dark. Some 31% of asset managers say they lack adequate tools to assess investments against ESG goals, with 29% citing a lack of quality data as the main barrier to sustainable investing, according to a survey by the Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing and Morgan Stanley Investment Management.
Natixis投资管理公司(Natixis Investment Managers)对个人投资者进行的一项调查发现，一半的美国投资者没有或不确定他们是否拥有做出对社会负责任的投资决策所需的信息。许多投资专业人士也蒙在鼓里。摩根士丹利可持续投资研究所(Morgan Stanley Institute For可持续性Investment)和摩根士丹利投资管理公司(Morgan Stanley Investment Management)的一项调查显示，约31%的资产经理表示，他们缺乏足够的工具来根据ESG目标评估投资，29%的资产经理表示，缺乏高质量的数据是实现可持续投资的主要障碍。
For many individual investors, the frustrations surrounding ESG investing center on their company retirement-savings plans.
“A lot of retail investors who want to divest from fossil fuels don’t know what’s in their 401(k) plans. Many of them are unaware they have big oil companies, coal-fired utilities or oil-field services in their portfolios,” says Andrew Behar, chief executive of As You Sow, a nonprofit that works to promote corporate social responsibility.
“许多想要从化石燃料撤资的散户投资者不知道他们的401(K)计划中有什么。致力于促进企业社会责任的非营利性组织As You Sow的首席执行官安德鲁·贝哈尔(Andrew Behar)表示：“他们中的许多人都没有意识到，他们的投资组合中有大型石油公司、燃煤公用事业公司或油田服务公司。
Mr. Behar says a lack of information on the carbon footprint of As You Sow’s retirement plan was the reason he decided to build a free set of tools for individual investors who want to find out if the exchange-traded or mutual funds they hold are in line with their climate concerns. The tools are also used by some investment managers to build portfolios.
贝哈尔说，由于缺乏关于as you sow退休计划碳足迹的信息，他决定为个人投资者建立一套免费的工具，这些投资者希望了解他们持有的交易所交易基金或共同基金是否符合他们对气候的担忧。这些工具也被一些投资经理用来建立投资组合。
“The Invest Your Values suite of tools has been a meaningful addition to serving clients over the last several years,” says Sarah Green, director of impact investing and lead adviser at North Berkeley Wealth Management in Berkeley, Calif. “I’ve used them in a variety of ways, including building portfolios for clients.”
加州伯克利北伯克利财富管理公司(North Berkeley Wealth Management)影响力投资总监兼首席顾问萨拉·格林(Sarah Green)表示：“过去几年，投资你的价值(Invest Your Values)工具套件对服务客户来说是一个有意义的补充。”“我以多种方式使用它们，包括为客户建立投资组合。”
Still, people who invest only through company-sponsored plans rarely have the option to choose ESG-dedicated strategies. Only 2.9% of 401(k) plans in the U.S. offer a sustainable fund in their plan lineup, according to the Plan Sponsor Council of America’s most recent survey.
Another frustration for some people is that many mutual funds and ETFs that say they focus on sustainable investing don’t go as far as these investors would like in finding companies, especially smaller ones, that are focused on environmental and social issues. Or, in many cases, those smaller companies haven’t gone public and so aren’t accessible for small investors.
Often these funds simply look like a portfolio of mainly big tech and financial stocks, with less exposure to oil and gas than other funds. Microsoft Corp. , Google parent Alphabet Inc., Visa Inc., Apple Inc., Mastercard Inc. and Adobe Inc. are the most commonly held U.S. large-capitalization stocks in actively managed sustainable equity funds, according to research by RBC Capital Markets.
通常情况下，这些基金看起来只是简单地看起来像是一个主要由大型科技股和金融股组成的投资组合，与其他基金相比，对石油和天然气的敞口较少。微软公司、谷歌母公司Alphabet公司、Visa公司、苹果公司、万事达卡公司。和Adobe Inc.。根据加拿大皇家银行资本市场(RBC Capital Markets)的研究，这些股票是积极管理的可持续股票基金中最常持有的美国大盘股。
Mr. Hobbs, the Maryland student, says he owns some tech stocks, including Microsoft. “Microsoft actually really surprised me in these past couple months announcing that they would go carbon negative,” he says.
But Prof. Horstmeyer, who oversees a student-managed investment fund at George Mason University School of Business, says many of the companies the students would like to invest in are in the startup stage and aren’t easy to access. Individual investors in general “can’t access a small company that is thinking of new ways to create solar cells or new ways to harness energy from the ocean or other renewable sources, and that’s a problem,” he says.
但在乔治梅森大学商学院(George Mason University School Of Business)负责学生管理的投资基金的霍斯特迈尔教授说，学生们想投资的许多公司都处于初创阶段，很难进入。他说，个人投资者一般“无法接触到一家正在思考制造太阳能电池的新方法或利用来自海洋或其他可再生能源的新方法的小公司，这是一个问题”。
For now, at least, it remains easier for investors to decide which companies not to invest in than it is to decide which ones best reflect their values.