Climate change and sustainability are attracting growing attention in the financial sector. And investments in environmental, social and governance (ESG) funds have more than doubled over the past two years.
ESG funds now account for 10% of worldwide fund assets. This boom has led to companies of all sizes making ESG-scoring a major factor in how they do business.
“ESG is the current mainstream of sustainability in the financial sector,” explains Claudio Zara, a researcher at the GREEN research centre at Bocconi University. “This is because policymakers have adopted this framework and are promoting it in order to steer financial capital toward a more sustainable economy.”
Aside from the policymakers’ regulations, there are three other reasons to consider ESG factors in investment decision-making: risk, consumer demand and resilience.
Investors and corporations realise that climate change-related disasters and worsening social issues come with several risks for their business, among them the risk of depleted resources, the risk of supply-chain breakdown and the risk of an unhealthy or uneducated workforce.
Another danger of failing to adopt ESG values is damage to their reputation, as consumers increasingly seek out companies that reflect responsible values.
Companies that score well on ESG metrics are believed to better anticipate future risks and opportunities. Thus they are more likely to attract green investors and those looking to diversify their portfolios.
While future investment and innovation are likely to trigger a growth in the supply of sustainable resources, the current rapid rise in demand is likely to outstrip supply, increasing competition and pushing up prices.
The pressures of finite resources can be addressed by shifting to a circular economy, which is an essential part of delivering on climate change and ESG issues.
Moving from a traditional, linear business model based on “take, make and dispose” to a circular model based on reusing resources and keeping them in the economic cycle longer and with more intensity can not only counteract resource depletion but also reduce pollution, increase resilience and improve risk management.