It seems that people are finally realising that ESG investing is not exactly what they thought it was – see this recent article in the economist ‘Sustainable finance is rife with greenwash. Time for more disclosure’
This comes as no surprise to those of us who been investing sustainably for many years. So what is the issue? Let’s look at the simple example of one of the biggest ESG equity ETF’s , namely the iShares ESG Aware MSCI USA ETF (ESGU) and compare it with the broad US index – the S&P 500 (SPY).
Bron: Strategas Research Partners
Spot the difference? Not easy is it. Little wonder then that the R2 value of the ESGU against the S&P 500 is a whopping 0.97 meaning that 97% of the variability of the ESGU can be explained by the S&P500. Looking at the R2 of the other leading ESG ETF’s confirms this disturbing trend:
Vanguard ESG US stock ETF: R2=0.99
Xtrackers MSCI USA ESG leaders Equity ETF: R2=0.99
Global X conscious companies ETF: R2=0.96
So are there any differences between the S&P 500 and the largest ESG ETF’s? The astute observer will notice one key difference, namely the price. This is typically 5 times or more expensive than the ‘regular’ index.
It will come as no surprise that we at Mpartners are not fans of investing passively in ESG. In our opinion it absolutely requires an active approach.