It is time for investors and the businessworld to end its focus on economic growth and short-term gains and switch their attention to what is best for society and the environment.
That’s the stance taken by two of the financial world’s heavyweights: Anne Richards, CEO of Fidelity International, and Andreas Utermann, CEO of Allianz Global Investors. They spoke at an FT City Network debate in London earlier this month. FT City Network is a monthly forum that showcases business leaders and moderates debates on specific topics.
The world must stop “our obsession with ever-increasing GDP growth,” Richards said, according to the Financial Times. The “primacy of shareholders” also must end so long-term plans to protect the environment can be put in place, she said, noting capitalism as we know it is “borrowing from the future while destroying the environment,” according to the FT.
The shift in the fund managers’ viewpoints is a reaction to the increasing importance that potential investors place on investing along environmental, social and governance principles. Total assets guided by sustainable investment strategies have mushroomed 38% to $12 trillion since 2016, according to the U.S. SIF 2018 Trends Report.
“I would say in the last four to six months it is accelerating at a rate that is quite interesting,” said Margaret Franklin, president and CEO of the CFA Institute.
There has been an increased emphasis on ESG in the alternative investment world as well. About a third of respondents in an Ernst & Young survey on alternative investments said they plan to or are already investing in an ESG vehicle.
Even so, many investors still place emphasis on profit first, according to the Ernst & Young report this week. Only one in three ESG investors are willing to accept lower performance or higher fees when investing in socially responsible products.
At the FT debate, Robert Swannell, the former Marks & Spencer chairman who now heads the U.K. Government Investments Board, said the choice isn’t “‘either profits or sustainability.” He promoted the idea that financial performance and the impact on society should both be measured and considered when investing.
- Private equity firms plan on hiring more professionals focused on ESG, according to a survey by secondaries investment firm Coller Capital said. Three in five PE firms employ at least one ESG-focused professional.
- Utermann called for a more “holistic approach” to investing, calling into question the practice of “borrowing from the future while destroying the environment,” the FT reported.
- While millennials are the generation most associated with ESG investing, baby boomers and Generation X are showing more interest, according to a study from Alliance Life Insurance. Even so, millennials participate in ESG investing at a rate of 17%, compared with Gen Xers at 7% and boomers at 3%.