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Oct 19, 2023

ESG backlash fails to deter investors, research finds

Recent politics fail to put asset managers and institutional investors off ESG goals

The anti-ESG movement has failed in its bid to push asset managers away from responsible investment goals.  

None of the asset managers polled for a new survey say they are moving away from a responsible investing remit. No participants surveyed plan to stop incorporating ESG considerations into their own investment decisions or expect to stop offering ESG/sustainable investment products.  

They are however, taking a more careful approach, finds Cerulli in its new report titled US environmental, social and governance investing 2023: Regulation and legislation.  

Three in 10 asset managers say they will take a more cautious approach to their messaging around ESG activities, filtering through their websites, marketing materials, prospectuses and other formal investment documents.   

In the first half of 2023, 156 bills targeting ESG investing or contracting were introduced in 37 states and the US Congress, according to research from Plural.  

Time-consuming and costly 

When it comes to institutional investors, however, a small proportion (4 percent) do say they will no longer invest in ESG, sustainable, and/or impact investment products and funds, while 3 percent say they will stop incorporating ESG considerations into their investment decisions.  

These decisions are not solely driven by the anti-ESG movement, though dealing with that backlash is cited as a key factor. Top reasons cited by institutional investors are that they no longer believe in the merits of ESG and that responding to the anti-ESG backlash is time-consuming and costly.  

Almost two thirds (73 percent) of respondents to the survey are having discussions with clients  around ESG misconceptions, while more than half (57 percent) are creating specific communication pieces to address such misconceptions.  

Risk-return analysis  

‘The political backlash and negative press have left some institutional investors skeptical about the merits of ESG,’ says Michele Giuditta, Cerulli director, in a press statement, adding that ‘anti-ESG bills are often based on the assumption that asset managers are sacrificing investment returns to address non-financial considerations.’ 

Giuditta advises institutional investors and asset managers to talk about the specific, financial benefits an ESG focus can bring. ‘Being explicit about how relevant ESG data helps investors better evaluate the risk/return profile of investments to drive long-term economic value should help managers keep ahead of the negative repercussions,’ she says.  

Garnet Roach

An award-winning journalist, Garnet Roach joined IR Magazine in October 2012, working on both the editorial and research sides of the publication. Prior to entering the world of investor relations, her freelance career covered a broad range of...