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  • Writer's pictureCiaran Hughes QFA

Switching to ESG Funds: A Comparative Analysis


Introduction


The growing interest in sustainable investing has led to a surge in Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) funds. But how do these funds compare to traditional funds in terms of performance? In this blog post, we will delve into various meta-analysis studies to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of ESG funds performance, as well as definitive advice and next steps for those considering switching their pensions to ESG-focused options.


The Case for ESG Funds


Several meta-analysis studies have demonstrated a positive relationship between ESG factors and financial performance. Friede, Busch, and Bassen (2015) found that the majority of the 2,000+ empirical studies they analyzed showed ESG practices positively impacting corporate financial performance. Khan, Serafeim, and Yoon (2016) found that ESG funds outperformed non-ESG funds in terms of risk-adjusted returns over a 20-year period, particularly during high market volatility. Hoepner et al. (2016) and Giese, Ribando, and Chen (2019) both found that higher ESG-rated funds outperformed those with lower ratings, with the latter study noting better performance during economic downturns.


The Case Against ESG Funds


On the other hand, some studies have shown ESG funds underperforming traditional funds. Fama and French (2018) found that ESG mutual funds in the US underperformed non-ESG funds on a risk-adjusted basis between 1991 and 2016. Similarly, Dimson, Karakaş, and Li (2015) and Bauer, Koedijk, and Otten (2005) both found underperformance of ESG funds in Europe and the US, respectively. Critics argue that these studies might not account for the rapidly changing ESG landscape or the various factors influencing fund performance.


The Verdict and Definitive Advice


While results may vary depending on the specific data sets and methodologies used, the majority of meta-analysis studies point to the potential for ESG funds to outperform traditional funds in the long run. However, it is crucial for investors to remember that past performance does not guarantee future results, and individual fund performance can vary significantly.


When considering whether to switch to ESG funds, investors should take into account their investment goals, risk tolerance, and the specific funds under consideration. Additionally, they should conduct thorough due diligence on the funds they are interested in, considering the evolving nature of ESG criteria and the variety of factors influencing fund performance.


Next Steps


If you're considering switching your pension to ESG funds, here are some actionable steps to help guide your decision:

  1. Assess your investment goals and risk tolerance to determine if ESG funds align with your objectives.

  2. Research and compare specific ESG funds, considering factors such as performance history, management team, and ESG criteria used.

  3. Consult with a financial advisor for personalized guidance and advice tailored to your unique circumstances.

  4. Monitor the performance of your chosen ESG funds and stay informed about the evolving ESG landscape to ensure your investments continue to align with your goals.

By following these steps and staying informed, you can make a well-informed decision about whether ESG funds are the right choice for your pension investments. Remember that a sustainable future starts with you, and aligning your investments with your values can be a powerful way to make a difference while potentially enjoying strong financial returns.


And remember, you can always contact Ethico for additional advice.

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