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Sustainable Investing and Finance

A growing number of large institutional investors today are incorporating ESG metrics into their capital allocation and stewardship criteria. This shift toward sustainable finance—which has evolved beyond socially responsible investing to include asset management and ownership—has profound implications for investors and companies alike.

Some of the largest and most influential institutional investors and asset managers are at the forefront of a powerful movement to add environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) standards to their criteria for capital allocation. As long-term stewards of capital, they recognize a mandate to consider whether the companies they own today will maintain a strong connection both with their customers and extended communities as environmental and social challenges increasingly impact the way we live and work. They also recognize that companies that commit to addressing these urgent issues stand to realize greater business opportunities in the future—and thus will achieve higher returns for their long-term shareholders.

Institutional investors that are best poised for the future are those that actively engage with companies through the “power of purpose” instead of simply liquidating their shares and walking away from positions they perceive as questionable in the new climate. Such investors are far better placed to push their holdings in the direction of long-term sustainability through such measures as voting proxies and shareholder resolutions—or by initiating open dialogue with company leaders. Private sector companies and investors that follow this strategy can carve out a far more active role for themselves in the quest for diversity, environmental sustainability, and other important societal goals.

Two trending developments are motivating large investors to embrace sustainable finance and to engage directly with corporate executives and boards:

  1. The ubiquity of information about corporate practices. This availability is shining a light on the roles that companies play in shaping the environment and making clear the pivotal role that the private sector will play in finding solutions—or not—to problems such as climate change. Much if not most innovation today occurs within the context of companies, whether startups or incumbents, adopting policies that deliver a positive impact. This is likely to remain the case.
  2. The mounting evidence that addressing ESG issues does not hurt financial performance. In fact, companies that are proactive on issues such as diversity, climate stabilization, and consumer responsiveness can deliver substantial financial rewards.

No Longer a Niche Practice

To guard against exposure to such events, investors understand that they can no longer treat sustainable financing as a niche practice. Asset managers, too, are increasingly shifting from policies that seek to avoid risk by excluding specific securities, in favor of strategies aimed at benefiting from companies that perform better on TSI issues. Examples include best-in-class and thematic investing; impact investments, such as low-carbon indices and green bonds; and seeking out companies that score well on gender diversity.

These are still early days, however. Soon, we are likely to see sustainable financing morph into a more integrated, intentional approach. Investors will apply ESG integration and best-in-class analysis across all categories of assets in order to enhance their risk and return performance. Active ownership, too, will become an integrated model, with investors routinely engaging with boards and CEOs on companies’ efforts to increase diversity and address their environmental performance, just as they do now on executive compensation, corporate governance, and shareholder rights. Norms and negative screening will be used to inform engagement, not trigger exclusion.

Driving these developments is the increasingly critical role that private sector companies will play in addressing climate change, diversity, and other important societal issues—with large investors pushing them along this positive path. However, translating this investment strategy into tangible financial results for shareholders, both in the short and long term, requires insights into the steps that companies must take to heighten the impact and sustainability of their business models.


Our Client Work in Sustainable Investing and Finance

Humanitarian and resilience investments (HRIs) continue to increase, however, scaling them to impact is complex and requires cross-sector collaboration, innovation, and support. BCG partnered with WEF to uncover the current challenges hampering HRI market expansion and offer strategies to overcome them.

Our Insights on Sustainable Investing and Finance

What Gets Measured Gets Financed

BCG's Veronica Chau joins Maria Kozloski of the Rockefeller Foundation to discuss climate finance and the work that remains to ensure that governments, investors, and companies are making the greatest possible impact.

How EQT Puts Purpose Into Practice in Private Equity

CEO Christian Sinding Discusses ESG’s Importance to His Company and the Industry.

Benchmarking ESG Data in Private Equity

BCG's Tawfik Hammoud and Megan Starr, Global Head of Impact at The Carlyle Group, discuss the first private-market benchmark for ESG data—a game-changer for the industry and for sustainable finance overall.

A Tectonic Shift of Capital Is Just Beginning

The chairman and CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, explains how the climate crisis is fundamentally reshaping his firm’s approach to investing.


Meet Some of BCG’s Experts in Sustainable Finance

BCG's consultants and industry experts focusing on socially responsible investing continue to partner with leading investors, asset managers, and private sector companies to support sustainable investment practices. These are some of our experts on this topic.

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