Empower Blog

September 28, 2021

What Investors Need to Know About ESG Investing (Environment, Social & Governance)

Financial Planning
With the compounding of climate change issues, social unrest and the pandemic, people are more passionate about social responsibility and looking for ways to use their investment dollars to try and impact the world in a positive way. As a result, investors may want to consider ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) investing in an effort to create positive change in areas they care about.

If you’re socially conscious and want to understand how your investments may be able to reflect your values, read further to learn more about ESG investing.

ESG Investing Breakdown

ESG investing is an investment strategy that examines the environmental, social and governance issues and impacts of investment decisions, with a preference for supporting a company with low-risk ESG policies. What is considered ESG is subjective, so there is no single way to determine ESG companies, as various ESG factors can have different performance measures or standards.

Environmental

How the company impacts the environment through factors such as:

  • Carbon footprint
  • Greenhouse gases
  • Climate change policies
  • Recycling
  • Renewable energy usage
  • Employee incentives promoting carpooling, public transportation, bicycle commuting, etc.


Social

How the company treats people inside and outside of the company. Examples include:

  • Employee safety policies and sexual harassment prevention
  • Employee engagement and turnover rate
  • Diversity and inclusion practices
  • Employee compensation
  • Consumer protection activity

Governance

How leadership runs and leads the company, which involves aspects such as:

  • Ethical practices
  • Diversity of Board and Management team
  • Lobbying efforts
  • Political contributions
  • Executive compensation, bonuses and perks

So, if you value reducing greenhouse gases, you might partner with your Wealth Advisor to find an investment option that takes a proactive approach to reducing greenhouse gases. You could also focus on investment options using renewable energies that create less pollution or invest in those that practice and fight for sustainable behaviors, such as enacting no deforestation policies or defending animal welfare.

You can tailor ESG investing to your values, financial situation and goals. So, look for as many or as few ESG factors as you’d like in potential investment options to help choose which is right for you.

Potential Benefits and Risks

As with all types of investments, there are benefits and risks with ESG investing.

Value Alignment
Those who invest in ESG-specific companies align their values and make more conscious decisions and are thus more likely to stick with their investment strategy long-term.

Better Working Environments
By holding companies accountable to ESG factors, investors can have a hand in making working environments safer and more inclusive.

Performance
The products offering ESG strategies may invest in securities or industry sectors that underperform the market as a whole or underperform other strategies screened for sustainable investing standards. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results, so it’s important not to make a decision based on how ESG has performed in the past.

Lack of Universal ESG Standards
While there are many independent organizations dedicated to measuring ESG performance, there are no agreed-upon standards. This creates inconsistencies in ESG portfolios and funds.

Companies Could Stop Reporting on ESG Issues
There is no requirement for companies to report on ESG-related measures. Therefore, companies could stop voluntarily reporting ESG-related data. Companies could also change their business practices and shift away from a focus on ESG.

How Does it Fit within My Portfolio?

ESG investing can be another way to diversify your investment portfolio, and it’s becoming increasingly more available. However, because ESG investing is relatively new, it’s not common in a 401(k) quite yet, though you can access it through IRAs and brokerage accounts via mutual funds and ETFs.

First, consider how much time you are willing to dedicate to ESG investing and what percentage of your overall portfolio or investments it should be. While you can invest in individual stocks, it does require more of a time commitment to do the necessary research. Alternatively, you could consider investing in ESG-focused ETFs or mutual funds. Keep in mind each ETF or mutual fund issuer sets their own standards for what is considered ESG. Those companies should describe their philosophies and methodologies in the product materials.

Also, think about how you want to approach ESG investing. For example, what companies are making an active effort to limit their negative impact or provide benefit in a way that reflects your social values?

An organization’s performance against ESG issues helps stakeholders make key decisions, and there are many tools and third-party resources available to measure or report on ESG performance. These resources can help companies track performance in a range of areas including governance, climate-related risks and opportunities, emissions, resource management and many others. It’s important you understand how these organizations define and measure ESG.

We recommend finding a financial advisor who takes a high-level look at your long-term financial goals and can help you identify how ESG investing may be able to fit your financial situation. Your advisor can help you manage your investment strategy to meet your unique goals as part of your broader financial plan, if ESG investing is something that is important to you.

Is ESG Investing Right for Me?

ESG investing can be a unique part of your investment strategy, helping you support causes you care about while still planning for your financial future. It’s important to consider all the potential benefits and risks of ESG investing to determine if it’s right for you.

At Wealth Management by CommunityAmerica, what matters to you, matters to us. Our team is here to help you create a financial plan that both matches your values and aligns with your financial goals. If you have questions about ESG investing, reach out to one of our Wealth Advisors here.
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About the Author
Professional Photo of Heath Burch
Heath Burch

Wealth Management By CommunityAmerica

Heath is the Director of Wealth Management by CommunityAmerica. He is also the host of the Community Conversation Podcast. Heath currently sits as President of the Board for Variety Children’s Charity of Kansas City and as chair of the Board of Directors for the Liberty Education Foundation.

This article is for informational purposes only and should not be viewed as personalized financial advice. You should speak with a financial advisor before making any investment decisions.

 

CuFi offers products that feature Environmental, Social and Governance (“ESG”) strategies. ESG investing incorporates environmental, social, and/or governance issues into the analysis, selection, and management of investments. ESG criteria are used by investors and portfolio managers to screen investments and assess a company's impact in one or more of these areas. ESG investing limits the types and number of investment opportunities available. The products offering ESG strategies may invest in securities or industry sectors that underperform the market as a whole or underperform other strategies screened for sustainable investing standards.

 

For more information, please review the prospectus or advisory brochure for the underlying investments used within the ESG strategies or contact your financial advisor.

Securities and advisory services offered through Copper Financial Network, LLC (“CuFi”), Member FINRA/SIPC. CuFi is a SEC registered investment adviser. CuFi is a wholly-owned subsidiary of CommunityAmerica Credit Union. Wealth Management by CommunityAmerica is a marketing name used by CuFi. For important disclosures from CuFi, including our Form CRS, please visit here. Investment and insurance products, including annuities:


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