Sustainable Investment
A generation of investors are getting socially conscious about where their funds are going. It adds to the responsibilities of recipient businesses. Image Credit: Shutterstock

There has been a noticeable shift in the investment landscape, characterised by a growing emphasis on sustainable investing. This is being driven by the younger generation, particularly millennials and other young investors who are passionately motivated to create a positive impact on society through their investment decisions.

Instead of solely focusing on the bottom-line, these investors are inclined towards purpose-driven investments. Consequently, an increasing number of them are adopting a sustainability-centric investment strategy. The goal of this approach - Socially Responsible Investing - combines environmental, social and governance factors, and is targeted at generating financial gains as well as causing a beneficial change for the world.

Representing a fleeting trend in the investment landscape, Socially Responsible Investing has risen in popularity as it aligns with investor’s personal values and provides a favourable opportunity to make ethical investment choices. This is emerging as a formidable force with the potential to make a significant positive change in society.

Major factors spurring the growth of this investment is the need to address various rising global concerns, including climate change, social inequality, and corporate governance issues. Investors recognise that investments - such as SRI - have the ability to aid in combating these global issues as it contributes to maximising people’s welfare and the environment.

One of the primary aspects of SRI is the focus placed on assessing an investment’s social and environmental impact, in addition to its financial returns. This has led to the development of a set of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) criteria used to evaluate the sustainability and social responsibility of businesses.

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A company’s performance is assessed utilising this ESG criteria on a number of fronts, including its carbon footprint, labour policies, diversity and inclusion, and ethical governance. The metrics are in turn utilised by investors to make informed decisions, consistent with their principles while aiming for high returns.

Studies have indicated that the SRI portfolios have demonstrated a performance similar to that of a conventional investment portfolio, dispelling the traditional belief that ethical investing will result in lower financial gains. Financial institutions offer a broad array of SRI products to accommodate the diverse preferences of investors and meet the rising demand for sustainable investing. Ranging from sustainable mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) to green bonds and impact-focused private equity, a diverse range of choices are available for investors. A few businesses have also taken the initiative to embed sustainability into their core business strategy to draw more SRI-oriented investors.

Although the growth of SRI is positive, it also presents several challenges for investors. The absence of a standardised ESG reporting is a significant barrier that prevents investors from accurately comparing companies and their performances. Another is the chance for ‘greenwashing’ by companies, where businesses purport to be environmentally-conscious and misrepresent their sustainability efforts to attract investors concerned about social and environmental issues.

To combat this, organisations and regulators are closely examining green claims to verify their accuracy and accountability. Given the emergence of ESG criteria, the diversity of SRI products, and the expansion of businesses dedicated to sustainability, investing for impact has undoubtedly grown in prominence, evolving into a powerful force capable of triggering positive change.

As the world grapples with issues, SRI offers a glimmer of hope by illuminating how investment choices can contribute to accelerating progress and shaping a better future for investors and societies.