Issues such as climate change and sustainability have become increasingly hot topics globally and often the subject of conversation. As a result, Environmental, Social and Governance-linked (ESG) investment strategies continue to dominate financial headlines.
These strategies, which include impact investing, are not new, but momentum is growing as shareholders demand greater action and consumers hold businesses to a higher standard. Increasingly, a significant number of UK investors expect their investments to align with their personal beliefs and continue to express interest in sustainable investing.
Potentially higher returns
Findings from new research identified that UK millennials are less likely to compromise their personal beliefs in order to benefit from potentially higher returns compared to their global counterparts.
ESG is a set of standards seeking to reduce negligent corporate behaviour that may lead to environmental degradation, armament sales, human rights violations, racial or sexual discrimination, harmful substances production, worker exploitation and corruption, though this list is by no means exhaustive and remains disputed.
More sustainability conscious
This study of more than 23,000 people who invest from 32 locations globally revealed that in the UK, only 20% of millennials, who are often perceived to be more sustainability-conscious, would compromise their personal beliefs if the returns were high enough. Globally however, 25% would be willing to be flexible with their values.
According to the UK results of the Global Investor Study, some 50% of Britons aged 71+, 23% of baby-boomers and 22% of those classed as Generation X would trade their personal beliefs for higher returns.
In the UK almost a third (24%) of those who class themselves as having ‘expert/advanced’ investment knowledge are substantially more likely to trade their personal beliefs for better investment returns compared with 18% of ‘beginner/rudimentary’ investors.
A total of 78% of Britons said they would not invest against their personal beliefs, and for those who would, the average return on their investment would need to be 21% to adequately offset any guilt. Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) generally focuses on excluding ‘sin-stocks’ from the investment pool based on negative screening guidelines.
Entering the mainstream
In the last two years, sustainable investing in the UK has increased, with 48% of people now frequently investing in sustainable investment funds compared with 34% in 2018, sending a positive market signal that sustainable investing is entering the mainstream.
Overall, 40% of UK investors stated that investing sustainably was likely to lead to higher returns. Some 51% said they were attracted to investing sustainably due to its wider environmental impact. Globally, expert or advanced investors are the most likely to think sustainable investments have the most potential to offer higher returns (44%) and the least likely to think investing this way will ultimately disappoint (9%).
Top three ‘behaviours’
The opinion was split among investors globally in terms of how asset managers should address challenges that arise from the fossil fuel industry. Just over a third (36%) said managers should withdraw investment from companies in these industries to limit their ability to grow. However, over a quarter (27%) said managers should remain invested to drive change.
Furthermore, investors said that the top three ‘behaviours’ companies should be most focused on were their social responsibility, attention to environmental issues and the treatment of their staff.
 In April 2020, the Schroders Global Investor Study 2020 commissioned an independent online survey of over 23,000 people (aged 18-37) who invest from 32 locations around the globe. This spanned countries across Europe, Asia, the Americas and more. This research defines people as those who will be investing at least €10,000 (or the equivalent) in the next 12 months and who have made changes to their investments within the last ten years.
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