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Trends in Environmental, Social and
Governance Investing

October 2012

Table of Contents


Key Survey Findings

SRI/ESG Strategies Adopted

Future Outlook


BNY Mellon has unique insight into the behaviour of investors around the globe. Post the financial crisis of 2008, we have seen demands for greater transparency and closer investment monitoring driving the sophistication of our clients' risk management and compliance programs. One area that has seen a growing focus over the past few years is the screening of investments for sensitive issues; otherwise known as Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) or Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) screening. Fund Sponsors, recognizing that societal concerns are impacting investment decisions, are adopting ethical considerations within the investment management process in implementing SRI/ESG and risk mitigation strategies.

What is Socially Responsible Investing (SRI)?

Socially Responsible Investing is known by many names — it is often referred to as Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Screening, Ethical Investing, Sustainable Investing, or Green Investing. For the purposes of this paper, Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) will be used interchangeably. Regardless of the name associated with the strategy, the underlying tenet is the same: to focus on long-term value creation and the generation of financial and sustainable value. Value not only refers to economic value, but to the broader values of fairness, justice, and long-term sustainability. Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) integrates environmental, social and governance (ESG) and ethical issues into financial analysis and decision-making. It goes beyond the simplicity and narrow view of the "negative screening" that is often associated with Socially Responsible Investing (SRI). It includes more proactive practices such as impact investing, shareholder advocacy/ activism and community investing1.

Exhibit A // The Evolution of Socially Responsible Investing

Ethical Screening Corporate Governance Sustainability
Risk Management
  • Traditional – SRI/ESG
  • Focus is on avoiding or excluding companies, often based on moral or religious beliefs. Disconnected from asset performance
  • Emerging trend to screen on reputational risk, including global security issue
  • Became popular after high profile governance failures (Enron, Tyco, MCI/WorldComw, etc.)
  • Primarily concerned with issues around the structure and function of the Board of directors (check on management)
  • Supports engagement
  • Supports analysis of both risk and performance
  • Broadens the range of issues considered
  • Often looks at both leaders and laggards (positive and negative screening)
  • Supports engagement
  • Supports analysis of both risk and performance

The Earliest Adopters of SRI/ESG

Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) has seen exponential growth since the mid-1990's. However, it has its roots as far back as the 1700's in England. One of the earliest adopters of SRI/ESG was John Wesley (1703-1791), one of the founders of the Methodist Church in England2. Wesley's sermon "The Use of Money" outlined his basic guidelines of social investing — not to harm your neighbor through your business practices and to avoid industries like tanning and chemical production, which can harm the health of workers.

The application of socially responsible investing made a significant splash in the headlines globally in 2007. In March of that year Belgium became the first country to criminalize investment in manufacturers of cluster munitions. The law specifically prohibits investment in manufacturers of cluster munitions3

  • The law prohibits investment in companies that are involved in the manufacture of cluster munitions, landmines, the key components of either, or that own more than 50% of a company that is involved in one of these activities. The law covers investment in both equity and debt instruments.
  • The law prohibits loans or the extension of credit to companies that are involved in the manufacture of cluster munitions and landmines
  • There is an exception for passive investments

Also in 2007, in the United States, The Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act4 of 2007 was signed into law. This law was established to allow State and Local governments to cut investment ties with companies doing business in Sudan in an effort to pressure the Sudanese government to stop the genocide in the Darfur region.

Some of the best-known applications of socially responsible investing have been religiously motivated. Investors would avoid "sinful" companies, such as those associated with products including guns, liquor, and tobacco. The screening mandates employed today are as varied as the firms/organizations that employ them. To help understand we can use tobacco as an example.

Ethical or Moral mandates typically reflect or reinforce values held by investors (think 'sin stocks'). "I want to avoid tobacco stocks because I find the production and distribution of tobacco products to be morally objectionable."

Risk/Performance mandates encapsulate the investor's attitudes toward the relative level of risk or performance among groups of companies. "I want to avoid tobacco stocks because I believe that increasing regulation and education around the world will impact demand for tobacco products."

Our Survey Says ... Minority of Clients Implement SRI/ESG Framework

Given the growing industry and media attention to SRI/ESG investing, in early 2012, BNY Mellon surveyed its asset owner client base of over 1100 institutions to uncover if, how, and why clients incorporate this type of approach into their investment process. Surveyed clients were broken down by plan type, i.e. Corporate Pension Plans, Public Pension Plans, Endowments and Foundations. Clients were further segmented by region: North America or EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) as well as by size. Our results found that overall 24% of responding clients have implemented SRI or ESG strategies within their investment process today representing in excess of $200bn. While 24% is not insignificant, given the interest level and attention from various industry publications it was somewhat unexpected. When one thinks about survey behaviour and the fact that those that don't respond (our survey achieved a 13% response rate) are typically less interested in the topic, the number of clients implementing SRI/ESG strategies may be even lower.

When we drill down into the responses to this question by plan type, region and size, we continue to see that overall, the majority of responding clients do not implement SRI/ ESG strategies. However, we do start to see some directional differences emerge in the percentages of client responses, particularly in the results by plan type. As shown in Table 1, Public Pensions (35%) and Endowments and Foundations (27%) show nearly twice the percentage of plans that implement as compared to Corporate Pension plans (16%).

When asked what event prompted each firm to initiate their current strategy, the most frequent response, regardless of plan type, to this question was organizational values followed next by legislative pressure for Public Pensions. So it would seem that some Endowments, Foundations and Public Pensions see a link between their firms' organizational values and their investments that Corporate Pensions potentially do not.

Table 1 // Do You Currently Implement SRI/ESG Strategies?

  Plan Type Region
Response (%) Endowments & Foundations Corporate Pensions Public Funds North America Europe, Middle East & Africa
Yes 27 16 35 22 35
No 73 84 65 78 65

Let's next explore some of the reasons why we are not seeing more clients implementing this type of strategy. Besides organizational values and lack of knowledge or interest, do clients feel that there is a performance trade off and are there any other contributing factors to this decision?

Performance Trade Off?

Much has been written over the past 10-15 years on whether or not a performance trade off exists in the context of SRI/ESG investing strategies. Historically, there seems to be some reluctance to pursue these types of strategies as doing so often came at a price, namely inferior returns. The argument against this approach, generally speaking, is that by restricting certain securities from being included in your portfolio you are reducing the opportunity for return.

The SRI industry has taken a proactive approach in attempting to change this opinion with the creation of groups such as the Social Investment Forum (SIF) as well as the United Nations-backed Principles for Responsible Investment Initiative (PRI). The Principles for Responsible Investment in particular, were devised to reflect the view that environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) issues can affect the performance of investment portfolios and therefore must be given appropriate consideration by investors if they are to fulfill their fiduciary (or equivalent) duty. The Principles provide a voluntary framework by which all investors can incorporate ESG issues into their decision-making and ownership practices and so better align their objectives with those of society at large.5 Across each of the six principles identified within the PRI, possible actions are identified. For example, ways of incorporating ESG issues into the investment analysis and decision making processes can include issuing policy statements, assessing the capabilities of external investment managers to incorporate ESG and encouraging academic research to name just a few.

As a result, there have been more studies conducted to better understand if there is a cost to SRI/ESG investing strategies. These studies seem to now indicate that SRI funds perform competitively to non-SRI funds over time.6

In January 2010, the SIF produced a press release7 with the headline "Social Investment Forum: Two Thirds of Socially Responsible Mutual Funds Outperformed Benchmarks During 2009 Economic Downturn". Although more orientated towards retail mutual funds, the report highlighted some significant statistics and how within large capitalisation funds:

  • Almost 75% of funds outperformed the S&P 500 during the year
  • Average out performance of almost 6% (compared to the S&P)
  • Majority of funds also outperformed over 3 and 10 year periods

It's interesting to note that whilst the headline talks about SRI funds outperforming during the "2009 economic downturn", the equity markets were up significantly over that year. With that backdrop, we compared the numbers published by SIF with our own universe of Large Capitalization Mutual Funds. This universe represents over 500 funds with no stated SRI approach, with a benchmark of the Russell 1000 — similar in investment approach to SIF. The comparison makes interesting reading as shown in Chart 1. In the 1 year period ending December 2009, the SRI fund performance was over 400 basis points greater than the median from the non-SRI universe — significant out-performance by any measure. This trend is not sustained however and reviewing the longer time frames (3, 5 and 10 years) traditional active management is the winner, albeit by a marginal amount. The sample size is too small to draw a definitive conclusion regarding the overall SRI competitiveness against more traditional strategies, however, these results indicate that SRI based investing does not automatically result in a performance trade off.

Chart 1 // Performance Comparison between SRI and "Traditional" Large Cap Equity

Chart 1 // Performance Comparison between SRI and Traditional Large Cap Equity

Note: Performance returns as of December 31st, 2009

For further evidence, one can simply look at historical performance of the longest-running SRI index, the MSCI KLD 400 Social Index. The MSCI KLD 400 Social Index selects 400 companies with high ESG performance and similar sector weights from the MSCI USA Investable Market Index (IMI).8 As Chart 2 highlights, over the past eighteen years we see very little difference in performance. A single dollar invested in the KLD index grew to $4.53 through to the end of May 2012, versus $4.15 had it instead been invested in the USA IMI index.

Chart 2 // $1 Invested in MSCI KLD 400 Social Index vs. MSCI USA Investable Market Index (IMI) from 6/1/1994 through 5/31/2012

Chart 2 // $1 Invested in MSCI KLD 400 Social Index vs. MSCI USA Investable Market Index (IMI) from 6/1/1994 through 5/31/2012

As we look at the survey results for respondents not implementing SRI/ESG strategies, Table 2 shows that the two most frequent explanations for not doing so are "lack of interest" (58%) and "performance trade off" (30%). Whether these two responses are related is not discernable through our survey, however, it is possible that some lack of interest has been driven by the performance consideration. We are also unable to determine if lack of interest is driven by a lack of awareness about the options to invest in SRI/ESG investing or if it is truly something that the investor does not care about. When reviewing responses by region, we see a lower percentage of lack of interest as a reason in EMEA and a greater number in other categories when compared to North America. This may be explained by greater awareness and discussion of SRI/ESG in markets beyond the US, so even when making a decision not to implement a strategy there is greater awareness of what it means.

Table 2 // Why Does Your Organization NOT Have an SRI/ESG Strategy in Place? (%)

    Plan Type Region
Response Overall Endowments & Foundation Corporate Pensions Public Pensions North America Europe, Middle East and Africa
Lack of Interest 58 53 61 58 61 40
Performance Trade Off 30 40 22 29 28 47
ERISA 5   10 4 6  
Too Costly 2   4   2  
Other 4 7 2 8 3 13

Given the debate about the performance implications of a SRI/ESG program, perhaps one of the most important questions to ask those that have implemented such programs is whether they have seen a performance trade off. As Chart 3 highlights, the most commonly held view amongst such investors in our survey is that there is no trade off (80% versus 20%). An argument could be made that once a firm can get past any initial reluctance to adopt a SRI/ESG strategy they may begin to see the benefits more clearly. Since these responses are from the investors that have ESG/SRI in place you might argue that they wouldn't be doing it if there was, but there is still a small number that believe there is a performance impact and yet still have the framework in place. Indeed, over 85% of those that answered yes to a performance impact are still very likely to continue their SRI/ESG over the next 2 years perhaps suggesting that values trump performance in this arena.

Chart 3 // Performance Sacrifice from ESG?

Chart 3- Performance Sacrifice from ESG?

Implications of ERISA

Although not the most significant driver, one response for Corporate Pension plans was that they could not participate in SRI/ESG investment strategies because of ERISA. The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) of 1974 governs corporate pension plans in the United States and requires fiduciaries to ensure they are investing plan assets solely in the interest of participants and beneficiaries and for the exclusive purpose of providing benefits and paying plan expenses. Fiduciaries must act prudently and must diversify the plan's investments in order to minimize the risk of large losses.9

While ERISA seemingly does not prevent a fiduciary from investing in ESG/SRI strategies alone, steps must be taken to ensure compliance. For example, according to an October 17, 2008, Employee Benefits Security Administration interpretive bulletin regarding ESG considerations of Economically Targeted Investments, ERISA "establishes a clear rule that in the course of discharging their duties, fiduciaries may never subordinate the economic interests of the plan to unrelated objectives, and may not select investments on the basis of any factor outside the economic interest of the plan". However where two or more alternative investments are of equal economic value, fiduciaries are permitted to choose between the investment alternatives on the basis of a factor other than economic interest of the plan.10

In a report by the UN Environment Programme, they contend that Pension fund fiduciaries under ERISA are "arguably required" to integrate ESG issues into their regular investment decision-making process, Paul A. Hilton, director of advanced equities research, Calvert Investments and co-leader of the project that produced the report, said at a July 21 teleconference on the report. Investment managers and consultants could face negligence lawsuits if they don't consider such factors when making investment decisions for pension funds and other clients.

"These ESG issues are increasingly becoming very real and material issues that have bottom-line impacts on companies," Mr. Hilton said at the teleconference. "And so with that understanding, it's clear, unlike (using only) a simple value approach, an approach that integrates these (factors) as part of the regular investment process is arguably required by any major fiduciary and that certainly holds true" under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. "ERISA language says if it is a material issue, it needs to be considered (in the investment process), and a lot of these ESG factors are material issues," Mr. Hilton said in an interview after the teleconference. "Within the report is a call to policymakers to be more clear on the responsibility of (fiduciary) investors," he continued. Not everyone is likely to have the same interpretation of fiduciary responsibilities but such statements should raise awareness and allow for dialogue.

Do We Anticipate Change?

Given the amount of attention this topic has received in the media, do our clients anticipate any changes in their attitudes towards the importance of SRI/ESG investing strategies in the future? As Chart 4 illustrates, while most do not, roughly one third of all participants feel that SRI/ESG will be more important to their organization in the future. Drilling down into the responses by plan type does not change the story, but when looking at responses by region, we do see that our EMEA clients anticipate more emphasis in the future (52%) when compared to clients in the Americas (31%). We also noted differences based on whether or not you currently use an SRI/ESG strategy. For those clients that do have a strategy in place, 60% state that it is likely to be more important to their organization in the future, significantly more than the 26% who responded the same but without a current SRI/ESG program.

Chart 4 // Greater Importance of SRI/ESG in the Future (%)

Chart 4 // Greater Importance of SRI/ESG in the Future (%)

A Deeper Dive into Clients with an SRI/ESG Focus

Taking a closer look at the survey results we can see what types of strategies have been implemented by BNY Mellon institutional investor clients to date which in turn may indicate what we'll see more asset owners adopt as this becomes a more mainstream consideration.

Our survey reveals that clients have implemented many different strategies to their SRI/ ESG framework, and these components can be put into 3 broad categories: Portfolio Selection and Screening, Shareholder Advocacy and Community Investing.

Portfolio Selection and Screening is the use of information to identify good or bad investments within a portfolio (see further explanation under Portfolio Screening section below). Shareholder Advocacy includes a number of activities such as proxy voting, shareholder resolutions and company engagement. As large beneficial holders of securities, institutional investors have significant voting rights which they can use to influence the outcome of a range of important issues in the running of underlying companies. Taking this one stage further, shareholder resolutions allow holders to not only vote on proposals that the underlying company puts forward, but also to submit their own and will often be focused on topics such as corporate governance — board membership, executive compensation etc. — and environmental policies that are important to the investor. Another mechanism through which investors can influence behaviour is through engaging with corporate management and working cooperatively on issues. Finally community investing allows institutional investors to allocate capital to support local initiatives and communities that are otherwise underserved.

As Chart 5 highlights below, the most dominant of these activities is Investment Screening (74%), though Shareholder Resolutions (43%) and the awarding of specific SRI/ESG mandates (40%) are also noteworthy. The predominance of portfolio selection and screening is consistent with other industry surveys such as The Social Investment Forum Foundations 2010 Report on Socially Responsible Investing Trends in the US11 that found that of the $3.07 trillion in assets managed to SRI strategies, $2.51 trillion — over 80% — was managed with the incorporation of ESG factors into investment analysis and portfolio construction. As evidenced by the 43% of responding clients using shareholder resolutions, this is becoming an important component of investors SRI tool kits, with Ernst and Young reporting that in the 2012 proxy season "Environmental and social issues dominate shareholder sponsored resolutions for third consecutive year".12

Chart 5 // Different Types of SRI/ESG Strategies Implemented (%)

Chart 5 // Different Types of SRI/ESG Strategies Implemented (%)

Note: Numbers do not sum to 100% as multiple responses allowed

Data collected through the survey also gives some perspective into how the above strategies have been implemented across client portfolios and assets. As Chart 6 demonstrates, where clients have implemented a SRI/ESG framework, the majority have applied it to 50% or more of their assets. Indeed 50% of those with a framework have it applied across 90% of their assets or greater, indicating a significant commitment to SRI/ ESG. Chart 7 provides insight into how they have done this in terms of their asset classes and managers with 69% using specific asset classes or managers and 31% doing so across all managers and asset classes. These statistics may seem contradictory at first glance; however, there is a rational explanation for this. Much of the focus on ESG has been on equity instruments. The investment industry has seen a growth of investment managers offering specialised SRI/ESG products and asset owners are issuing specific mandates for such products. However, investors are also widening their net and including all of their assets clients. In 2011, Pensions and Investments13 reported on plans by California Public Employees' Retirement System (CALPERS) — the largest pension fund in the United States — to integrate ESG factors into all asset classes portfolio wide. This is a trend we may expect to continue, as alternative investment managers within both the hedge funds and private equity arenas embrace SRI/ESG philosophies.

Chart 6 // Assets Covered by SRI/ESG Framework (%) // Left

Chart 7 // Approach to Implementing SRI/ESG Framework (%) // Right

Chart 6 (left) // Assets Covered by SRI/ESG Framework (%);Chart 7 (right) // Approach to Implementing SRI/ESG Framework (%)

Organizational Values

Stepping back from how clients have implemented their SRI/ESG framework, an equally important question is "Why?" Motivations for the implementation of SRI/ESG strategies are varied, although our survey finds there is a dominant factor, with Organisational Values being the most frequently cited reason as we have already discussed. This is very consistent with the origins of SRI as being about values and moral driven investment. Legislation, the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investing (UNPRI) and specific company issues were also reasons identified by clients. It is interesting to note that Risk Management was also identified as a reason. Although not statistically significant, it does perhaps highlight a school of thought that adopting SRI/ESG strategies is actually an integral part of an investment risk framework. To-date much of the discussion of ESG investing has focused on the trade off from a performance or return perspective as we have already discussed, however, ESG may also represent an opportunity to assist in risk management. CALPERS's decision to integrate ESG factors into all asset classes portfolio wide (representing over $220bn) was in part "based on an assumption that ESG factors contribute to risk management".14 A search of the internet yields a number of articles that reference ESG and Risk. With risk management and mitigation such important themes in a post financial crises world, the more we understand how SRI/ESG investing can be used to manage risk, the more likely we will see greater adoption.

Examining the length of time that clients have implemented SRI/ESG strategies, Chart 8 highlights that a majority of these clients have done so for over 5 years. Just 9% of clients that responded have had a strategy in place for less than 1 year. Encouragingly, clients that have implemented SRI/ESG strategies appear committed to them, with 83% very likely to continue these programs over the next 2 years and the remainder somewhat likely. These findings may suggest that those clients that have adopted these strategies are core believers and some of the earlier adopters that are committed to embracing SRI/ESG criteria in managing their plans and assets.

Chart 8 // Length of Strategy Implemented (%)

Chart 8 // Length of Strategy Implemented (%)

Portfolio Screening – Widely Used ESG Toolkit

Based on our survey, Portfolio Selection and Screening is currently the most dominant of approaches used by our clients as part of a SRI/ESG framework. Our survey reveals some insight into the types of screens used and how these are monitored. Before we look at these results its first helpful to define what we mean by portfolio screening. At a high level portfolio screening relates to the use of certain information or criteria to identify attributes of a security and construct portfolios based off of these. From a traditional investment analysis perspective this might include financial characteristics such as a Price to Book ratio, Cash flow information or fundamental analysis. However, in the context of ESG screening these attributes relate to involvement in controversial business issues (for example the adult entertainment industry), environmental or other related criteria such as ties to certain countries. Once you have information, the screens can be used to exclude positions (identifying securities with certain characteristics that you want to remove from a portfolio) or include based on some positive aspects. In terms of the evolution of ESG investing, exclusionary or restrictive screening has been the common approach; however, as thinking has evolved inclusionary approaches are gaining more traction. The mindset here is that while it is good to exclude securities with "bad" criteria (aka "sin" stocks), including "good" securities may deliver better performance in the long run.

Supporting these statements, Chart 9 highlights that for clients that use portfolio screening, an exclusionary approach is used the greatest amount of time (48%). Clients that use inclusionary screens exclusively are the smallest category of screening with 18%. A third (33%) of those clients that have a screening framework are however using both approaches, suggesting that clients are embracing the concept of ESG investing providing opportunities.

Chart 9 // Types of Screening Used Within SRI/ESG Framework (%)

Chart 9 // Types of Screening Used Within SRI/ESG Framework (%)

Examining the types of screens that clients are implementing, there remains a clear focus on "sin" stocks or controversial business issues. Across 20 categories (excluding country ties which we cover separately below) we asked our clients to state whether screening on these certain criteria was very important, somewhat important or not important at all.

Chart 10 shows the issues that had the greatest collective rankings as either Very or Somewhat important. Per this survey, Human rights as a category is the single most important issue our clients are focused on with 56% stating this as very important. What do human rights mean from an investment perspective? Typically this will mean excluding companies that are implicated in human rights violations, supporting certain regimes or having a detrimental impact on local communities. However, it could also include including companies that have demonstrated positive actions in this area. Human rights are followed by Weapons/Military ties at 52% and Tobacco at 44%. When we include somewhat important responses, Landmine/Cluster Munitions and Adult Entertainment join the fray. It's also interesting to note the categories or issues that our clients find least important. Stem Cell Research, Contraceptives, and Bioengineering were the 3 issues that had the greatest % of not at all important responses (59%, 56% and 56% respectively). Since some of the earliest adopters of SRI strategies have been religious organisations where such issues would likely be high priorities, this demonstrates to us that the audience and participants in SRI/ESG investing has grown and the associated issues. At the same time, there were still some clients that consider these issues very important which again reinforces that the main driver of a client's SRI/ESG framework are their organisational values.

Since these results are based on all clients with screens — whether they use Exclusionary, Inclusionary or both — we also looked to see if there are any significantly different trends when clients are doing one or the other, however, there are no notable differences in this case. For those clients that implement exclusionary only, it is the same categories that are ranked very or somewhat important, the only difference being that Weapons/Military Ties trades placed with Human Resources as the most important category of screen (perhaps because it may be harder to define where human rights issues are and who is actually creating the problem).

Chart 10 // Most Important Screens

Chart 10 // Most Important Screens

An important area of screening for many clients relates to country ties, which is very much an exclusionary approach. These screens are typically easy to implement and important from a risk perspective. Whether driven by organisational values, local or national legislation (such as Sudanese Divestment as mentioned earlier), asset owners often have an obligation to ensure that through their investment managers they do not hold beneficial assets with ties to specific countries. Common drivers are human rights — which we have already seen as an important screen for institutional investors — and terrorist ties. Human rights violations in Sudan is perhaps the most widely publicized example, with many institutional investors — especially public funds — adopting a program of divestment of securities with ties to the country's economy. Reviewing our own survey responses as reported in Chart 11, it's perhaps no surprise that Sudan and Iran — another country that has been identified as having its fair share of both human rights violations and military concerns with alleged state sponsorship of terrorism — top the list of most important country ties. Whilst Syria was further down the list at the time of our survey, given the ongoing actions on the country we anticipate that this may be more important to our clients in the future. Although the sample size is too small to do detailed breakout reporting of country tie data, it's clear that country ties are a priority for these types of organisations with 80% of public fund responses identifying screening for ties to Sudan and Iran very important — significantly more than the insight across all segments of the market.

Chart 11 // Importance of Country Ties When Screening

Chart 11 // Importance of Country Ties When Screening

We also explored where our clients might be placing future focus. Whilst some of the same issues were prevalent again (Human Rights, Weapons/Military etc.), the two issues that had the most responses were Environmental Performance and Predatory Lending. Again, this may be a reflection of the times we are in with the continued global economic crises and investors' concerns around the human impact.

Potential Conflict?

We've already seen that screening is the most common component of our client's ESG/SRI framework and 78% of clients responded that it's very important that their investment managers adhere to them, but where do clients get the data to facilitate screening and who does it? As Charts 12 and 13 highlight, the investment manager themselves are often the primary source for both the underlying data to create screens — with almost 60% sourcing data this way — as well as the ongoing monitoring where 44% of clients have their managers provide this service. Clearly investment managers would be expected to have this data and monitor to ensure they meet client requirements and they are the ones constructing portfolios; however, there may be a conflict of interest if this is the only source of validation. Supporting ESG screening is an intensive process, with significant data, research and reporting to do it right, however, just as it is increasingly common practice to use independent service providers to provide performance measurement and other types of investment monitoring, we propose that given the importance of these screens, an independent source should be considered best practice as it allows the asset owner to have information parity. There are established vendors of ESG data which has been increasingly integrated into service provider platforms to provide this type of service.

Chart 12 // Sources of ESG Data

Chart 12 // Sources of ESG Data

Note: Numbers do not sum to 100% as multiple responses allowed

Chart 13 // Screening Monitoring?

Chart 13 // Screening Monitoring?

Measuring Up?

The performance implications of an SRI/ESG framework continue to receive a lot of attention and as we have already discussed in this paper, there are a various theories and empirical data that can support both sides of the argument. For an Asset Owner, ultimately how do you measure the effectiveness or impact of an SRI/ESG framework?

Chart 14 // What Index Do you use to measure ESG Performance

Chart 14 // What Index Do you use to measure ESG Performance

As Chart 14 highlights there really is no dominant index when measuring ESG performance — indeed the most commonly used approach is to have no specific index (51%). Using a SRI/ESG index or custom index is certainly in the minority still representing 6% and 11% respectively, significantly behind the use of traditional indices. These statistics highlight an area for improvement for those that implement a SRI/ESG program. Indeed it may be surprising that more specific indices have not been used when you consider that specialist mandates and benchmarks are commonplace today and our own survey identified that the majority of investors used specialised managers and asset classes to implement their SRI/ESG framework. We are seeing a growth in the type and number of specialist ESG indices available in the market place. In the last few months major market index vendors have announced plans for a series of Global ESG Fixed Income Indices15 and blue chip indices.16 As investors become better educated about the specialist indices available we predict that there will be greater use of these in the future.

Where Next?

As we have already reported, just over one third of our survey respondents believe that SRI/ESG investing will be more important to their organisation in the future (Chart 2). Indeed if the growth and trends reported by organisations such as The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment hold true, many more institutional investors will be adopting and implementing such strategies in the future. To do so, what kind of assistance are clients looking for? As shown in Chart 15, clients believe they will need help in a number of areas but the most frequent are Analysis and Reporting. Data is also another frequently noted area. These findings are consistent with the broader trends we see amongst the client base of BNY Mellon as they continue to seek more transparency and understanding of their investments and ensure that their assets are being managed as expected.

Chart 15 // Areas of Future Help

Chart 15 // Areas of Future Help

Note: Numbers do not sum to 100% as multiple responses allowed


The intent of this paper was to share information on if, why, and how BNY Mellon's asset owners client base incorporate Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) / Environmental, Social, and Governance strategies in their investment process. Through our survey we have found that indeed a number of clients do implement these strategies, however, the rates of adoption and information we have discovered suggest that the SRI/ESG industry still has a long way to go before it is something that is used by the majority of investors.

Our analysis revealed interesting results:

  • In our recent survey conducted, 24% of respondents currently implement SRI/ESG strategies. Given that disinterested clients are less likely to respond to surveys on the topic, it may indicate that levels of SRI/ESG implementation in the industry are lower.
  • Once investors implement SRI/ESG strategies, they are much more likely to stay the course and continue to do so in the future and have significantly different perceptions about the potential trade offs from such strategies. Screening is the most prevalent strategy adopted by clients with SRI/ESG strategies, with a significant number of respondents (78%) stating that it is very important that managers adhere to SRI/ESG screens.
  • Despite the importance that asset owners place on adherence to their SRI/ESG screens, many investors rely on their managers to monitor such adherence. Independent monitoring should be used as a recommended best practice.
  • Organizational values typically drive SRI/ESG focus for our clients. The most important areas of screening include Human Rights, Weapons/Military and Tobacco.
  • Over a third of all respondents anticipate that SRI/ESG investing will be of increased importance to their respective organizations in the future.

Although a smaller percentage of Asset Servicing clients have SRI/ESG strategies currently implemented than perhaps we anticipated, we do expect the percentage to increase in the future. Leading this change will be the continued evolution of regulation and legislation, related to corporate governance and long-term sustainability measures, as well as an increased sensitivity to organizational values and how companies are positioned amongst their peers. Our experience and conversations with clients suggests that public fund clients and endowment and foundation clients will be paving the way for increased SRI/ESG strategies in the near term.


1 Bradley, Theresa. Finally, socially responsible investors can measure their impact, September 24, 2011

2 "What We Believe — Founder of the United Methodist Church". United Methodist Church of Whitefish Bay. Retrieved August 2007.

3 Stop Explosive Investments

4 The Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act of 2007

5 Principles for Responsible Investment

6 Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment

7 Investment Forum: Two Thirds of Socially Responsible Mutual Funds Outperformed Benchmarks During 2009 Economic Downturn (1/21/2010)

8 MSCI Index Methodology, MSCI KLD 400 Social Index, February 2011

9 Department of Labor

10 UN Environment Programme: Fiduciary responsibility II: Legal and practical aspects of integrating ESG issues into institutional investment, US Department of Labor interpretive bulletins regarding institutional investors; July 2009

11 Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment

12 Press Release (4/4/12) – Environmental and social issues dominate shareholder-sponsored resolutions for third consecutive year – Ernst and Young

13 Pensions and Investments Online (1/24/2011) – "California Pension Funds Chart ESG Path in US"

14 Pensions and Investments Online (1/24/2011) – "California Pension Funds Chart ESG Path in US"

15 Press Release (5/4/2012) – MSCI and Barclays Announce Partnership to Create Global ESG Fixed Income Indices – New Index Family Provides Environmental, Social & Governance Investment Strategies for Institutional Fixed Income Portfolios

16 Press Release (5/28/12) – STOXX launches ESG Leaders blue-chip indices

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