6 Methods to Consider When Choosing an ESG Investing Strategy for Funds & Family Offices
A growing number of LP's are interested in Environmental, Social and Governance investing, known as ESG. In 2019, $715B was invested by LP's into funds of $50M+ which is a 12 month 44% increase. The entire US VC market is only $125B by comparison even with their record highs reported in 2021. If you are a fund, family office or impact investor this is where you need to implement an ESG strategy to stay relevant and ahead of the ESG global compliance underway. That term is becoming more common, but ESG still means different things to different people. While some investors are drawn to the socially responsible side of ESG investing — a more emotionally- driven, morals-based approach that aims to create a portfolio that aligns with the investor’s values — others approach ESG factors as a way to evaluate risks and opportunities and create more sustainable portfolios.
Once you’ve figured out why your LP's are drawn to ESG and what they hope to get from it, you can more easily evaluate the methods for adopting an ESG investing strategy that best fits your funds goals. Because there are a lot of approaches that you can choose from, each with very different objectives. Understanding different ESG implementation methods is the next critical step in determining the best fit for your portfolio. We're proud to be the trusted impact driven platform to empower a world of impact and profits Live. in real time.
Here’s a closer look at six different methods for incorporating ESG criteria into your fund strategy — along with their respective advantages and potential downsides — to help you decide what’s right for your impact goals:
1. Exclusionary Screening This is the oldest method and often the first approach that people think of when they hear “ESG,” “sustainable,” or “socially responsible” investing. Exclusionary screening involves removing companies from your portfolio based on products or business activities that conflict with your values. That might include businesses associated with alcohol, tobacco, gambling, or weapons manufacturing, just to name a few examples.
Pros: Negative screening lets you align your investments with your beliefs and values. This approach allows you to participate in the all markets on your own terms, and that’s better than keeping 100% of your money in cash.
WeTransacts enables your fund to clearly input your investor thesis and be matched with LPs who align and actively investing. Enabling a much more frictionless way to recommend and connect real time for mutually beneficial opportunities.
Cons: Research suggests that this approach is harmful to your overall returns. It also may leave you less diversified than you otherwise could be by using a different investment strategy. Worst of all, negative screening can exclude companies you actually like overall — perhaps requiring you to reject a company like Amazon because it sells alcohol through its grocery store chain, Whole Foods. Don’t worry tho in terms of SDG goals the returns have shown over the last decade to be increasing.
2. Best-in-Class Selection This approach is an evolution from the original exclusionary model. Rather than excluding companies for their products and activities, funds that use a best-in-class selection method will score all the companies in a representative index on a host of ESG factors. Then, it rewards the leaders on ESG metrics by overweighting those stocks within the index.
Pros: Positive screening lets you align your investments with either your values or sustainability goals by underweighting or avoiding the companies that don’t excel at ESG. Equally important, research shows that positive screening doesn’t necessarily hurt performance or harm diversification.
WeTransacts provides real time insights and data to better gauge and select the "best in class" opportunities. Empowering funds to not rely on their own network bubbles and gut instincts significantly decreases missed opportunities, that later they will have to explain to their LPs and investors when they passed on a unicorn. WeTransact platform empowers the fund to be proactively part of the solution by raising the bar for early stage founders to grow into the Best in Class by planting this into the seeds of the ongoing due diligence process. ESG is planted into the DnA of all companies you invest in from day one and then continuously developing best practices to be the ESG innovators and leaders for generations to come.
Cons: The primary drawback to positive screening is limited information. ESG data isn’t standardized and relies on companies to self-report, so ESG data sets used for the security selection process aren’t perfect.
3. ESG Integration The ESG integration approach examines ESG criteria alongside traditional financial analysis. This method recognizes that issues like climate change, social inequality, and corporate governance can affect a company’s long-term performance — but it doesn’t emphasize specific ESG-related goals. The point of the integration is to use ESG factors to pursue better risk-adjusted returns.
Pros: Examining ESG factors gives investors more information to help assess a company’s risk profile and return potential. Research suggests this may improve risk-adjusted performance over long periods.
WeTransacts tracks ESG, KPIs and OKRs at every stage of planning via our proprietary ongoing due diligence process. Gain insights, data and continuous measuring, reporting and advising with leading global experts. WeTransacts proprietary infrastructure empowers funds, organizations, family offices and large angel groups to easily track, monitor and report their growth at a fraction of the cost. Our platform/app is solving the many inefficient investing processes globally between founders and investors.
"SDG Goal 8: To promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.”
WeTransacts makes the deployment of capital more efficient and increasing global access to available resources for startups thus optimizing faster returns and larger impact for ALL. Just by running your fund on our platform you are adding positive impact and metrics to your fund.
Cons: The data used to analyze startups is limited and non-standardized. Plus, true integration approaches are usually available only in active portfolios. Before WeTransacts platform, this leaves out early and pre-IPO stage companies who have not yet reported publicly but that are implementing this approach successfully. We're proud to be turning this con into a positive for early stage companies and greater opportunity for funds to achieve more efficient impact + returns.
4. Active Ownership or Corporate Engagement Active owners use ownership rights to directly engage with companies on ESG issues, such as using proxy votes to try to change the behavior or practices of the company. Owning even a single share of a company entitles you to show up at shareholder meetings and raise hell, file complaints with regulatory authorities, and send letters airing your demands.
Pros: When you take an active role, you can make your voice heard. This corporate engagement gives you a chance for a more hands-on role in pushing for change.
Enabling a more transparent safe communication zone between investors, advisors, and founders is critical to a more collaborative ownership of success. By fostering a more diverse and prosperous ecosystem for all with real time data driven inputs all parties are re-aligned to the investor thesis of the fund.
WeTransacts platform enables a more friction-less and confrontational approach by aligning the needs and wants of ESG principled investors with embodied founders actively implementing.
Cons: Having true influence through active ownership requires you to own a major stake, which is why some investors pool their resources and do this as a group. Most individuals simply don’t have the time and bandwidth to be active to the degree required to influence significant change within the corporation’s structure or means of doing business. And, even if you do show up to meetings, there’s no guarantee you’ll see results.
5. Thematic Investing Thematic funds focus on a single ESG-related area, such as clean energy, sustainable forestry, female leadership, or good board governance. These funds then seek to invest in companies that are most actively working to address the chosen issue while avoiding those that are not.
Pros: If you’re passionate about one particular issue, this method allows you to allocate your dollars to companies or projects that are directly related to what you care about most.
WeTransacts enables a more sustainable infrastructure to invest in short term needs to expedite growth for an over performing asset class; and creating long term change by re-inventing a better systematic approach fostering a more diverse and prosperous startup ecosystem for ALL.
Cons: Because these funds are built around a narrowly defined theme, they can lack diversification. They also put non-financial objectives over financial ones, which sometimes result in higher costs and may hurt long-term performance.
6. Impact Investing This highly targeted approach invests in particular projects designed to achieve specific measurable goals, such as building affordable housing. The focus here is less on generating a financial return and more on using capital to create positive change in the world.
Pros: Because impact investing has clearly defined goals, you can put your money to work directly toward solutions for issues or problems that you feel are most important for the greater good. The financial return potential is a clear step above charitable giving, because you expect to generate some type of return on your investment.
WeTransact provides investors, funds and family offices the infrastructure to invest in more diverse and underserved founders. Planting the seeds for a more sustainable startup ecosystem for greater innovation and making the deployments of capital to be more efficient and equitable.
Cons: This method tends to produce below-market rate returns (except in female and non binary minority founders… ;-). There’s often a lot of risk involved, too, because you’re dealing with highly concentrated projects or potentially more long term results.
ESG investing has expanded in recent years to cover different styles that meet a variety of objectives. That’s great news for the range of LP's and impact investors who are interested in ESG, but who may each have many different goals in mind.
By understanding your options, you’ll be better positioned to choose the method (or methods) that make the most sense for your overall plan.
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