ESG – Required/Desired Unmentionables

According to a recent Bloomberg survey:

About two-thirds of respondents in a survey of roughly 300 Bloomberg terminal users said the anti-ESG movement that started in the US last year will force firms to stop using those three letters in conversations with clients. However, they’ll continue to incorporate environmental, social and governance metrics in their business, they also said.

And the market reflects the controversy with corporate dollar denominated ESG bond sales declined from $91 billion in 2021 to $30 billion in 2023.

In addition, ESG isn’t highly ranked in importance:

Some 85% of respondents who identified themselves as being engaged with ESG said financial performance is the most important factor to consider when investing. Only 39% said the same of ESG, which was the lowest reading in the survey.

On the flip side, Bloomberg also reports that Morgan Stanley, the 7th largest underwriter of ESG debt, reports a decent pipeline growing stronger into 2024 and BNP Paribas, the largest underwriter, is predicting a banner year.

So why continue to incorporate ESG when you can mention it and don’t think highly of the concept and why the divergence in between “decent pipeline” and “banner year”?

The answer is a mix of increasing demand for ESG investments with faster growth outside of the US and regulatory requirements. While the GOP is making ESG a four-letter word in the US, the EU is strengthening ESG requirements including verification of ESG validity and compliance. The SEC is also increasing scrutiny of ESG claims.

So, the current situation:

  • Many investors, including major institutions, want ESG investments.
  • EU and other non-US investment regulators are increasingly requiring ESG reporting and in some cases requiring some level of ESG investment.
  • US and other regulators are cracking down on “greenwashing” i.e. falsely claiming ESG compliance.
  • US will fall behind EU and other countries in requiring, originating, and regulating ESG investments.
Posted in ESG, Regulation.

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