What is Driving Private Market Investors into ESG Investments?
The demand for ESG-certified investments looks to be unstoppable. According to Bloomberg Intelligence research, global ESG assets under management (AUM) will surpass US$53 Tn by 2025 and will soon represent 44% of the global AUM. More than a third of all AUM in the world would have an ESG imprint in the coming future at this rate.
Two parallel developments are driving the increased usage of ESG management systems. First, rising social pressure, a shift in expectations from private enterprise, and continuous legislative reforms have raised the desire for businesses to adopt proactive environmental and societal responsibilities. Second, there is a growing realization among financial and business experts that ESG concerns may have a significant influence on corporate value, and that risk management can help organizations and their shareholders protect economic value.
ESG risk factor methods have sparked the interest of investors of all shades, and progress has been made in applying them. Some of the largest fund managers have adopted ESG on their own, realizing the advantages of incorporating risks into their investment processes. Others are reacting to the rising number of LPs asking ESG-related questions as part of their investigative work and may exert pressure on GPs to include sustainability initiatives into their investing procedures on the margin or even as a mandate to invest.
Long-Term Profit is Closely Linked to Sustainable Investment
The goal of a corporate should be to generate profits without a doubt, but it cannot be the only goal for long. Consider a company that prioritizes money over everything else with little regard for safety or environmental repercussions. What happens to a firm if a defective product is issued or an accident occurs because the business is focused on maximizing the stock price without concerns for the planet and the environment? Not only would the stock price plummet and previously avoided expenditures become due, but litigation, penalties, recalls, cleaning costs, and reputational harm would almost certainly follow, all of which might lead to bankruptcy or liquidation. In the past ten years, cyber security attacks have been a CEO’s nightmare. The next couple of decades may add ESG related concerns to that list.
According to the US SIF Foundation’s research on US Sustainable and Impact Investing Trends, US asset management companies and institutional asset owners have started employing sustainable investing techniques and analyzing the ESG problem in managing their portfolios. The sustainable industry has expanded at a CAGR of 14% over the last 25 years. Since 2012, the most significant surge has occurred.
When GPs recognize that ESG is affecting LP commitment choices, they may use buzzwords in their due diligence papers to show they have accepted ESG principles, however all that talk may not be translating into implementation. As per the study of InfluenceMap, the world’s largest asset managers are failing to meet the Paris Agreement’s climate targets. More than half of climate-themed funds failed the test, while slightly over 70% of funds claiming to have ESG compliance failed. In comparison to the US and Asia, Europe is the only region that tracks ESG across the asset management business, and the framework it creates is likely to become a global standard.
Greenwashing is a practice that has drawn attention to the need for honesty in advertising in this industry. Not only are many LPs getting better at exposing asset managers’ ESG claims, but regulators are forcing asset managers to represent themselves and their plans correctly and honestly. TotalEnergies SE, Halliburton Co., Chevron Corp., and ExxonMobil Corp. were all included in climate-themed funds that were exposed to the fossil-fuel business. According to InfluenceMap, three funds dubbed “Paris aligned” and managed by UBS and Amundi SA scored -40% to -26%.
At COP26, it was widely acknowledged that considerably more money is needed for climate adaptation — that is, programs that would mitigate the expected effects of climate change throughout the world. The text of the Pact itself reflected this. The cost of implementing the necessary modifications to achieve “net zero” by 2050 is predicted to be between $100 trillion and $150 trillion. According to GFANZ, private money could provide 70% of the $32 trillion in investment required by 2030 to establish a net-zero economy by 2050. Despite their importance in completing the Paris Agreement, climate tech venture capital and ESG funds are still in their infancy. The increase of private investment removes the load on underperforming governments in terms of capital flow. More cooperation between public and private finances is essential to achieve a speedy transition.
Sector-Wise Effect of ESG
Naturally, various sorts of businesses are subjected to different ESG demands, and some of the imperatives are more intense than others. According to IHS Markit’s survey, 40% of respondents believe the energy, mining, and utilities sector would be most affected by ESG concerns in the next two years, followed by industrials and chemicals (17%) and transportation (17%).
The selection of these businesses is likely influenced by the global climate change agenda, with increased environmental legislation and policy focused on companies that emit considerable amounts of carbon. “These are energy-intensive companies,” a partner at a UK private equity company explains. “Mining, for example, makes extensive use of natural resources and conventional energy.” “Companies will have to replace their cars with more fuel-efficient ones,” a UK-based asset management executive says on transportation.
COVID-19 Crisis has Aggravated Investor Focus on ESG
The ESG phenomenon is fuelled by a variety of factors, many of which have been exacerbated by the outbreak. Climate change is a major subject, with COVID-19 emphasizing the interconnectedness of the planets and the fragile link between people and nature.
J.P. Morgan polled investors from 50 global institutions, representing a total of $12.9 Tn in AUM on how they expected Covid would impact the future of ESG investing.
As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, action and knowledge of long-term sustainability concerns are expected to rise in the long run, this should be a beneficial driver for ESG. The majority (55 %) of investors polled by J.P. Morgan believe it will be a positive catalyst in the next three years. Only roughly a quarter of investors (27%) feel it will have a negative impact, while 18% believe it would have no effect.
COVID has uncovered the costs and unfairness of inequality as social transformation accelerates. A wide spectrum of stakeholders is calling for organizations to be better operated and more responsible, especially in light of taxpayer-funded business support during the outbreak.
Are ESG Factors Shifting Investors’ Focus?
Overall, it appears that regulatory and LP forces are bringing the private markets to the brink of mainstream ESG acceptance. Some GPs are beginning to accept that the risk variables identified as part of the ESG framework are worthy components of the investing process, and reporting and monitoring systems are coming together. LPs are shifting their emphasis from public market operations to private market adoption. However, concerns about greenwashing are growing. The root of the issue is how ESG ratings, such as those provided by MSCI and Sustainalytics, are calculated. Most ratings have little to do with true corporate responsibility, contrary to what many investors believe. Instead, they assess how vulnerable a company’s economic value is to ESG Factors.
There is no doubt about the fact that due to the concerns regarding climate change and the need for sustainability, application of ESG in private markets has started to gain momentum. If you are an investor looking forward to access similar opportunities, Torre Capital offers access to top startups across the globe. Our platform provides seamless financing and investment journey. Feel free to reach out to us for understanding the investment process better.
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This article has been co-authored Vivek Kumar who is in the Research and Insights team of Torre Capital.