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INSIGHTS WITH EVALESCO

Investing in the future
by Ashleigh Steeles | 5 July 2023

TOPICS DISCUSSED

Who is Sustainable Investing suitable for?
Our AAN Sustainable Growth Model
Sustainable Investment Fund benefits
Focus on people and planet
Watch out for greenwashing

Sustainable investing is not new, but in recent years it’s moved from the green fringes into the mainstream. From climate change to animal rights and gender diversity, more people are interested in aligning their money with their values.  

Who is Sustainable Investing suitable for? 

Sustainable, or responsible, investing is an excellent option for anyone looking to have an investment portfolio that is tailored to your personal values and beliefs. Sustainable investing can be applied throughout the investment universe to active managed funds, passive exchange traded funds (ETF’s) and a type of investment vehicle we regularly use, Separately Managed Accounts (or SMA’s). For those of you that would like to consider excluding a business or even an industry you are not comfortable with, there is scope to do so across some of the portfolios we manage, however should you want a more complete solution, one of our Sustainable Models might be more appropriate. 

Our AAN Sustainable Growth Model

Our ESG investment fund model has a strategic allocation of 90% to growth assets and 10% to defensive assets. It includes both Australian and international shares, implemented through active and passive management styles, listed property assets, and fixed income and cash. This ensures that you have a diversified investment portfolio with a substantial allocation to growth investments (shares and property) and is most appropriate for those that are wanting to invest over the medium to long term.  

Our ESG investment fund model is suitable for a total portfolio allocation or allocation within a broader portfolio, with a suggested minimum investment of $50,000 over a minimum 7-year time frame. 

It excludes companies whose primary business purpose is associated with:  

  1. Tobacco and tobacco products 
  2. Gambling  
  3. Alcohol  
  4. Pornography  
  5. Armaments manufacture or distribution  
  6. High-impact fossil fuels  
  7. Predatory lending 

Within the AAN Sustainable Growth Model, a company with a minor or indirect exposure to an excluded sector (representing less than 10% of business activity) will not be automatically excluded, although it may be subject to ongoing review.   

If sustainable investing piques your interest, and you want to invest ethically, get in touch with your adviser. 

Sustainable Investment Fund Benefits 

  • You’re rewarding ethical companies. 
  • Major investment companies look to sustainable investing as the future. 
  • Sustainable funds are being launched at a record rate. 
  • Companies with a good ESG rating usually have lower risk exposure.
  • The theory is that companies that don’t impact the environment, have a social conscience and are well governed will out-perform other companies in the long-run.
  • Sustainable investing can help to manage risk in uncertain times.
  • Performance results speak for themselves. 

Last year alone, Australia’s sustainable investment market increased 20 per cent to a record $1.5 trillion. According to its 2022 benchmark report, the Responsible Investment Association Australasia (RIAA) found sustainable investments now represent 43 per cent of total professionally-managed funds. 

In addition to traditional shares and fixed interest, you can buy sustainable investments in a wide range of assets, including property, alternatives such as forestry and farmland, infrastructure, private equity and cash. 

These days, most big super funds offer a sustainable investment option and some even offer this as their default option. You can also buy sustainable managed funds, including a growing list of exchange-traded funds (ETFs). 

So what are sustainable investments and how can you tell? 

Focus on people and planet 

A key part of sustainable investing is ethical, responsible and ESG (environmental, social, governance) investing. But whatever the name, the focus is on people, society and/or the environment instead of an exclusive focus on financial returns. 

Sustainable investments are selected using a variety of screening methods, including: 

  • Positive screening selects the best investments in their class 
  • Negative screening excludes harmful sectors, companies or activities such as arms, gambling, animal testing, tobacco and fossil fuels 
  • Norms-based investing screens for minimum standards of relevant business practices 
  • Impact investing has the explicit intention of generating positive social or environment impacts.(i)

Increasingly, the term ESG investing is used when a fund or company commits to investing with these areas considered: 

  • Environmental, including air and water pollution, biodiversity and climate change. 
  • Social, including child labour and labour standards, ethical product sourcing, gambling and human rights 
  • Governance, including board diversity, corruption, business ethics, corporate culture and whistle-blower schemes. 

While climate change is a strong theme these days, the RIAA report found gender diversity and women’s empowerment are gaining popularity. Yet despite the focus on making the world a better place, sustainable investing is not all warm and fuzzy. Performance still matters. 

Watch out for greenwashing 

Not surprisingly, increased investor demand for sustainable investments has led to a rapid increase in the number of products available. The rush to cash-in on the trend has sometimes led to what is known as ‘’greenwashing”. 

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) describes greenwashing as the practice of misrepresenting the extent to which a financial product or investment strategy is environmentally friendly, sustainable or ethical. 

ASIC warns investors to look beneath the green label at the fine print. For example, a fund might describe itself as ‘’no gambling” but the product terms say it may invest in companies that earn less than 30 per cent of revenue from gambling.  

It’s also important not to rely on vague language such as “considers”, “integrates” or “takes into account” sustainability-related factors, but to look for a clear explanation of how the product will achieve its aims. 

Australian companies lifting their game 

It’s not just super funds and managed funds taking sustainable investing more seriously. For investors who like to invest directly in shares, Australian listed companies are also adapting to changing investor preferences and regulatory environment. 

In a recent analysis of ESG reporting by Australia’s top 200 listed companies, PwC found the bar has been raised following the formation of the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) in 2021, but there is still work to be done. 

PwC found a 13 per cent increase in companies declaring a commitment to net zero emissions. However, only 55 per cent of those disclosed a transition plan or activities that will enable them to reach net zero. 

There was also a 10 per cent increase in companies disclosing climate risks and opportunities, and a 30 per cent increase to 77 per cent of companies now disclosing a gender diversity policy. 

For investors seeking sustainability along with financial returns from their investments, momentum and choice is growing. So please get in touch with your adviser if you would like to discuss your investment options.

Source
i https://responsibleinvestment.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/Responsible-Investment-Benchmark-Report-Australia-2022-1.pdf

 

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Ashleigh Steeles
ASSOCIATE ADVISER
ashleigh@evalesco.com.au | 02 9232 6800

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