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.

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ESG Lawsuits

According to GreenBiz: ” Lawsuits involving ESG-related issues have increased by 25 percent over the past three decades, according to research published earlier this year by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)…..

Broadridge, a fintech company, also highlights regulator crackdowns on greenwashing and an increase in event-driven securities litigation — where lawsuits are filed over significant events that impact a company’s share price — as drivers of ESG-related securities and class action lawsuits…..

One well-documented impact of ESG-related lawsuits is the trend of “greenhushing,” where companies under-communicate their sustainability activities to avoid greenwashing accusations or political attacks. With regulatory agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Trade Commission taking action against corporations for misleading claims about corporate and product sustainability claims, the fallout related to greenwashing has expanded from reputational risk to compliance risk….

And this is before or in the initial stages of the “SEC’s planned climate-related disclosures rule and the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive…”

This doesn’t include Republican attacks on ESG or on any socially responsible investment criteria (investment managers are supposed to focus on profits, clients choking to death on discharges from their profitable investments are not investment relevant). Nor the reputational (as opposed to legal) risk of companies and investment managers claiming to be “ESG conscious” while investing in oil, or other non-green or anti-green sectors (just ask BlackRock’s Larry Fink defending ESG and then BlackRock appoints the CEO of Aramco to its board (BlackRock Appoints CEO of Oil Giant Aramco to Its Board – Bloomberg).

The full article can be found at: Get ready for more ESG lawsuits | Greenbiz
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MSCI Real Assets has published its July 2023 “MSCI Real Estate Market Size”

The size of the professionally managed global real estate investment market declined to USD
13.3 trillion in 2022 from USD 13.9 trillion in 2021, primarily driven by macroeconomic factors such as rising inflation and increasing interest rates.

On the back of a strong dollar and a slowdown in other markets, especially Europe, the weight of the U.S. in the global market size continued to grow, reaching 40.3% in 2022.

The top five markets constituted 66.9% of the global market size, up from 65.6% in 2021.
Japan overtook the UK to become the third-largest market while China placed second and Germany fifth.
A copy of the report can be downloaded at https://info.msci.com/l/36252/2023-07-18/xzqn2g?utm_source=msci_real_assets&utm_medium=email&utm_content=2023_market_size_ra&utm_campaign=ra_total_portfolio.