TEBOHO MAKHABANE: ESG investing: acting globally for SA’s best interest
The prolonged global market downturn has led some investors to question their commitment to environmental, social & governance (ESG) goals.
While short-term market volatility may tempt investors to abandon their ESG principles in favour of finding Alpha, it is crucial to stay focused on the long-term imperatives of addressing climate change and societal equality. By staying steadfast in our ESG commitments we can weather the present challenges while contributing to a sustainable and equitable future.
In light of trends in the US, where ESG funds have experienced consecutive quarters of outflows, some investors may be questioning the sustainability of sustainable investing. Concerns have been raised about the performance challenges faced by some ESG funds, particularly those affected by rising oil prices and energy stocks.
However, it is essential to recognise that short-term fluctuations in the performance of ESG funds should not undermine the broader and more resilient trends driving the sustainable investing movement.
Environmental consciousness, social responsibility and strong corporate governance practices are important factors for investors to consider, and companies demonstrating robust ESG performance are more likely to attract capital and foster long-term value creation. It is crucial to view investment decisions through a long-term lens, especially considering the urgency of addressing climate change and societal inequalities, which pose significant risks to our future.
Sustainable investing aligns with the growing demand for ethical and responsible business practices, and despite the challenges faced the transformative potential of sustainable investing should not be overlooked.
Contrary to this narrative, sustainable investing is not losing steam; it is, in fact, gaining momentum globally as well as here in SA. The growing list of financial firms signing up or aligning to internationally and locally recognised Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) and Code for Responsible Investing in SA (Crisa), aimed at supporting sustainability practices, is proof of this.
Moreover, sustainable investing aligns with the growing demand for ethical and responsible business practices, positioning companies for success in a rapidly evolving global landscape.
As scientists repeatedly warn us about the urgent need to address climate change, these firms recognise the value of aligning their investments with sustainable practices. While there are valid concerns surrounding ESG investing, it is important to recognise the broader and more resilient trends that underpin the sustainable investing movement.
Companies that demonstrate strong ESG performance are more likely to attract capital and foster long-term value creation. Moreover, sustainable investing aligns with the growing demand for ethical and responsible business practices, positioning companies for success in a rapidly evolving global landscape.
Activist shareholders have achieved some victories, specifically advocating for wage gap and climate-related disclosures. These successes demonstrate the growing influence and demand for responsible corporate behaviour. Shareholders are demanding transparency, accountability and action on environmental and social issues, recognising that these factors can affect the long-term financial performance of companies.
In SA sustainable investing is particularly important given our country’s environmental and social challenges. From renewable energy projects to addressing socioeconomic inequalities, sustainable investing has the potential to create positive change while generating attractive returns for investors. The demand for responsible investment options is growing among SA investors, reflecting a broader shift in societal values and expectations.
However, in the local context it may not always be feasible to exclude specific stocks from portfolios, especially in the current climate. The significance of active ownership and stewardship during asset manager engagements with listed companies is paramount. By providing consultation and guidance to businesses, including those in the oil industry, regarding best practices in ESG standards, investors can make a meaningful impact without complete divestment.
This approach holds the potential to generate both economic and social effects, enabling investors to navigate the complexities of the SA market while driving positive change and promoting responsible investing.
Our view at Sanlam Investments — a business driven to have a fundamental effect on our country and continent by investing for purpose — is that sustainable investing will continue to thrive. Leading investors, including BlackRock and others, will maintain their commitment to ESG principles.
Shareholder activism will persist, pushing companies to embrace sustainable practices. Regulatory bodies will refine and strengthen disclosure rules to foster transparency and combat greenwashing. While challenges may arise, the core tenets of sustainable investing are here to stay.
Sustainable investing is not a passing trend; it is a transformative force that will shape our economy and society for the better. The transformative potential of sustainable investing should not be overlooked, as it offers both financial returns and the opportunity to have a positive effect on our planet and society.
• Makhabane is head of ESG & impact at Sanlam Investments.
Would you like to comment on this article?
Sign up (it's quick and free) or sign in now.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.