Stuart Theobald is correct to call for honesty in appreciating that environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategies by investors are aimed not only at maximising financial return (“The problem with sustaining sustainability”, August 23).
The point was made even more strongly by Robert Armstrong in the Financial Times the same day (“The dubious appeal of ESG investing is for dupes only”, August 23).
However, the doubts Theobald has “that we can magically get both financial returns and ESG” illustrate the absurdity of dumping environmental and social performance into the same bucket as governance practices.
The current iteration of the King Code describes governance as a company’s governing body exercising ethical and effective leadership. When such leadership is lacking (think Steinhoff, Tongaat Hulett, your choice of SA state-owned entity), financial returns are likely to suffer dramatically. It’s not magic that creates correlations between financial returns and good governance.
Arguments can and should certainly be made that there are trade-offs between the non-financial performance of a company and its financial performance. But governance is not performance — it is what leads to company performance, financial and otherwise.
Gary Cundill, Wilderness
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