Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investing, once the darling of Wall Street, is witnessing a remarkable slowdown. Assets under management in ESG funds declined from $339 billion in the second quarter to $315 billion by the end of September. This shift has far-reaching implications, particularly concerning the progression of diversity and inclusion within the corporate sphere.
The Breakdown You Need To Know:
ESG investing has been at the forefront of a significant shift in financial strategy over the past few years, according to CultureBanx. Investors, corporations, and governments have increasingly recognized the importance of considering environmental impact, social responsibility, and strong governance in their decisions. However, recent trends suggest that this enthusiasm might be waning as companies are now dialing back rhetoric that shows their enthusiasm for ESG programs to avoid controversy.
The first signs of a slowdown in ESG investing emerged when data from financial data provider Lipper revealed a flat to slightly negative trend in the cumulative flow of investments into US ESG funds. However, about 70% of U.S. CEOs said their ESG programs improved overall financial performance. This suggests that while companies might not be as vocal about these initiatives for now, they are still ongoing.
ESG Culture Wars:
The decline of ESG investing is not just a matter of financial performance. Increasingly, businesses are being drawn into heated cultural debates. These culture wars, often involving highly emotive issues like LGBTQ+ rights, along with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), have put businesses in a precarious position.
The backlash against ESG investing has had a particularly profound impact on corporate diversity. Just three years ago, diversity was a significant talking point for executives at many big companies. However, the number of S&P 500 companies mentioning “ESG” in their first quarter earnings calls was just 74, dropping to the lowest count in nearly three years and down from a peak of 156 in the fourth quarter of 2021, according to FactSet.
The dwindling of ESG investing has far-reaching implications. It impacts not only the financial strategies of corporations but also the progression of diversity and inclusion within these entities. As the culture wars rage on and as the financial world grapples with the ESG dilemma, it remains to be seen how these dynamics will evolve.