EXPLAINER: ESG investing and the debate surrounding it

NEW YORK ( AP ) — here ’ s the latest sign ESG invest is now mainstream after starting as a recess recess of Wall Street : It ’ mho become the target of republican politicians and billionaire Elon Musk amid the nation ’ s cultural schism .
To use an ESG overture is to consider a company ’ south performance on environmental and other measures before deciding whether to invest in it. The ESG industry says it helps foreground companies that may be riskier than traditional investing guidelines entirely would suggest. It could besides help investors find well opportunities .
ESG has become popular across a wide range of investors, from smaller-pocketed regular people to pension funds creditworthy for the retirements of millions of workers. ESG investments overall have amassed adequate monetary might to buy all of the lineage of the most valuable U.S. company, Apple, seven times over .
To critics, meanwhile, ESG is merely the latest model of the world trying to get “ wake up. ”

here ’ s a search at what ESG is and how big it ’ s become :
WHAT IS ESG ?
It ’ s an acronym, with each of the letters describing an extra lens that some investors use to decide whether a especial stock or bond looks like a dependable buy .
Before risking their money, both traditional and ESG investors look at how much gross a company is bringing in, how much profit it ’ sulfur reach and what the prospects are for the future .
ESG investors then layer on a few more specific considerations .
WHAT IS E ?
environment. It can pay to avoid companies with poor records on the environment, the think goes, because they may be at greater risk of big fines from regulators. Or their businesses could be at finical risk of getting upended by future politics attempts to protect the environment .
such risks may not be exposed by traditional investing analysis, which could lead to too-high stock prices, ESG advocates say .
On the flip side, measuring a company ’ sulfur environmental awareness could besides unearth companies that could be well positioned for the future. Companies that care about climate change may be better prepared for its repercussions, whether that means potential flood damage at factory sites or the risks of increase wildfires .
WHAT IS S ?
Social. This is a wide-ranging class that focuses on a company ’ s relationships with people, both within it and outside .
Investors measuring a ship’s company ’ s sociable impact frequently look at whether pay is honest and exploit conditions are adept through the rate and file, for exemplar, because that can lead to better memory of employees, lower upset costs and ultimately better profits .
Others consider a company ’ sulfur record on data protective covering and privacy, where lax protocols could lead to leaks that drive customers away .
increasingly, companies are besides getting called upon to take positions on big social issues, such as abortion or the Black Lives Matter bowel movement. Some ESG investors encourage this, saying companies ’ employees and customers want to hear it .
not every ESG investor considers all these factors, but they all get lumped in together under the “ S ” umbrella .
WHAT IS G ?
Governance, which basically means the company is running itself well .
That includes tying executives ’ pay to the company ’ randomness performance, whether that ’ mho defined by the stock price, profits or something else, and having firm, mugwump directors on the board to act as a potent check on CEOs .
Some ESG investors are besides pushing companies for more diversity on their boards and in their executive suites. That ’ south to help them look more like their employees and their customers, which can lead to better decision-making and a better understand of stakeholders .
HOW BIG A DEAL IS ESG ?
Investors using ESG criteria in their analysis controlled $ 16.6 trillion in U.S.-domiciled assets at the startle of 2020, according to the most recent count by US SIF, a trade group representing the sustainable and responsible invest industry. That means ESG accounted for closely $ 1 of every $ 3 in all U.S. assets under professional management.

It was besides up 43 % over precisely two years, from $ 11.6 trillion in 2018 .
With neckcloth and bond markets tumbling so far this class, the run of dollars into ESG funds has slowed. U.S. sustainable funds attracted a net $ 10.6 billion in the first three months of 2022, down 26 % from the anterior quarter, according to Morningstar. But that still outperformed the overall U.S. fund industry, which saw flows slump by 65 % .
IS IT JUST MILLENNIALS DOING IT ?
No, the huge majority of money in ESG investments comes from huge investors like endowments at universities and foundations, pension funds and other boastfully institutional investors. They accounted for 72 % of all ESG investments, according to US SIF .
WHAT IMPACT IS IT HAVING ?
ESG investors are pushing for more battle with companies, discussing their concerns about the environment, sociable issues and government. They ’ re besides casting their votes at annual stockholder meetings with ESG issues more in beware .
last class a relatively small fund known as Engine No. 1 shock corporate America after it convinced some of Wall Street ’ s biggest investment firms to approve its proposal to replace three directors on Exxon Mobil ’ s control panel, citing a decarbonize earth. Investors have besides pushed Royal Caribbean Cruises to document how much food waste it produces and Starbucks to no longer pay long-run performance awards in cash preferably than livestock .
It ’ s all an development from the industry ’ randomness early days, when “ socially creditworthy ” invest was quite simplistic. early funds would equitable promise not to own stocks of tobacco companies, gunman makers, or other companies seen as disgusting .
AND THE BACKLASH ?
Some politicians have denounced ESG as a politicization of investing .
Some in the business world besides have been particularly critical of rate agencies that try to boil complex issues down to simple ESG scores .
“ ESG is a victimize. It has been weaponized by bogus sociable judge warriors, ” Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted earlier this workweek .
That pinch, along with a meme equating ESG scores to “ how compliant your commercial enterprise is with the collectivist agenda, ” came a couple of weeks after Tesla got kicked out of the S & P 500 ESG index. The index tries to hold only companies with better ESG scores within each industry, while holding alike amounts of energy stocks, technical school stocks and early sectors as the broader S & P 500 index .
so, Exxon Mobil could remain in the S & P 500 ESG index, even if it ’ mho pulling fossil fuels from the ground to burn, because it rates better than peer energy companies. Tesla, meanwhile, got the bang partially because of ESG issues unrelated to the environment. S & P Dow Jones Indices cited Tesla ’ s electric potential for controversial incidents, highlighting by claims of racial discrimination at the company and its treatment of the investigation into deaths linked to its vehicles equipped with its automatic pilot autonomous driving system .
ARE THOSE THE ONLY CONTROVERSIES ?
No. Any boom brings in opportunists, and regulators have warned of some potentially mislead statements .
That could include firms claiming to be ESG-driven but owning shares in companies with gloomy ESG scores. It ’ south evocative of how products along supermarket aisles get accused of “ greenwashing, ” or pitching their wares as “ green ” even if they ’ rhenium not .
function of that could be how big the ESG diligence has become, with some players taking a light equal .
Some funds pledge not to own stocks of any companies seen a dangerous, for example. Others will try to own only companies that get the highest ratings from scorekeepers on ESG issues. calm others try to buy entirely companies that score the best within their specific diligence, even if the score is very low overall .
such nuance can make for confusion among investors trying to find the correct ESG store for them.

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AP Writer Sam Metz contributed from Salt Lake City .

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