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How a Volatile Year Revealed the Staying Power of ESG ETFs

Max Chen
·2 min read

This article was originally published on ETFTrends.com.

Socially responsible investments like those that track environmental, social, and governance principles soared in 2020.

Investors fled to sustainable investing as markets were sent into a spiral last spring, supporting the rapid growth of ESG funds. Mirza Baig, global head of ESG research and stewardship at Aviva Investors, argued that 2020 "was the year ESG came of age," Financial Times reports.

“The Covid crisis was an important stress test for theses products. There was a view that these products would be a good weather product,” Asoka Woehrmann, chief executive of DWS, told the Financial Times. “But the resilience of these products is remarkable. They can beat or be equal to benchmarks.”

According to Morningstar data, sustainable funds ended the first quarter of 2020 with net sales of $38.8 billion globally, compared to outflows of $373 billion for all long-term mutual funds.

Furthermore, sustainable funds continued to attract investor interest for the rest of the year and hit a record of almost $1.7 trillion by the end of the year, a jump of 50% year-over-year.

“From the investment perspective [the rise of sustainable investing] was the dominant story parallel with the [Covid-19] crisis. Lots of ESG funds outperformed and that galvanised appetite to start allocating more capital,” Baig added.

The record inflows also comes as investors chased after better performing segments of the market. BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, found that ESG strategies outperformed despite last year’s intense volatility, with 94% of leading sustainable indices outperforming their parent benchmarks in the first quarter.

Asset managers argued that the pandemic highlighted how catastrophic events like climate change could negatively impact returns. The pandemic crisis also magnified attention on the social aspect of ESG, with more focused on how companies treat all their stakeholders, to include employees, suppliers, and shareholders.

Meanwhile, as Joe Biden gained momentum on the campaign trail, interest in green reforms and investments that would do well in this new shift also attracted greater attention. Sales of sustainable funds in the U.S. rose to $50 billion, more than double the previous year's total.

For more news, information, and strategy, visit the ESG Channel.

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