Has ESG Investing Peaked?

February 2, 2024
Read Time: 6 minutes
ESG Investing

[An update to content originally published on September 19, 2022]

A closer look at the future of sustainable investing

ESG has enjoyed immense popularity as an investment strategy for years, but recent results suggest it’s starting to cool down. So has ESG peaked? The short answer: it’s complicated.

You don’t have to look far to see how environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors are taking center stage in many of our daily lives.

  • Thinking of the ‘E’ in ESG, the global impact of climate change is hard to ignore. According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, June 2022 was Earth’s sixth hottest month on record.1
  • In recent years, the ‘S’ has moved into the spotlight as companies address concerns about employee well-being.
  • While the ‘G’ may sometimes feel like an afterthought, governance is often what pushes firms to make bold changes in response to social equity, climate change, and overall stronger corporate governance.

ESG investing in a changing environment

While critics label ESG investing as virtue-signaling and argue that sustainable investing lacks the financial returns to substantiate its value, demand for sustainability-driven investment products and businesses tells a different story.

A survey published by the National Retail Federation shows a majority of US consumers – particularly younger demographics – are willing to pay extra for more sustainable products.2 Institutional investors are also allocating trillions of dollars to sustainability-aligned investments.

A October 2023 survey from Capital Group across 25 countries found that 90% of investment professionals had adopted ESG in their investment approach.3

Underpinned by new regulatory frameworks and a consumer shift toward sustainability, there are several factors that suggest ESG investing is becoming an essential part of the investment landscape. With that in mind, firms much be prepared to incorporate, analyze, and understand the massive volumes of ESG data into their investment strategy.


ESG 2.0

As investment institutions increasingly factor ESG into their corporate decision-making and investment preferences, institutional investors must be up to date on regulations, aligned on sustainability to returns, and aware of innovations making the implementation of ESG initiatives easier.

The evolving ESG landscape

ESG 2.0 The Future of Regulation Data Integration and Sustainable Investing Webinar Invite

Understanding expectations of imminent ESG reporting regulations

Policymakers have set frameworks to help both businesses and investors tackle global sustainability challenges. For instance, the European Union’s Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR) and increased corporate reporting requirements via the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive are already in effect today. Prescriptive recommendations from the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures also offer a preview of ESG’s increasing importance in regulatory frameworks. The regulatory momentum and requirements around sustainable investing and reporting demonstrate this is not a fleeting trend.

According to Bloomberg research from 2023, an astonishing 14,500 ESG-labeled funds hold $7 trillion in assets.5 Asset managers face the dual challenge of complying with imminent regulatory requirements while contributing to sustainable practices.

Integrating ESG data

Reliable, timely, and relevant data is essential for building ESG-aware investment strategies, measuring performance, and meeting regulatory demands. ESG integration provides a competitive advantage by identifying risks and opportunities, improving risk-adjusted returns, and aligning investments with stakeholders’ ethical values.

ESG data sources and challenges

Infographic of ESG Data Sources

Data management solutions are particularly pertinent as asset managers progressively incorporate ESG criteria into their strategies to enhance returns and meet stakeholder expectations, and private markets investors deploy direct dollars and raise capital for impact funds. Robust practices can empower organizations to navigate regulatory landscapes, foster sustainable practices, and deliver value to stakeholders.

Incorporating ESG into decision-making

Businesses are increasingly owning up to their responsibility to understand and respond to these risks and help build a stronger and sustainable global economy.

Yet as portfolio managers invest today for the proverbial “promising tomorrow”, there remains a lingering challenge of how to incorporate ESG into their decision-making. Many investment firms are already working from siloed, fragmented technology that limits data integration and hinders their ability to insightfully use data in investment decisions. ESG data is no different.

If investment firms want to continue their pursuit of ESG investing – an element that remains vital to their social license – they must be able to demonstrate strong returns while contributing to a more resilient economy.

That starts with effective data management and powerful tools to decode what investments meet ESG criteria and what fall below standards.

Case study: Keeping up with sustainability requirements

Market challenge: Disparate data methodologies and reporting frameworks

Today’s investors expect reporting alignment with standards, such as the SFDR, to compare asset allocation, risk, and performance data across ESG investment products. Many global regulatory bodies now enforce mandatory ESG regulatory reporting requirements, primarily driven by the EU, with the US and APAC closely following suit.

Access to portfolio-level sustainability data, as well as visibility into underlying asset allocation, are standard investor requisites. However, legacy financial systems were not designed to handle ESG data. The sheer complexity of available ESG information can overwhelm firms that lack the necessary capabilities to handle diverse datasets. The relatively new nature of ESG data means that operational processes and governance can be underdeveloped and lead to greater reliance on manual processing and point solutions.

Arcesium’s response: ESG data integration

Cloud-based solutions that readily connect with ESG data providers or offer integrated ESG information, can enable an investment organization to deploy sustainability-driven investment strategies and ease investor reporting and regulatory compliance. Arcesium’s AquataTM and Financial Data Stack capabilities offer pre-built ESG data integrations, including ESG ratings, as well as granular ratings attributes from various providers. Aquata and Financial Data Stack seamlessly harmonize diverse ESG data provider methodologies into a cohesive data model to power analytic dashboards, enabling investment professionals to analyze their holdings. Investors can swiftly respond to ESG queries and support regulatory reporting requirements. A unified system designed to manage and govern ESG data ensures the accuracy and completeness of ESG information, while instilling confidence in downstream workflows and insights

Market benefits: A unified solution to enhance investor and regulatory transparency

With sophisticated solutions to marry ESG data with portfolio information, investment managers can develop offerings that align sustainability criteria with client expectations. Superior data management and analytics empower investors to innovate in an ever-evolving ESG reporting landscape.


Evaluating ESG performance

Aligning a company’s ESG information with investment data unveils powerful insights into ESG performance and any associated risks. To evaluate ESG performance, firms must be able to ingest and aggregate data into a unified, normalized data model. They also need the right tools to detect data quality problems and to effectively report performance results to stakeholders.

As asset managers respond to new regulatory requirements to disclose their portfolio- and entity-level SFDR scores, they will need access to robust data to report company-level SFDR data and inform   calculations. Tools that enable firms to track data alongside each of their entities and portfolios will be critical. Dashboard that that support visualization and enable drilldown into portfolio- and entity-level aggregations further help institutions understand the returns of the ESG investments.

If that sounds like a lot of moving pieces, Arcesium can help.

We designed our advanced data, operations, and analytics capabilities to enable financial services firms to take command of their investment lifecycle. Arcesium’s Aquata and Financial Data Stack capabilities are designed to establish a seamless workflow that ingests, models, and integrates ESG data, and generates analytics and reporting. Our unified data platform’s inherent, out-of-the-box awareness spans asset classes, lifecycle events, and geographies to help modernize and scale operations, accelerate analytics and reporting, and deliver in-depth business insights.

Understanding the Path Forward

To learn more about sustainable investing, watch our on-demand webinar ESG 2.0: The Future of Regulation, Data Integration, and Sustainable Investing. 


June 2022 was Earth’s 6th warmest on record, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, July 14, 2022
ESG Globally Study 2023, Capital Group, October 2023
Consumers care about sustainability – but will they pay more?, National Retail Federation, April 10, 2023
4 ESG and Financial Performance, Rockefeller Asset Management and NYU Stern, February 2021
5 ESG funds: What makes for good performance?, Bloomberg, August 08, 2023

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