The truth about ESG and sustainable investment

10 things to know about

ESG and sustainable investing

Sustainable investing is becoming mainstream as investors realize that assessing environmental and social risks and opportunities of their portfolio investments safeguards not only their long-term returns but also people, planet and the global economy. Research shows that many institutions are not only broadening their internal practices but also increasing their client offerings.

As of year-end 2021, the US SIF Foundation identified $8.4 trillion in total US-domiciled assets under management (AUM) using sustainable investing strategies. This represents 13 percent—or 1 in 8 dollars—of the total US assets under professional management.

Sustainable investing is an investment discipline that considers environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) criteria alongside all of the other financially material risks and opportunity factors in order to generate long-term competitive financial returns.

Recently, politicians in Congress and state legislatures have attacked ESG and sustainable investing as irresponsible, ineffective or partisan in nature. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Here are 10 reasons sustainable investing is needed and is here to stay:

Sustainable investing

is main street investing.

Professional and "main street" investors want to align their investments with critical ESG criteria to achieve long-term returns, unlock value and ensure stable markets. ESG helps to identify strategic and intrinsic corporate value as well as systemic trends at the country, regional and global level. It’s not just about risk; it is also about identifying leaders, spotlighting opportunity and aligning with broader environmental and societal goals. The truth about ESG is that sustainable investing is popular, despite unwarranted political attacks on the industry.

Read more about the diversity of sustainable investors

Types of investors:

  1. Individual retail investors, including high net worth individuals.
  2. Asset managers such as mutual fund companies or private equity funds.
  3. Development banks and finance institutions internationally.
  4. Institutional asset owners such as public pension funds, insurance companies, educational institutions, philanthropic foundations and others.


  • Individual investors may be driven by personal values and goals while institutional investors may be guided by their internal risk management approach or diverse investment fund philosophies.
  • Financial advisors and asset managers may want to respond to the demands of clients or plan participants.

ESG considerations are about investment results,

not politics.

Prudent investors consider financially material ESG factors when managing risk and seeking investment opportunities.

Experienced sustainable investors use ESG data along with other sound financial analysis to make long-term investment decisions that make sense given today’s real and meaningful environmental, social and governance challenges. Some investors argue that considering ESG data along with other risk factors is a part of an investor’s fiduciary duty to their clients.

Source: MSCI

The market has embraced  

investment practices that put ESG at the core.

Employees and customers want companies to be good actors.

Companies with strong ESG performance can achieve lower cost of capital. They can gain access to cheaper debt and equity financing as financial institutions view them as lower risk. Companies also have a responsibility to not simply put profits first when there is a potential for environmental and social harm.

Sustainable investors are

investing in a better future.

Investors seek investments in sustainable and resilient companies that can address structural and systemic risks while finding innovative opportunities in a more sustainable economy.

They provide capital to the most innovative parts of our economy, including electric vehicles, solar panels, sustainable and green building technologies. They invest in innovations in biotechnology and science to help people live healthier lives and adaptive technologies to help traditional industries adjust to a more sustainable future.

Don’t forget about the “S” and the “G” in ESG. Sustainable investing isn’t only about mitigating climate change. Other ESG criteria that sustainable investors often consider include anti-corruption, workers’ rights and compensation and global food security.

Source: NASA

Sustainable investing is an important strategy 

for addressing climate change.

Climate scientists continue to warn that our economy must change to mitigate the greatest harms of climate change. Meaningful policy changes are the most important strategy to address this, but the role of investors to finance the transition to a low carbon economy—in partnership with government—is essential.

Learn more about the climate crisis

The most recent IPCC report concluded that climate change may be happening more quickly than expected. Unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors and regions, limiting warming to close to 1.5°C or even 2°C in the next few decades will be beyond reach.

Time is running short and more dramatic steps to reduce emissions and mitigate climate change are necessary to reduce the impact of a warming climate. The role of sustainable investors has never been more important.

Politically motivated and simplistic attacks on "ESG"

hurt the economy and politicians' constituents.

Attempts by policymakers to remove or prohibit sustainable funds (or even consider ESG factors in the investment process) ideologically motivated political posturing that will result undermine the ability to make smart investments in their constituents’ retirement assets and ultimately their states’ futures.

These efforts will reduce investment choice and prevent investors from selecting investments from hundreds of institutions, including leading financial services firms. This, in turn, will increase risk and borrowing costs.

Sustainable investing represents

the free market.

ESG investors are voting with their dollars and seeking investment opportunities that fit their investment approach and their clients’ risk profiles and values. Attempts to limit ESG considerations are anti-free market and hurt investors at all levels.

Investing sustainably

reduces risk.

Fiduciary Duty

Like all investment professionals, sustainable investment professionals have a fiduciary duty to manage risk and return on behalf of their clients; not to consider material ESG factors would be a breach of duty.

Core Element of Investing

Institutional asset owners, among the most sophisticated investment management professionals, view investing using ESG metrics as “a core element of investing,” according to a Morningstar study.

Long-Term Benefits

Numerous studies point to the long-term benefits of sustainable investing.

Investors and their advisors are becoming

more sophisticated.

Individuals have a range of educational tools and resources to help them find best-in-class sustainable investment managers and approaches. Examples include Morningstar, As You Sow and the US SIF Foundation's Education Center.

Increasingly, financial advisors are building sustainable practices and completing advanced training and accreditation.

Read more about advisor education
The Chartered SRI Counselor (CSRIC) designation from Kaplan/College for Financial Planning is a rigorous program. Advisors with the CSRIC designation help investors select sustainable investments and avoid products that don’t align with their environmental and social priorities.

Learn more about the CSRIC designation

The sustainable investment industry has

grown in sophistication and rigor.

Industry leaders and practitioners are encouraged to adopt and follow industry best practices:

transparency and

incorporation of
ESG factors

in knowledge

in investor advocacy
to advance ESG issues

and manage

public policy on
sustainable investing

This website is presented by US SIF: Sustainable Investment Forum, the leading voice advancing sustainable investing across all asset classes. Its mission is to rapidly shift investment practices toward sustainability, focusing on long-term investment and the generation of positive social and environmental impacts. US SIF’s hundreds of members represent more than $5 trillion in assets under advisement or management.  

US SIF is supported in its work by the US SIF Foundation, a 501(C)(3) organization that undertakes educational, research and programmatic activities to advance the mission of US SIF.

View additional resources from US SIF

Copyright 2023 US SIF

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