The Illusion of ESG Investing

Oct 2020

 …raters of ESG efficacy have large differences in their ratings of companies like Bank of America, Intel, Comcast, and Samsung, for example. How can this be? One answer is that there is no definitive ESG measure. You can invest in a company on ESG grounds, but don’t leap to the conclusion that any environmental good will come of your investment. Unlike the above companies, there is more general agreement of the seemingly positive ESG attributes of companies like Facebook, Visa and Mastercard. They seemingly don’t hurt the physical environment, but what about breaching individual privacy or enabling the charging of high interest rates to borrowers? Again, these companies and others represent complicated situations that are not easily characterized by simplistic assessments. Unfortunately, this isn’t likely to stop those who feel they can determine how “good” a company may be. … ESG investing can be arbitrary; in some cases it’s more ideological than intelligent; and it may not achieve either the investor’s good intent or expected return.