Sustainable investing dominates investment choice

As more people seek green and tree changes, there’s been a significant increase in the number of people looking at sustainable investing to secure their future finances.

As more people take stock of their lives and some seek green and tree changes, there’s been a significant increase in the number of people who are looking at sustainable investing to secure their future finances.

The pandemic has changed the world we live in forever. And it seems it has also left an indelible legacy on the way people are choosing to invest their money.

Over the past two years, there’s been an incredible 420 per cent increase in net flows into BT sustainable investment options, with $1bn added to these investments in the last financial year alone.

This exponential growth in sustainable investing seems set to evolve even further as people gain a better understanding of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors.

Now more than ever, people consider how a company approaches issues like climate change and human rights just as important as the money it makes.

This, added to the growing understanding that ESG principles can drive better long-term returns, has elevated the demand to a whole new level.

The proof is in the research

A recent benchmark report by the Responsible Investment Association Australasia (RIAA) and sponsored by BT found there’s been a surge in the popularity of responsible and ethical investing.

In the most comprehensive review of the responsible investment sector in Australia, the report found the responsible investment market reached new highs in 2020, increasing from $983 billion in 2019 to $1,281 billion in 2020.

Additionally, the proportion of responsible investment AUM to total managed funds AUM grew from 31% to 40% in 2020, despite there only being a 2% increase in all professionally managed fund assets in Australia over the same period.

Source: Responsible Investment Association of Australasia, Annual Benchmark Report, 2021.

Investors lead the way

The fact that the proportion of assets under management is growing at more than four times the rate of the wider investment market, reinforces the growing recognition that responsible investments make good financial sense.

And in 2020, responsible investment funds performed on par with, or better than, the market, even though overall fund performance was down largely due to the impact of COVID-19 on economies worldwide.

Source: Responsible Investment Association of Australasia, Annual Benchmark Report, 2021. Investors lead the way

Integrate and prioritise

The report highlights how ESG integration is becoming a foundation of prudent investment management. In 2020, 57% of investment managers had at least 85% of their AUM covered by an explicit and systematic approach to ESG integration, compared to just 41% in 2019.

This presents a huge opportunity within the financial advice and wealth management sector in Australia.

At BT, we believe a sustainable investment approach is fundamental to providing long-term value for investors. Over the long term, appropriate consideration of ESG factors in the investment process can help drive better financial outcomes and positively influence risk-adjusted returns.

As such, we think about sustainable investments in two ways.

  1. Investments that integrate sustainability

    These consider sustainability in the investment process, through a combination of ESG integration, asset stewardship and/or exclusions (negative screening), and typically use the management of ESG risks to target improved risk-adjusted returns.

  2. Investments that prioritise sustainability

    These prioritise sustainability outcomes rather than returns as part of the investment process, eg investments that meet specific environmental or social goals.
1. Are you focused on not investing in companies whose products or behaviours don't align with their own ethical beliefs or values? 2. Do they want to make a difference by investing in companies that provide solutions to global problems like water supply or energy consumption? 3. Are they most interested in investing in companies that may have better risk/return profiles through good ESG management practices?
Values-driven Impact-driven Returns-driven
Consider investments that exclude activities, products or companies of most concern to client Consider introducing an allocation to investments that have an impact objective, or employ a positive screen Consider investments that articulate how ESG integration and assets stewardship impacts their investment process, for example through an Sustainable Investment Pilidy
Investments that prioritise sustainability Investments that integrate sustainability

Sustainable investing is a way of connecting with customers through their hearts, minds and wallets and with the right level of knowledge, it could be a rewarding way for advisers to connect with their clients and give them greater confidence in their investments.

Life through a new lens

With this growing recognition of the role that finance plays in generating positive social, environmental and economic outcomes, consumers’ expectations have changed when it comes to a company’s level of financial performance and the rising materiality of different social and environmental issues – from climate change to racial inequity.

Companies are now being defined by how they respond to issues and events, and are compelled to create a more inclusive, sustainable, and resilient operating environment.

Similarly, the RIAA report shows that just one quarter of investment managers in Australia are practising a leading approach to responsible investment, highlighting a continuing gap between investment managers that claim to be practising responsible investing and those that can demonstrate they are. It’s not good enough for an investment manager to simply claim they’re investing responsibly because if they’re not doing it well, there’s a high risk of losing business. 

Companies that apply corporate ESG practices tend to enjoy higher profitability and may therefore be better long-term investments.

The potential challenge facing financial advisers is how to better understand sustainable investing so they can confidently talk to their clients about the options available to them. 

An industry in transition

Rapid developments across countries, regions and markets are resetting expectations of responsible investment. New standards and regulations are moving the industry towards the best standards of practice that contribute measurably to a more sustainable world.

A Responsible Investment Leader demonstrates a commitment to responsible investing – explicitly considering ESG factors in investment decision making, acting as a strong and collaborative steward and clearly reporting on sustainable investment activities

The next challenge for the maturing Australian responsible investment market is to improve the monitoring and reporting of sustainability outcomes.

At BT, we’ve partnered with Morningstar and Sustainalytics to provide ESG research tools on BT Panorama that highlight an investment’s exposure to ESG risk and allow you to consider the sustainable approach of companies when making decisions about investments.

To help meet the increasing interest in sustainable investment from advisers and clients, we also expanded the list of sustainable investments available through BT Panorama by almost 10 per cent in the first half of 2021.

A discussion on sustainable investing can be a great way for advisers to engage with their clients. It’s topical, relevant and lends itself to longer-term investment horizons and strategies.

Find out more about BT Panorama and how it can drive efficiencies for your practice. 

Our self managed super fund solution is built on BT Panorama, the online platform that helps you manage your SMSF’s investments and cash in one convenient place.

Disclaimer:

Information current as at 2 December 2021. This information was prepared by BT, a part of Westpac Banking Corporation ABN 33 007 457 141 AFSL and Australian Credit Licence 233714 (‘Westpac’). This information does not take into account any personal objectives, financial situation or need and so you should consider its appropriateness, having regard to these factors, before acting on it. This information provided is factual only and does not constitute financial product advice. Before acting on it you should seek independent advice about its appropriate to your and your clients’ objectives, financial situation and needs. Apart from any interest investors may have in Westpac term deposits, Westpac securities, the BT CMA or the BT CMA Saver acquired through the Panorama operating system, an investment acquired using the Panorama operating system is not an investment in, deposit with or any other liability of Westpac or any other company in the Westpac Group. These investments are subject to investment risk, including possible delays in repayment of withdrawal proceeds and loss of income and principal invested. Westpac and its related entities do not stand behind or otherwise guarantee the capital value or investment performance of any investments acquired through the Panorama operating system. This communication has been prepared for use by advisers only. It must not be made available to any client and any information in it must not be communicated to any client. This document provides an overview or summary only and it should not be considered a comprehensive statement on any matter or relief upon as such.