Trillions of dollars have poured into environmental, social and governance funds in recent years. In 2021 alone, the figure grew $8 billion a day. Bloomberg Intelligence projects more than one-third of all globally managed assets could carry explicit ESG labels by 2025, amounting to more than $50 trillion. Yet for a financial phenomenon this pervasive, there is astonishingly little evidence of its tangible benefit.
The implicit promise of ESG investing is that you can do well and do good at the same time. Investors presume they can make a market return while advancing causes such as lowering carbon emissions and income inequality. But multiple studies find ESG strategies are doing little of either. Bradford Cornell of the University of California, Los Angeles and Aswath Damodaran of New York University reviewed shareholder value created by firms with high and low ESG ratings—scores provided by professional rating agencies. Their conclusion: “Telling firms that being socially responsible will deliver higher growth, profits and value is false advertising.”
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