Despite the noise that many bad actors are making about socially responsible investing, demand for ESG continues to be a priority for investors. But despite the negative noise, there are reasons for concern.
For one thing, there’s a profound lack of consistency over what actually constitutes ESG. Many so-called ESG funds use criteria so broad and vague that investors are unclear whether they actually count as ESG.
And then, of course, there’s the issue of greenwashing. Greenwashing is when a company offers misleading or outright false information about how environmentally friendly its products or practices are.
“Since values are inherently personal, much of the criticism around ESG stems from the perception that large asset managers are imposing their views on the investing public,” wrote Nathan Wallace, a founding principal wealth manager at Savvy Wealth. “That’s because widely marketed index funds, featuring vague ‘green’ or ‘ESG’ labels, tend to represent a monolithic solution to various societal ills.”
Wallace added that it’s tough to gauge just how “green” an ESG fund is if it includes a known polluter like ExxonMobil among their holdings. There are several other examples of companies being called out for greenwashing.
Screening Out the Unwanted Securities
One way that investors can invest according to their values while mitigating the risk of greenwashing is through direct indexing. Direct indexing lets investors build customized portfolios tailored to their specific investment goals and preferences. Investors can screen out any securities considering to be playing only lip service to having environmentally friendly goals and practices.
Unlike traditional mutual funds or ETFs, which track specific indexes, direct indexing allows investors to include or exclude specific stocks. In fact, entire sectors can be excluded through direct indexing. Through direct indexing, investors can align their portfolios with their values, sustainability objectives, or individual investment strategies.
High-net-worth investors looking to benefit from the features of personalized indexing may want to consider Vanguard Personalized Indexing. VPI can also enable advisors to diversify and customize their clients’ broader portfolios.
Vanguard CEO Tim Buckley said at Exchange 2023 that the company will “be investing heavily” in direct indexing. More information on Vanguard Personalized Indexing can be found online.
For more news, information, and analysis, visit the Direct Indexing Channel.