The Goldman Sachs JUST U.S. Large Cap Equity ETF (JUST) tracks an index of Russell 1000 companies “that demonstrate just business behavior.” The methodology scores companies on issues such as customer privacy, diversity, inclusion, gender diversity and greenhouse gas emissions. The portfolio invests in those companies with above-average scores.
JUST is a hybrid creature in the world of socially-responsible investing. On the one hand, it fits into the legacy values-investing segment by providing a liberal alternative to funds that avoid so-called “sin stocks.” JUST’s focus on inclusion and diversity is at the opposite end of the spectrum from the Inspire 100 ETF (BIBL), which has been criticized for enshrining bigotry by deliberately excluding companies that engage in the “promotion or acceptance of the LGBT lifestyle.”
JUST also appeals to investors interested in the growing ESG segment of the fund market, where companies are rated and weighted based on environmental, social and governance factors. ESG (the strategy, not the ticker) is different from traditional socially-responsible investing, which typically tried to exclude bad actors and industries. Many advisers worried that this came at the expense of diversification and returns. Today’s ESG strategies aim to be more inclusive. Instead of ignoring large swathes of the market, the goal is to maintain market-like diversification with a tilt toward the best corporate citizens. It’s worth nothing that there are plenty of skeptics when it comes to ESG investing, and critics say ESG whitewashes a portfolio rather than driving companies to truly change their behavior.
Issuers have rolled out dozens of ESG-style funds in recent years to appeal to younger investors who are concerned about the social impact of their investments, so JUST has plenty of competition. For cost conscious investors, there are inexpensive ESG options such as the Vanguard ESG U.S. Stock ETF (ESGV) and the iShares ESG MSCI U.S.A. ETF (ESGU).