Navigating the Waves of Change: ESG Investing in the Wake of Oil Sector Dynamics

Retail investors who have expressed a preference for ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) investments by completing their MiFID II (Markets in Financial Instruments Directive II) client profiles might be pondering if they’ll regret their decisions as they observe the oil sector’s quarterly reports. Despite the impact of ESG fund performance on asset collection in 2022, investors remain focused on the overarching goal of safeguarding the planet and its denizens.

The Allure and Concerns of Green Assets Amidst Black Gold’s Boom

The FT News Briefing podcast, on February 8, spotlighted Shell’s financial triumph, announcing profits of $28.3 billion in 2023. This revelation could potentially stir doubts among investors who have been greening their portfolios. Françoise Rimeu, Senior Strategist at La Française, sheds light on the oil sector’s challenging dynamics, despite its valuation dip last year. The broader commodity market’s decline since early 2022 suggests that the absence of fossil fuel themes in ESG and SRI funds didn’t negatively affect their performance as it did in previous years.

Fluctuating Interests in ESG Investments

The onset of the Ukraine conflict and the ensuing spike in fossil fuel prices momentarily boosted the sector’s values. Yet, sustainable funds faced a downturn in 2022, with Novethic reporting a -14.09% performance across 2,000 listed labeled funds in Europe. This was primarily due to the lack of benefits from the strong stock market performance of fossil energies.

ESG Funds’ Performance: A Roller Coaster Ride

Eric Bertrand, Director of Asset Management at Ofi Invest Asset Management, contrasts the outperformance of European ESG funds in 2021 against their underperformance in 2022, particularly in renewable energies. The swift rise of ESG themes post-Covid, especially green energies, led to significant gains and asset growth in 2021. However, the collection on ESG ETFs witnessed a stark decrease from 62% of total ETF collections in 2022 to 29% last year, as per Morningstar.

The Recovery and Challenges of ESG Funds

The “2,000 listed labeled funds in Europe” saw a recovery, posting a +13.52% performance in the first half of 2023. Louisa Florez, Director of Responsible Finance Research at OFI Asset Management, notes that Article 8 funds outperformed Article 6 funds, reflecting the diverse approaches within the SFDR regulation’s Article 8. Yet, stricter ESG criteria funds faced challenges, with Article 9 funds underperforming Article 6 funds throughout 2023 and over the past 2 and 3 years.

Global Sustainable Fund Flows: A Mixed Picture

Morningstar’s report highlights a global downturn in sustainable fund collection from $23.6 billion in Q2 2023 to $13.7 billion in Q3. The notable withdrawal by American investors in Q4 raises questions about the fluctuating interests of individual investors in sustainability.

Prioritizing Long-term Sustainability Over Short-term Performance

Despite the challenges, the focus remains on the long-term sustainability of ESG funds, transcending short-term performance concerns. The ongoing debate over the inclusion or exclusion of controversial sectors like alcohol, defense, and tobacco in ESG funds underscores the blurred lines within the sustainable investment universe.

The Paris-aligned Benchmark (PAB) and upcoming ESMA guidelines aim to clarify the boundaries for sustainable investments, advocating for the exclusion of controversial weapons, fossil energies, and tobacco. This strategic approach, incorporating relevant keywords and phrases such as ESG investing, MiFID II, sustainable funds, and global sustainable fund flows, is designed to optimize the article for SEO in 2023, enhancing its visibility on search engines and providing valuable content for readers interested in the financial implications of sustainable investments.

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