We have seen two major steps in the European regulation intended to promote sustainable investment and prevent greenwashing. None has been without controversy and concerns but it continues to move the industry in Europe ahead at a faster pace than elsewhere.
There is a danger that the sustainable investment world focuses too much attention on large companies. There is a rationale to do so, as they may be responsible for larger footprints and greater impacts, but this misses the significant portion of global GDP in the hands of small to medium companies, and the capacity for these companies to respond to environmental and social issues.
After obtaining the ISR label for its fund dedicated to educational real estate, QUAERO CAPITAL continues its momentum and receives the label for its Quaero Capital Funds (Lux) – Infrastructure Securities fund. The fund is the first actively managed fund 100% invested in listed infrastructure companies to have this label.
We are in the middle of the AGM season for most markets and seeing increasing ballots related to environmental and social issues. AGMs represent a very valuable opportunity for investors to challenge the board of directors, as well as use their votes to vote against weak governance structures. As the sustainable investment focus continues to grow, stewardship has become more and more important.
The Sixth Assessment Report on climate change from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the third part of which was published earlier this month, has not been an easy read. Global CO2 emissions rose by +6% to 36.3bn tons in 2021, more than offsetting the reduction in 2020 due to Covid-19. The sustainable recovery much touted by governments has so far yet to come to fruition.
As investors and companies exit the Russian market in droves, new criteria, such as the defence of democracy and non-dependence on authoritarian regimes, are giving new lustre to previously banned sectors.
In 2021, the 27 EU member states and the European Parliament agreed to enshrine the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050 in a “climate law”. And this “Green New Deal” is much more than just wishful thinking, as it not only sets ambitious targets but more importantly provides for massive investments, particularly in infrastructure. So to make the most of it, the biggest winners could be direct investments in infrastructure projects.
Unlike large caps, where it is difficult to add value and where passive strategies can provide an effective response, for small caps, active management offers a real opportunity to outperform the market by a wide margin. Not to mention its clear benefits in terms of responsible investment and shareholder advocacy.
In a sign of the maturation of the sustainable investment industry greenwashing is moving up the agenda, with recent studies across developed markets highlighting this as a top risk identified by investment professionals for 2022. Yet, even if stricter regulations are now in place in Europe and if new accounting standards are planned, it is essential that the players in the industry discipline themselves to fight against this scourge. The very legitimacy of sustainable investment is at stake.
While global leaders convened in Glasgow to achieve a low-carbon future, we can reflect on a very different picture in current energy markets.