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Keeping you in-the-know on environmental, social and governance developments

Usually math is math. But this isn’t necessarily the case when it comes to how the investment sector considers carbon reduction metrics. Bloomberg recently wrote:

The Net Zero Asset Managers initiative, which represents firms with $61 trillion of assets, allows members to choose between three methods for calculating how much of their portfolios are aligned with a net-zero goal. The thinking is that managers need flexibility to accommodate different operating models.

The result is a patchwork of outcomes. Axa Investment Managers has committed 65% of its assets to net zero and set a carbon intensity target—a measure of emissions relative to revenue—of 50% by 2030. BlackRock Inc., the world’s biggest money manager, uses a different gauge and says it expects ‘at least’ 75% of corporate and sovereign assets to be invested ‘in issuers with science-based targets or equivalent’ by the end of the decade, according to an NZAM report in May…

NZAM members are also free to decide how much of their portfolios to commit to climate neutrality goals. That means they can exclude high-polluting industries.

There could be a number of interesting implications of the different approaches, but here are a couple I’m watching:

  • Potential impact on or relationship to a newly announced “Just Transition” label for investors that is intended to help investors recognize where companies are contributing to climate action and related social benefits. Investment and financial managers behind this UK-based initiative include Scottish Widows, Schroders, Railpen, Nest and the Environment Agency Pension Fund. We’ll know more about the criteria and calculation approaches when the public consultation period is over and the group issues a document.
  • Investment funds and investors increasingly moving back into oil company stocks in recent months, which performed well while other more “ESG-friendly” sectors (I’m not making any judgments here) sagged. summed it up this way –
    • “some investors are now warming up to the sector as they realize that the international majors will have a role to play in the energy transition… Recent analyses suggest that some ESG funds now include traditional energy stocks in their portfolios—an unimaginable thing just two years ago. But over the past two years, the international oil and gas majors have vowed to become net-zero energy companies by 2050 and have boosted investment and participation in many offshore wind, solar, hydrogen, carbon capture, and EV charging projects.”
    • Yahoo Finance also reported “According to data from Bank of America, 6% of ESG funds in Europe now have investments in Shell — one of the oil and gas supermajors. A year ago, none of the funds owned the company. ‘We believe [some] ESG funds are revisiting the cost of exclusion [of energy companies] given their underperformance in the first half of 2022 or waiting for regulations to be finalised amid greenwashing fears,’ says Bank of America’s ESG strategist Menka Bajaj.

Last year right after COP26, I wrote about BlackRock CEO Larry Fink’s idea about how fossil fuel industries can – and should – fuel the transition economy. This still seems to be a sound concept and in some ways, immune to variability in measuring Net Zero and potential investor fears of backing fossil fuel companies – and missing out on significant returns. It may not be easy, but the short and long term benefits are compelling.

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The Editor

Lawrence Heim has been practicing in the field of ESG management for almost 40 years. He began his career as a legal assistant in the Environmental Practice of Vinson & Elkins working for a partner who is nationally recognized and an adjunct professor of environmental law at the University of Texas Law School. He moved into technical environmental consulting with ENSR Consulting & Engineering at the height of environmental regulatory development, working across a range of disciplines. He was one… View Profile