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What is ESG?

Many investors want to know how their investments affect the environment and society, and how the companies they invest in are run. “ESG” is a handy acronym that has been created to discuss these concerns, with the “E” standing for the environment, “S” for social, and “G” for governance.

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Is ESG the same as sustainable investing?

Sustainable investing, responsible investing, ethical investing and many other terms are used to describe investing that’s not just about financial returns. These terms can all mean slightly different things, and sometimes the same term can mean different things to different people. The AIC has used the term ESG as it has become widely used within the investment industry and includes a broad range of issues that investors may be concerned about.

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What ESG information can I find on the AIC’s website?

The AIC has invited every member investment company to disclose its ESG policy. Where a company has submitted its ESG policy to us, this can be found on the company’s information page under the “ESG” tab. If a company has not provided an ESG policy, no ESG tab will appear. We expect to add more ESG disclosures over time as more of our members provide them. We hope these disclosures will be useful to investors who want to make sure their personal values and beliefs are reflected in the companies they invest in.

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What’s in the disclosures?

The disclosures are free-form; that means we have let every member company decide what information investors would find most useful.  Most companies have described how ESG factors are incorporated into their investment process. Some have given details of how they try to influence the companies they invest in to have a more positive social or environmental impact (called “engagement”). Others have provided facts and figures about the investment company’s impact on the environment or society (such as carbon emissions). You can also find information about any agreements, codes or principles that investment companies may have signed up to, such as the UN Principles for Responsible Investment. Finally, some investment companies have given details of types of companies they avoid investing in for ESG reasons (called “exclusions” or “negative screening”).

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Are investment companies good for ESG investing?

Some features of investment companies make them particularly suitable for ESG investing. They have a “closed-ended structure”, which means they do not have to sell assets when investors sell their shares in the investment company. This allows them to take a longer-term view of their investments and invest in assets that are hard to buy and sell such as physical property, infrastructure assets and start-up companies. Some of these investments can have positive social or environmental impacts. The fact that investment companies are governed by independent boards of directors, whose legal duty is to look after shareholders’ interests, helps ensure accountability, while their status as listed companies means they are transparent and need to meet high regulatory standards.

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What is impact investing?

Impact investing is a type of investing that is focused on achieving measurable social or environmental impacts. Investment companies engaged in impact investing might invest in wind or solar farms to generate clean energy, energy efficiency projects, social housing or accommodation for the homeless. These assets are hard to buy and sell, so they are particularly suitable for investment companies, which can hold them for the long term. Investment companies that do impact investing will measure their impacts on the environment and/or society in various ways, and tend to report these impacts on a regular basis, so that investors can see the positive impacts their investments are making.

Latest articles & media

The latest ESG related articles, press releases & videos from the AIC

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