In the past, the words ESG and Responsible Investing were primarily understood in terms of clients’ ethical value judgements—and were often deemed as potential detriments to performance. However, an increasing number of the managers we surveyed have adapted their understanding of ESG and now see ESG factor assessment as an integral part of their risk management exercises. In our opinion, this makes sense, because capital appreciation opportunities are typically much more limited for bond investments than for stock investments—making downside management a crucial component of bond investing.
Christopher K. Merker, PhD, CFA, is a director with Robert W. Baird & Co. Merker holds a PhD in Investment Governance and Fiduciary Effectiveness from Marquette University. He is a past president of the CFA Society Milwaukee and a current board member. An adjunct professor of finance at Marquette University, where he teaches the investment course, Sustainable Finance, he is also executive director of Fund Governance Analytics, LLC, a provider of governance research and diagnostic tools for issuers, asset owners and institutional investors. He publishes the blog, Sustainable Finance, which covers current topics around sustainability in investing (www.sustainablefinanceblog.org)