Conflicting Objectives of ESG Funds: Evidence from Proxy Voting
52 Pages Posted: 1 Mar 2021 Last revised: 18 Jul 2022
Date Written: December 31, 2021
This paper studies whether ESG funds trade off the long-term sustainability of portfolio firms for greater short-term financial performance. We find that ESG funds reveal their preference for superior returns by voting against E&S proposals when it is uncertain whether these proposals will pass. Consistent with their financial incentives, active ESG funds and non-ESG-focused institutions are more likely to oppose E&S proposals. However, investors do not appear to respond to such strategic voting by withdrawing capital. Overall, our results highlight that investors' conflicting objectives of advancing sustainability while achieving superior returns can impede improvements in corporate sustainability.
Keywords: Mutual funds, ESG investing, Proxy voting, Conflicting objectives
JEL Classification: G23, G34, M14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation