ESG 2.0: Measuring & Managing Investor Risks Beyond the Enterprise-level
80 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2021
Date Written: April 6, 2021
Do environmental, social, and governance (ESG) and impact investing practices in their current forms provide investors with sufficient tools to play a meaningful role in “Building Back Better” following the COVID-19 crisis? Many of our existing ESG and impact investing frameworks focus on issues at the portfolio company level, but they do not take into account potential negative impacts from capital structures and investors’ influence in shaping them. In this paper, the Predistribution Initiative (PDI) explores how the growth of institutional investors (asset owners and allocators) and certain asset allocation strategies can be in conflict with ESG objectives. The conflict materializes in various interconnected ways, particularly from institutional investors’ role in increasing global debt levels and fund manager and corporate consolidation, which in turn can create barriers for diverse fund managers and entrepreneurs, jeopardize quality jobs, erode the quality and affordability of goods and services, increase asset class correlations, reduce diversification opportunities, and ultimately fuel economic inequality and market instability. For long-term, diversified institutional investors, or “Universal Owners” of the market, these dynamics eventually translate into lower financial returns. For workers and communities, these dynamics translate into greater precarity and inequality.
This paper encourages such investors to consider how their activities may contribute to these issues and how they can improve their own practices to better manage systemic and systematic risks. We review the issues and then propose several preliminary paths toward solutions that we intend to workshop and fine-tune with investors and other stakeholders. Potential solutions focus on diversifying asset allocation to more regenerative investment structures and asset classes, building an enabling environment through adjustments to team incentive structures, performance reviews, benchmarking and valuation methodologies, and field-building.
Keywords: Non-bank Financial Institutions, Institutional Investors, Universal Ownership, Universal Owners, ESG, Impact Investing, Corporate Governance, Private Equity, Private Debt, Leveraged Loans, High Yield Bonds, CLOs, Asset Allocation, Systemic Risk, Systematic Risk,
JEL Classification: G11, G12, G23, G24, G30
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation