Microsoft has been the biggest winner from stock market investment into environmental, social, and governance-oriented (ESG) funds, according to financial data company EPFR. The Windows creator is among the tech giants benefitting as savers increasingly prioritize climate and social concerns when investing.
ESG funds held $2.3 billion worth of Microsoft stock as of Dec. 31, according to EPFR data. Alphabet and Disney came in at No. 2 and 3. The EPFR data accounts for all equity funds (active as well as passive index funds) around the world.
Funds with higher ESG and socially responsible investing (SRI) ratings have been screened, often by an index or rating company, to try and make sure they meet certain criteria for positive social or climate-related attributes. These filters may help investors avoid buying assets that are involved in extracting fossil fuels, for example, or companies that don’t have a diverse board of executives.
“In pretty much every client meeting at the moment, we wind up having an SRI/ESG conversation,” said Cameron Brandt, director of research at EPFR. These types of funds “are soaking up the cash,” he said. “The caveat is that we are seeing a lot of funds start to talk the talk without walking the walk.”
Almost all millennials (95%) are interested in sustainable investing, according to research by Morgan Stanley. Plastic reduction (Quartz member exclusive) and climate change are among the biggest concerns, according to respondents in the investment bank’s survey. That’s giving a tailwind to ESG stock funds, which have received around $70 billion of assets in the past year, the Financial Times (paywall) reported, citing EPFR data. Traditional equity funds have had around $200 billion of outflows over the same period.
Index funds can be weighted in part by market capitalization, meaning the bigger a stock’s market value, the bigger its share of the index. Big US tech companies like Microsoft, Alphabet, and Google are valued at more than $1 trillion each in public markets, and they tend to be beneficiaries of flows into market-cap weighted index funds.