Financial Advice | Wealth Creation

Sustainable investing on the rise

Sustainable investing on the rise

Our Wealth Creation advisors authorised by OzPlan Financial Services talk about the rise of Sustainable Investing and how it can help you + our planet!

Sustainable investing is not new, but in recent years it’s moved from the green fringes into the mainstream. From climate change to animal rights and gender diversity, more people are interested in aligning their money with their values.

Last year alone, Australia’s sustainable investment market increased 20 per cent to a record $1.5 trillion. According to its 2022 benchmark report, the Responsible Investment Association Australasia (RIAA) found sustainable investments now represent 43 per cent of total professionally managed funds.

In addition to traditional shares and fixed interest, you can buy sustainable investments in a wide range of assets, including property, alternatives such as forestry and farmland, infrastructure, private equity and cash.

These days, most big super funds offer a sustainable investment option and some even offer this as their default option. You can also buy sustainably managed funds, including a growing list of exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

So what are sustainable investments and how can you tell?

Focus on people + the planet

Sustainable investing is also known as ethical, responsible and ESG (environmental, social, governance) investing. But whatever the name, the focus is on people, society and/or the environment instead of an exclusive focus on financial returns.

Sustainable investments are selected using a variety of screening methods, including:

  • Positive screening selects the best investments in their class
  • Negative screening excludes harmful sectors, companies or activities such as arms, gambling, animal testing, tobacco and fossil fuels
  • Norms-based investing screens for minimum standards of relevant business practices
  • Impact investing has the explicit intention of generating positive social or environmental impacts.i

Increasingly, the term ESG investing is used when a fund or company commits to sustainable investing in these three areas:

  • Environmental, including air and water pollution, biodiversity and climate change
  • Social, including child labour and labour standards, ethical product sourcing, gambling and human rights
  • Governance, including board diversity, corruption, business ethics, corporate culture and whistle-blower schemes.

While climate change is a strong theme these days, the RIAA report found gender diversity and women’s empowerment are gaining popularity.

Yet despite the focus on making the world a better place, sustainable investing is not all warm and fuzzy. Performance still matters.

Performance gains

In the early days, sustainable investing often came at the expense of returns but that is no longer necessarily the case.

The RIAA report compared the performance of what it terms responsible investment funds and mainstream investments funds (on average and net of fees) over the past 10 years to December 2021.

Responsible multi-sector growth funds consistently outperformed mainstream funds and their benchmark over 1, 3, 5 and 10 years. Responsible Australian share funds generally outperformed or were on par with mainstream funds. Only responsible international share funds disappointed, underperforming mainstream funds across all timeframes.

Watch out for greenwashing

Not surprisingly, increased investor demand for sustainable investments has led to a rapid increase in the number of products available. The rush to cash in on the trend has sometimes led to what is known as ‘’greenwashing”.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) describes greenwashing as the practice of misrepresenting the extent to which a financial product or investment strategy is environmentally friendly, sustainable or ethical.

ASIC warns investors to look beneath the green label at the fine print. For example, a fund might describe itself as ‘’no gambling” but the product terms say it may invest in companies that earn less than 30 per cent of revenue from gambling.

It’s also important not to rely on vague language such as “considers”, “integrates” or “takes into account” sustainability-related factors, but to look for a clear explanation of how the product will achieve its aims


Book an appointment

For investors seeking sustainability along with financial returns from their investments, momentum and choice are growing. So please get in touch if you would like to discuss your investment options. Please give us a call on (03) 5831 1233.

Published 10 February 2024.
The information provided in this article is general in nature only and does not constitute financial advice.