Do ESG Mutual Funds Deliver on Their Promises?
UVA Law Faculty Affiliations
ESG investing is growing explosively, and the interest in ESG investing by retail investors continues to increase. A substantial proportion of retail ESG investing occurs through ESG mutual funds. The number of ESG mutual funds, and the assets they hold have each doubled in the past three years, and the COVID-19 pandemic has done nothing to slow this trend. But does this rapidly growing sector of the investment industry actually deliver investment exposure to ESG goals, or has the demand for ESG investing led to overpriced, greenwashed funds that are merely marketed as ESG to chase the latest investment fad or extract higher fees from investors? While these concerns have attracted attention from both the Securities & Exchange Commission (“SEC”) and the Department of Labor (“DOL”), much of the regulatory conversation to date has relied on theoretical concerns and anecdotal evidence. This, combined with the rapidly evolving market for ESG funds, demonstrates the compelling need for greater empirical analysis directly targeting the regulators’ concerns.