Commodities Risk Lurking in ESG Funds Is Now Too Big to Ignore

The dark side of ESG investing has the potential to undermine a whole generation of clean-tech strategies.

Adam Matthews, chief responsible investment officer at the Church of England Pensions Board, said the risks posed to the renewables boom via the mining industry aren’t getting nearly enough attention. The upshot, according to the 47-year-old, is that portfolios intended to uphold environmental, social or good governance principles may end up being exposed to human-rights abuses and environmental damage via supply chains.

It’s an issue that led Matthews and other investors to recently form an alliance, with a view to shining spotlight on the topic to make it much harder for fund managers to plead ignorance. The Global Investor Commission on Mining 2030, which is being advised by the United Nations, plans to expose and fight what it calls the systemic risks that stem from the link between mining and the clean-energy industry.

“The auto sector is massively exposed, as are wind turbine manufacturers,” Matthews said in an interview. There’s also “huge demand” for minerals such as copper and lithium, which are “enormously important to low-carbon technology.”