Thinking Holistically About ESG

In this excerpt from our latest “Global Investment Outlook,” Franklin Equity Group Portfolio Manager Serena Perin Vinton discusses how her team thinks about environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing and the opportunities in investment-driven innovations levered to a more sustainable environment.

In our view, managers need to be thinking holistically about ESG in today’s environment. The effects of climate change are significant and we see them in the news near daily, with ever-growing wildfires in Western North America, hurricanes that retain their intensity long after landfall, and the shrinking Arctic Circle, just to name a few. As governments around the world seek to pass legislation and regulatory change to limit greenhouse gas emissions, their actions have implications across industries. At the same time, a growing number of clients want to know their capital investments are supporting their values and change they want to see in the world. As managers, we understand that integrating ESG considerations into our investment process is an important aspect of identifying investment opportunities and reflecting what many clients expect of us.

Investment-Driven Innovations Driving Opportunities

We see opportunities across many different industries when it comes to investment-driven innovations. Synthetic biology, green hydrogen, water-saving technologies and renewable energy are just a few examples with long-term growth prospects levered to a more sustainable environment. Green energy has been one area of focus. As we see a shift away from carbon heavy energy to more renewables, significant change is occurring in the transportation industry. One area we’ve focused on is the electric vehicle (EV) space, not just for individual use, but at a larger scale in applications like municipal buses, transit and shuttle operations.

The development of these vehicles also contributes to growth in new infrastructure, as solar and alternative energy sources can be harnessed for use in vehicle charging stations, for example. We are excited about the innovations taking place. Speaking from an equity perspective, we see capital gravitating toward those companies demonstrating commitment to ESG initiatives across multiple fronts. These initiatives can include investing in human capital via talent and diversity programs, focusing on reducing carbon emissions from core businesses, and consideration of voting rights and board composition. Conversely, companies which aren’t addressing these concerns may see a reduction in interest from the investing community.

As active managers, we can play a role by engaging with company management teams regarding ESG metrics. In our view, compelling investment opportunities can be uncovered by identifying companies which are seeking to improve their ESG profiles, creating a virtuous cycle to draw capital from a wider investor base.