ESG Stock Resilience Is Paving the Way for a Surge in Popularity

Investors who piled into ESG stock strategies have beat broader indexes this year, fueling speculation that the strategy of prioritizing companies doing social good will continue to gain adherents well after the current crisis passes.

Most exchange-traded funds focused on companies with above-average marks for environmental, social and governance practices have outperformed this year, according to research from Bloomberg Intelligence. So far in 2020, 59% of U.S. ESG ETFs are doing better than the S&P 500 Index while 60% of European ESG ETFs have beat the MSCI Europe Index.

The results are a boon for investors who piled into ESG funds in the final few months of the longest bull market in history. Sustainable ETFs added more than $8 billion in 2019, quadruple the previous year, and another $4 billion in January. The idea of conscientious investing also got a boost as BlackRock’s Larry Fink pledged to put climate at the center of his firm’s ethos. With the strategy proving prescient as the S&P 500 swooned more than 30% amid the coronavirus panic, analysts say it’s likely to gain in popularity.

“The advantage of ESG companies right now is a perception that they are more likely to take a stakeholder view of their business as opposed to a purely shareholder view of their business,” said Dan Russo, chief market strategist at Chaikin Analytics. “Investors are starting to look to the other side of this initial coronavirus situation and maybe looking for the companies that did right by their employees, that did right by their supply chain.”