Asian Asset Owners Are Leapfrogging Into ESG

Sustainable investing has become particularly popular in Europe, across many countries.  In the Asia Pacific region, certain countries such as Japan and Australia have shown stronger interest in ESG thanks to asset owner demand, availability of ESG data, and regulatory pressures.  In the last couple of years, we have seen some of Japan’s largest institutional investors, including the Government Pension Investment Fund, which is the biggest pension fund in the world, incorporating ESG into their investment practices.  This has had a major trickle-down effect on the investment value chain, from asset managers to providers of data.

According to a new report launched in May 2017 by BNP Paribas, asset owners and asset managers in the Asia Pacific region have leapt ahead of their European and North American counterparts when it comes to incorporating ESG-related strategies into their investing.  The report, “Great Expectations: ESG – what’s next for asset owners and managers,” found that “84% of the Asia Pacific-based institutional investors surveyed currently incorporate ESG into their investment decision making, compared with 82% in Europe, and only 70% for North America.  And while a fifth of APAC institutional investors currently market a majority of their funds as ESG-compliant, more than 60% expect to do so within two years, highlighting the world’s fastest-growing region is also moving fast in the direction of sustainability.  At present, the largest markets for sustainable investing in Asia, excluding Japan, are Malaysia (30%), Hong Kong (26%), South Korea (14%) and China (14%).”

In terms of strategy, green bonds, sustainable bonds, thematic funds, and investing based on ESG profiles are most popular, although there are some regional differences.

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