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Playing catch-up: Investors lag behind corporations in adopting sustainability principles

Carbon Exposure of Smart Beta Indices

DJSI – A temperature gauge for Sustainability Investing

The CPSE Story

Metals Never Had An August This Hot

Playing catch-up: Investors lag behind corporations in adopting sustainability principles

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Aris Prepoudis

CEO

RobecoSAM

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When I was a teenager growing up in Basel, I witnessed first-hand one of the events that put sustainability thinking on the agendas of the corporate landscape. On November 1, 1986, I was woken up by loud sirens. A disastrous fire had broken out at a chemical plant warehouse. Over 1,000 tons of agrochemical product and quicksilver had caught fire. The fire department was quick to contain the fire, but the water it used to extinguish it flowed into the Rhine. Overnight, the contaminated water turned the river a bright red color and caused unprecedented fish mortality.

Events such as these brought awareness of business risks, predominantly environmental risks, to the fore. Sustainability thinking had landed on the agendas of corporate executives!

Initially, it assumed a narrow interpretation of risk-management pertaining to environmental aspects. In other words, it was purely focused on what needs to be done to prevent operating licenses being revoked. However, over time, corporations began to see and enjoy the broader set of business opportunities that integrating sustainability practices more deeply can unlock. It is no wonder that the number of companies that actively participate in our Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA), an annual ESG analysis of over 3,900 listed companies, in order to secure a spot in the coveted Dow Jones Sustainability Indices, has continued to increase over the years.

Gradually, and with somewhat of a time-lag, sustainability thinking spread from the corporate sector to the investor community (see Chart 1). Despite this, the way in which the financial sector has embraced sustainability follows a very similar pattern to that of the corporate world.

When investors began to address the challenge of sustainability, the predominant focus was on risk management. Sound familiar? Specifically, they were focused on avoiding controversial investments. Exclusions were the natural answer, but in time and in much the same way as it happened in the corporate sector, this preliminary sustainability thinking evolved. The opportunities that come along with a deeper integration of sustainability principles now also became obvious to investors: identifying more innovative business models, attractive investments, better performance, to name a few. And while exclusionary screening is still the most widely applied Sustainability Investing strategy, more sophisticated strategies are rapidly gaining traction (see Chart 2).

Source: 2016 Global Sustainable Investment Review

Today, some say that integration of ESG in finance has become mainstream. Certainly, leaps and bounds toward a more sustainable approach to business have been made, but we have not yet reached a point where sustainability principles have permeated all the norms, be it in finance or in other sectors. That is the beacon we must continue to strive towards and we must be patient, persistent and rigorous in our endeavor.

Important legal information: The details given on these pages do not constitute an offer. They are given for information purposes only. No liability is assumed for the correctness and accuracy of the details given. The securities identified and described may or may not be purchased, sold or recommended for advisory clients. It should not be assumed that an investment in these securities was or will be profitable. Copyright© 2017 RobecoSAM – all rights reserved.

The posts on this blog are opinions, not advice. Please read our Disclaimers.

Carbon Exposure of Smart Beta Indices

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Kelly Tang

Director

Global Research & Design

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Carbon emission awareness has been gaining greater prominence on many market participants’ radar as they continue to seek and demand carbon emission information and related risks for companies associated with climate change.  To address this need, the Financial Stability Board taskforce recently published a series of recommendations on how companies should report climate-related risks and opportunities.  The guidelines have already been endorsed by a host of blue-chip firms in addition to the Carbon Disclosure Project.

Index providers are recognizing the need for increased environmental information disclosure and are working to make carbon emission statistics readily available for any benchmark, not just for those indices that are associated with the specific purpose of carbon efficiency.  The S&P Dow Jones Indices Carbon Emitter Scorecard that was released in April 2016 took the first step in providing various emission statistics for headline regional indices in addition to detailing sectoral emissions based on GICS® sector classifications.

An area that tends to be overlooked and less explored in regard to carbon data is the carbon footprint of factor indices.  This is particularly important in light of increasing adoption of and allocation of capital to smart beta strategies by market participants.  For those already implementing factor-based asset allocation and wishing to be aligned with the two-degree investing initiative, it is important to understand a portfolio’s carbon exposure.  Therefore, in this blog, we explore the emission statistics for the five major S&P 500® factor indices: the S&P 500 Low Volatility Index, S&P 500 Enhanced Value Index, S&P 500 Quality, S&P 500 Momentum, and S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats®.

Emissions are typically measured by mass of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), whereby the equivalent is a proxy applied to greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide and reflects their relative environmental impact.  The units of reference are in kilotons of CO2e.[1]  Exhibit 1 shows the total direct emissions for each of the S&P 500 Factor Indices referenced previously in addition to the benchmark.

The results highlighted some interesting findings, one of which showed that the low volatility factor generated the highest total in emissions due to its strong utilities sector presence.  The S&P 500 Low Volatility Index has 17 utilities companies, generating over 60% of its direct carbon emissions.  This finding (that low volatility indices tend to have a high carbon emission bias) presents potential solutions from the index provider perspective and allows them to incorporate a carbon efficiency component to low volatility indices.

Conversely, the quality factor had the lowest carbon emissions.  The S&P 500 Quality had zero exposure to utilities and negligible allocation to energy.  The quality strategy’s contribution to CO2e emissions stemmed from its high industrials exposure (10% overweight versus the benchmark).  Industrials ranked high in the quality index due to the sector’s strong profitability growth as it benefits from the uptick in the business cycle.  The industrials component contributed more than 52% of the S&P 500 Quality’s total direct emissions (see Exhibit 2).

Lastly, the financial sector was the second-highest contributor of CO2e emissions for the enhanced value and momentum strategies, which at first glance, may appear somewhat out of the ordinary.  However, Berkshire Hathaway constituted 6.5% of the S&P 500 Momentum and 3.9% of the S&P 500 Enhanced Value Index, ranking as the second and fifth top holding in those respective indices.  Its portfolio company, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, generated 99% of the financial sector’s total CO2e emissions in the momentum and enhanced value strategies.

Understanding the carbon exposure of smart beta strategies is important for market participants who are already implementing smart beta strategies and wish to incorporate carbon risk into the investment process.  Our analysis shows that factors such as low volatility and value may be predisposed to higher carbon emissions because of their sector compositions.

[1] Emissions data is sourced from Trucost, which provides data on both direct and first-tier indirect emissions on a company-by-company basis; if companies do not report or otherwise make such figures available, Trucost estimates the emissions of each company using a proprietary model.  Direct emissions, as the name suggests, encompass emissions of CO2e produced directly by the entity, whereas indirect emissions are those that arise from the entity’s suppliers of materials and equipment, utilities such as electricity, and business travel.  The inclusion of indirect emissions is not always preferable, especially in an index, as this may result in double counting.  For example, if a utility company and one of its customers were included in the same index, the emissions of the latter would be counted twice.

The posts on this blog are opinions, not advice. Please read our Disclaimers.

DJSI – A temperature gauge for Sustainability Investing

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Aris Prepoudis

CEO

RobecoSAM

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On September 7, the review of the renowned Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) series will be announced. Now in its 19th year, the index family continues to be the gold standard of large cap ESG performance, and serves as an effective engagement platform for investors who want to encourage companies to improve their corporate sustainability practices.

As sustainability thinking grew in popularity, what started out as a single index, the DJSI World in 1999, gave birth to a number of regional index family members such as the DJSI Europe, the DJSI North America, and DJSI Emerging Markets, as well as a number of other index families such as the DJSI Diversified and S&P ESG Factor Weighted indices.

But it is really only very recently that we can speak of a real boom for ESG indices. The current economic and political climate combined with growing environmental concerns have spurred investors to more seriously consider Sustainability Investing. They recognize that companies with strong ESG performance make sustainable long-term investments, and that Sustainability Investing does not mean sacrificing performance.[1] And for those seeking a passive investment solution that integrates sustainability thinking, ESG indices are a natural fit.

Growth in ESG indices across regions and strategies demonstrates that global investors are exploring ways to integrate ESG factors into their investments – aiming to generate not only positive return but also positive impact. Indices are often used by global sustainability investors to define the investment universe for their region of interest and test out investment strategies with ESG indicators.[2]

Furthermore, the increasing popularity of ESG indices also reflects improved ESG disclosure and provides motivation for companies to disclose more and higher quality data, including material non-financial information, to compete with their peers. This is something that we at RobecoSAM witness first-hand via the Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA), our annual ESG assessment of over 3,900 listed companies. The data we collect has a multitude of uses, one of which is to determine the components of the DJSI. Participation rates in the CSA were a record high this year, with many new companies from markets where ESG is quickly gaining traction.

Investors and companies are eagerly awaiting the updated component lists to be published. Which companies will be added or deleted to the indices? What observations can be made about the state of sustainability in the corporate world? What does this mean for Sustainability Investing? These are just a few of questions and topics that the annual DJSI review will address. After all, the DJSI is not just another ESG index family, it is a temperature gauge for the state of Sustainability Investing.

[1] http://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Publication%20Files/SSRN-id1964011_6791edac-7daa-4603-a220-4a0c6c7a3f7a.pdf

[2] https://www.bloomberg.com/professional/blog/esg-indices-bringing-environmental-social-governance-data-fore-asia-globally/

Important legal information: The details given on these pages do not constitute an offer. They are given for information purposes only. No liability is assumed for the correctness and accuracy of the details given. The securities identified and described may or may not be purchased, sold or recommended for advisory clients. It should not be assumed that an investment in these securities was or will be profitable. Copyright© 2017 RobecoSAM – all rights reserved.

The posts on this blog are opinions, not advice. Please read our Disclaimers.

The CPSE Story

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Koel Ghosh

Head of South Asia

S&P Dow Jones Indices

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The recent announcement by the Indian Finance Minister about the new Central Public Sector Enterprise (CPSE) ETF created waves of excitement and anticipation in the market and among market participants.  In order to understand and dig deeper into what this new ETF means for the Indian markets, it would be good to understand the background of the disinvestment story.

The disinvestment plan was initiated post-1991 and started with the setting up of the Department of Disinvestment and plan to start with select public sector undertakings (PSUs).  In 1991, it began with a few disinvestments and further increased to INR 21,163 cores in 2001.  The amount for fiscal year 2016-2017 was over INR 43,000 crores.  This journey of disinvestment was via various routes like Initial Public Offering (IPO), Further Public Offering (FPO), Offer for Sale (OFS), strategic sale, and ended with a revolutionary step for the country by using the route of ETFs.  VSNL was the first CPSE to be divested by way of a public offer in 1999-2000.  ONGC’s public offer in 2003-2004 was the largest CPSE FPO, raising INR 10,542 crore.  Coal India’s public offer in 2014-2015 was the largest CPSE OFS, raising INR 22,557.63 crore.  The maximum number of applications received in a PSU IPO/FPO since 2003-2004 was in CIL (15.96 lakhs)[1].  The first ETF was the Goldman Sachs CPSE ETF, which was launched on March 28, 2014, since acquired and hence managed by Reliance Mutual Fund.

ETFs formed a convenient vehicle for the government as they offered an opportunity to create a basket of stocks that market participants could invest in at a low cost and offered the flexibility of a stock along with transparency while the constituents and its prices were available live as markets traded.

The first CPSE ETF was a success and was well received by market participants.  This encouraged the Department of Disinvestment (DOD), now Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM), to offer the market another option.  The S&P BSE Bharat 22 Index is the underlying index for the new ETF of 22 companies, including central public sector enterprises, government banks, and some holdings of the government’s investment arm SUUTI.  The new ETF will aim to help the government sell its equity stakes in those select companies and aid in moving forward in its objective to raise its disinvestment target for the current financial year.

The S&P BSE Bharat 22 Index is designed to measure the performance of the select companies that offer a well-diversified basket of PSUs with three SUUTI companies (primarily Axis Bank, L&T, and ITC), three PSBs, and is balanced across 16 other selected CPSEs.

Exhibit 1:Stocks That Form Part of the S&P Bharat 22 Index
COMPANY ENTITY SECTOR
Axis Bank Ltd SUUTI Finance
ITC Ltd SUUTI FMCG
Larsen & Toubro Ltd SUUTI Industrials
Bank of Baroda PSB Finance
Indian Bank PSB Finance
State Bank of India PSB Finance
National Aluminium Co Ltd CPSE Basic Materials
Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd CPSE Energy
Coal India Ltd CPSE Energy
Indian Oil Corp Ltd CPSE Energy
Oil & Natural Gas Corp Ltd CPSE Energy
Power Finance Corp Ltd CPSE Finance
Rural Electrification Corp Ltd CPSE Finance
Bharat Electronics Ltd CPSE Industrials
Engineers India Ltd CPSE Industrials
NBCC (India) Ltd CPSE Industrials
Gail India Ltd CPSE Utilities
NHPC Ltd CPSE Utilities
NLC India Ltd CPSE Utilities
NTPC Ltd CPSE Utilities
Power Grid Corp of India Ltd CPSE Utilities
SJVN Ltd CPSE Utilities

Source: S&P Down Jones Indices LLC.  Data as of August 2017.  Table is provided for illustrative purposes.

The index offers a diversified sectoral balance across six sectors: basic materials, energy, finance, fast-moving consumer goods, industrials, and utilities.

To ensure that the index is well balanced, individual stock weights are capped at 15% and sector weights are capped at 20%.

The Bharat 22 ETF offers market participants another option to participate in the government disinvestment program via the ETF route.

[1] Source: DIPAM

The posts on this blog are opinions, not advice. Please read our Disclaimers.

Metals Never Had An August This Hot

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Jodie Gunzberg

Managing Director, Head of U.S. Equities

S&P Dow Jones Indices

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In August, the Dow Jones Commodity Index Total Return gained 0.7%, reducing its year-to-date loss to -1.4%, and the S&P GSCI Total Return lost 0.8%, increasing its year-to-date loss to -6.9%.  Industrial metals and precious metals were the only positive sectors, up 8.6% and 4.0%, respectively, while agriculture was the worst performing sector, losing 7.4%, posting its worst month since July 2015.  Wheat was the worst performing commodity, losing 13.6% from record supplies, while Chinese demand and the falling US dollar helped nickel gain 15.4%, the most of any commodity in August for its best month since Sep 2012.  In addition to nickel, 12 other commodities gained including all the metals and 5 of 6 energy commodities.   Brent crude’s excess return was positive in August for the first time since June 2014, showing the move from contango to backwardation as inventories draw down; WTI Crude’s roll was still negative but only by 0.3%, the least since Dec. 2014.  It is possible the refinery disruptions and trade issues from Hurricane Harvey contributed to the slower inventory draw of the domestic oil in August.

Source: S&P Dow Jones Indices

August 2017 was the first August on record that all the metals gained together (since 1995 – the earliest year all seven metals were included in the index,) and it was the first month every metal gained together since Sep. 2016. As a result, the S&P GSCI All Metals Total Return gained 7.3% in August, posting its best August ever since 1995.  Now the all metals index is up 19% year-to-date, and is on pace to have its best year since 2009, and its third best year on record.

Source: S&P Dow Jones Indices

Many of the metals hit multi-year highs in August, and given the cyclical nature and economic sensitivity of industrial metals, they are interesting to examine further.  Below is a table of recent high dates and when they are the highest since.  Note the S&P GSCI Industrial Metals spot index is at its highest since Sep. 8, 2014.  Zinc hit its highest since 2007, while aluminum and copper are also at notable highs since 2013 and 2014, respectively.

The S&P GSCI Industrial Metals is up 56.2% from its bottom on Jan 12, 2016.  All industrials are up significantly from their bottoms with zinc up almost 200% from its bottom in 2008, but is up 114.8% from a more recent (but higher) bottom on Jan. 12, 2016.

Source: S&P Dow Jones Indices, Spot returns.

The main reason these metals are moving together and are hitting new highs are from the falling U.S. dollar, Chinese demand growth and supply disruptions.

Since commodities are priced in U.S. dollars and industrial metals is one of the most economically sensitive sectors, it moves oppositely from the falling dollar, rising on average 2.3% for every 1% the dollar drops.  The dollar fell 9.3% year-to-date through August, so if the sector is moving as it has historically, its sensitivity to the falling dollar accounts for most of 2017’s gain.   Lead and copper are most sensitive to the dollar’s drop, rising on average 6.2%, and 3.5%, respectively, for every 1% the dollar falls.

Source: S&P Dow Jones Indices. Uses monthly year-over-year spot returns for 10 years ending Aug 31, 2017.

Also, in the World Economic Outlook,  the IMF now expects Chinese demand growth between 2017 and 2021 to average 6.4%, compared to 6.0% last year.  This growth can drive industrial metals up significantly, 4.4% on average for every 1% rise in Chinese demand growth.  On an individual basis, most of the metals gain even more.  Nickel and lead benefit most historically gaining 9.2% and 12.2% on average for every 1% Chinese demand growth increase.

Source: S&P Dow Jones Indices. Uses monthly year-over-year spot returns.

It will be interesting to watch the metals in September, but energy is at an interesting point from Hurricane Harvey and the upcoming OPEC meeting.  It is possible the policy may be influenced by the hurricane disruption, and that while U.S. inventories may remain high, the domestic transportation issues may help reduce the Brent crude inventories, enabling OPEC’s decisions to be temporarily more influential.

 

 

 

 

The posts on this blog are opinions, not advice. Please read our Disclaimers.