The Issue of Greenwashing in the World of Sustainable Investment
隨著對可持續投資感興趣的利益相關者數量成倍增加，漂綠問題變得更加突出。 資產管理公司很快意識到，聲稱環保可以成為吸引新客戶的一種技巧。 一些發行人表達他們對環保主義者的擔憂只是為了吸引那些專注於將可持續金融產品納入其投資組合的人的關注。 然而，僅僅因為一家機構聲稱其產品符合 ESG 標準並不意味著它就是事實。
洗綠是資產管理公司對其金融產品的可持續性利益做出虛假聲明的過程。換句話說，發行人使用營銷策略來吸引對可持續投資感興趣的客戶，但實際上並未實現環境、社會和治理 (ESG) 目標。大多數情況下，該程序是有意的，但在某些情況下，也可能無意中做出誤導性聲明。
大公司提供的 ESG 數據往往沒有得到充分驗證。一些公司聲稱他們在實踐中實現了ESG 目標，但實際上遠非如此。此外，企業發布大量 ESG 數據的情況也屢見不鮮，但其實踐與實現 ESG 目標相去甚遠。分析如此大量的信息是一項極其繁瑣的任務。因此，可持續投資面臨的挑戰可能不是缺乏 ESG 數據本身，而是大量未經審計的 ESG 數據旨在誤導利益相關者。
不幸的是，投資界的 ESG 洗綠現象並不少見。根據研究，超過一半的氣候主題投資基金不履行《巴黎條約》中規定的協議。儘管一些基金在環境標準方面可能得分更高，但它們在治理類別中仍然落後。
許多金融參與者都存在高估其環境資質和支持對環境有害的經濟部門的問題。例如，投資巨頭 UBS Group AG 和 BlackRock, Inc. 聲稱將可持續性作為其企業的基本價值之一。儘管如此，有報導稱他們在化石燃料行業進行了大量投資。這很重要，因為一些燃料遊說公司阻止政策制定者實施有意義的氣候變化相關政策。
與此同時，DWS 集團被指控顯著誇大其產品的環境效益。當局聲稱，投資公司擁有的同意並不像宣傳材料中聲稱的那樣對 ESG 友好。幸運的是，投資者對任何類型的輕罪都能迅速做出反應。一群擁有超過 100 萬億美元資產的投資者簽署了一項名為《負責任投資原則》的承諾。據此，他們致力於將 ESG數據整合到他們的決策中。可持續性的重要性在有意識的投資者中越來越重要，並且在 COVID-19 爆發後進一步加劇。
2020 年發表在《國際商業與金融研究》學術期刊上的一項研究調查了來自 47 個不同國家的大盤股公司之間的綠色清洗案例。從分析中，我們可以了解與漂綠問題作鬥爭的關鍵挑戰。這些是未經審計的 ESG 數據，沒有全球管理機構，公司層面的各種行為問題，也沒有具體的監管指南來確保 ESG 數據的準確性。這些是全球政策制定者和投資者在討論漂綠問題時應該關注的問題。
該研究的作者還提供了一套機制，在他們看來，這些機制可以幫助防止 ESG 洗綠。公司和政策制定者應該改進的領域包括：更多的獨立董事、更多的機構投資者、通過不那麼腐敗的國家體係來提高公眾利益以及交叉上市地位。假設這些標準繼續進步，我們應該會看到 ESG 領域的積極發展。
洗綠對可持續投資領域構成重大挑戰。 利益相關者應繼續關注資產管理公司對其金融 產品質量的擔保，以便這些產品為環境、治理和社會問題帶來實際利益。 與此同時， 世界各地的政策制定者需要實施法規，以減少漂綠問題的普遍性。
Courtesy: Stephen Dawson
Courtesy: Adeolu Eletu
As the number of stakeholders interested in sustainable investing has been multiplying, the problem of greenwashing became more prominent. Asset managers have quickly realized that claiming to be green-friendly can be a technique to attract new customers. Some issuers express their environmentalist concerns solely to gain the attention of those focused on including sustainable financial products in their portfolios. However, just because an institution claims its products are fulfilling the ESG criteria does not mean it is the truth.
What is Greenwashing?
Greenwashing is a process in which asset managers make false claims regarding the sustainability benefits of their financial products. In other words, issuers use marketing tactics to gain traction among clients interested in sustainable investing without actually fulfilling the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals. Most of the time, the procedure is intentional, but in some cases, misleading declarations may also be made unintentionally.
The ESG data provided by large corporations are often not adequately verified. Some firms claim that they fulfill the ESG goals in their practices, but it is far from true in reality. Moreover, it is often the case that enterprises release a large amount of ESG data, but their practices are nowhere close to accomplishing the ESG objectives. Analyzing such a large amount of information is an incredibly tedious task. Thus, a challenge for sustainable investing may not be the lack of ESG data per se but the remarkable amount of unaudited ESG data meant to mislead the stakeholders.
Examples of Greenwashing
Unfortunately, ESG greenwashing in the investment world is far from uncommon. According to the studies, more than half of the climate-themed investment funds do not fulfill the agreements laid out in the Paris treaty. Even though some funds may score better regarding the environmental criteria, they still fall behind in the governance categories.
Many financial actors have an issue with overestimating their environmental credentials and supporting sectors of the economy that are dangerous to the environment. For instance, the investment giants UBS Group AG and BlackRock, Inc. claim to put sustainability as one of the essential values of their ventures. Despite that, reports claim they hold significant investments in the fossil-fuel industry. This is consequential since some fuel lobbying companies prevent policymakers from implementing meaningful climate-change-related policies.
At the same time, DWS Group has been accused of significantly overstating their products' environmental benefits. Authorities claim that assents owned by the investment company were not as ESG-friendly as it was claimed in the promotional materials.
Luckily, investors react quickly to any sort of misdemeanor. A group of investors with more than $100 trillion in assets signed a commitment called the Principles for Responsible Investment. According to it, they are committed to integrating ESG data into their decisions. The significance of sustainability has been growing among mindful investors, and it has been further exacerbated after the COVID-19 outbreak.
How to Battle Greenwashing?
A study published in the Research in International Business and Finance academic journal in 2020 investigates cases of greenwashing among large-cap companies from 47 different countries. From the analysis, we can learn about the crucial challenges to battling the issue of greenwashing. These are unaudited ESG data, no global governing body, various behavioral issues at the firm level, and no specific regulatory guidelines to ensure the accuracy of ESG data. Those are the matters policymakers and investors worldwide should pay attention to when debating the problem of greenwashing
The authors of the study also provide a set of mechanisms that, in their opinions, could help prevent the ESG greenwashing. Areas in which companies and policymakers should improve include: more independent directors, more institutional investors, more-influential public interest via a less corrupted country system, and cross-listed status. Assuming those criteria continue to progress, we should see a positive development in the ESG sphere.
Greenwashing poses a significant challenge to the world of sustainable investing. Stakeholders should continue to pay attention to asset managers vouching for the quality of their financial products, so those products bring actual benefits to the environment, governance, and social issues. At the same time, policymakers worldwide need to implement regulations that will make the problem of greenwashing a lot less common.
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About the Author
Patryk Chojecki is a researcher and writer at Taiwan Architecture and Building Center. He is currently a graduate student at National Chengchi University in Taipei. He is passionate about all topics related to international politics, environment, and international political economy.
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