Responsible investing 101

10 April 2023 by National Bank
A mother and her daughter look at wind turbine spinning

Responsible investing has become very popular in recent years. This surge in interest is due to the climate emergency and the fact that responsible investments have proven their value. Still, investors who choose responsible investments are not always aware of their impact on the climate, inequality and their own portfolios. Here’s what you need to know:

What is responsible investing?

Responsible investing, also referred as socially responsible investing (SRI), environmental investing or ESG investing, means investing your money in companies that integrate environmental, social, and sound governance (ESG) principles into their management practices. The goal is to invest in companies that manage risk well, not only financial risk, and take advantage of the business opportunities presented by our changing world. For example, they position themselves in sectors like clean and renewable energy or take actuibs to improve their practices.

What are the criteria for responsible investing?

Many firms and institutions that sell investment products offer responsible investment options. The names and composition of these funds vary because there are no standard criteria and little market regulation. Although the level of maturity and commitment to responsible investing may vary, the United Nations does support a set of guidelines called the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI). Investors can expect firms offering responsible investment products to have, at least, signed on to the PRI or made other similar commitments. 

Why has demand for responsible investments skyrocketed?

Investors are starting to see the impact their money can have. Every little bit counts, even when it comes to factoring environmental and social concerns into investment decisions. The desire to move the world in the right direction seems to be intensifying. And if buying is voting, investing is choosing. 

How do you know if your responsible investments are paying off?

The days when people invested in responsible funds just to ease their conscience are over. It has been proven that companies that uphold ESG principles perform just as well and sometimes even better in the long run1. It’s because their practices are forward-looking and they have greater agility in a changing world. However, it’s impossible to predict the market and investment performance. Investment professionals have the tools to get you up to speed on the risks and performance of different responsible investment products.

Good to know:  Even if you manage your own investments, options like exchange-traded funds (ETFs) with a focus on sustainability or climate change provide a gateway into responsible investing.

How do you know exactly what you’re investing in?

There’s a lot of information out there on how to invest responsibly and determine the impact of your investments. There are two main things you should be interested in:

1. An investment product’s composition, name, and objective

There are different ways to approach responsible investment, which are reflected in the products available on the market. For example, a "best-in-class" approach might offer a fund composed of companies that demonstrate superior performance to their industry peers in terms of ESG integration. You can also go for products based around a specific cause. To support the fight against climate change, you could invest in funds dedicated to renewable energy. This investment product would then consist of companies specialized in this particular sector. It's advisable to read the legal documentation of the financial product to understand how its objectives are aligned with yours.

2. ESG performance of the companies you invest in

Nowadays, it’s inevitable that companies seeking to attract investment offer tangible actions towards more environmentally and socially responsible practices. They are required to share their results and data through various reports. These reports are available online and are one of the sources of information used by portfolio managers.

Good to know: Investment professionals can help you find the information you’re looking for to better understand the sustainability of your investments. They can usually do the research and summarize the information clearly and concisely.

How do you choose responsible investments

People choose to invest responsibly because they believe their investments should make a difference. To make sound choices, you need to think about your goals.

For example, some people choose to exclude fossil fuels from their portfolios. Others may go for a different strategy and seek to encourage the industry to improve by targeting members of the oil industry known for their good environmental practices.

Your advisor can help you reflect on your goals. Getting a better idea of what you want to accomplish should narrow the range of options and help you make choices.

What types of responsible investment investments are available?

The number of options available to you depends on your investment method.

1. If you manage your own portfolio via a direct brokerage platform, you can access a variety of stocks, exchange-traded funds, guaranteed investment certificates, and bonds. They all have different criteria and names, and you’ll need to assess whether they line up with your values and objectives.  

 If you’re interested in self-directed investing: see our guide

2. If you get help from an investment expert, they will propose specific investment products that fit your profile, meet your objectives and align with your values. 

There are a wide variety of responsible investment options. The key is putting your money where your convictions are. Check under the hood. Don’t just check the name of the fund—see what’s inside. Curiosity and close communication with your advisor are key.

Would you like to discuss this with us? Contact your National Bank advisor or your wealth advisor at National Bank Financial. Don't have an advisor?

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Legal disclaimer

1 : Source :  Responsible Investment - Responsible Investment Association ( 

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