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What ESG Investors Should Know About Greenwashing

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Investors want to know that the companies they support share their commitment to certain ideals. But judging a company based on these values can prove difficult. ESG investors can easily fall prey to what’s known as greenwashing, which is when a company deceives the investor into believing they are committed to certain causes and ideals. Learn more about the relationship between ESG investing and greenwashing, so you protect yourself from misleading claims.  

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Yellow notepad with pen svg icon Lesson Notes:
  • ESG investing is a way of supporting companies that share your beliefs.
  • Many companies misrepresent themselves when trying to attract ESG investors.
  • Research companies to ensure that they are supporting worthy causes before buying some of their stock.

What is Greenwashing?

There’s a new trend in investing known as ESG, which stands for environmental, social and corporate governance. ESG investing has surged in popularity over the last few years, and investors look for ways to support the causes they care about. Many long-time and first-time investors are now trying to evaluate a company’s commitment to sustainability or improving the human condition either on their own or with the help of an experienced financial advisor. However, there’s no gold standard when it comes to ESG. Finding out if a company is socially responsible requires research and a certain amount of discretion.

Greenwashing is when a company makes misleading claims about the nature of its policies and operations to get ESG investors to buy some of their stock.

The market for ESG investing is booming. Many companies are looking to capitalize on this trend using marketing hype without actually changing their policies or behavior for the better.

How to Avoid Being Greenwashed

If you are worried about being greenwashed when looking for companies to invest in, use these tips to identify companies that don’t share your beliefs:

Create Your Own Set of Standards

Comparing the values and ethics of different companies can be hard unless you know what you’re looking for. If you are interested in getting started in ESG investing, start by creating a list of criteria that the company needs to meet before you buy their stock. You might want to focus on one issue at a time, such as climate change, or separate companies into different categories based on the causes they support. Keep in mind, what qualifies as ESG for one person may not work for another.

Research the Company or Plan in Question

If you are looking for worthwhile investments on your own, don’t assume the company’s PR team is telling the truth. Look at qualitative data from a range of different sources to verify whatever claims the company has made. This due diligence may include reviewing social media, speaking to the company’s business partners or reading reviews of their products and services online. Use these factors in combination with ESG ratings to help determine if the company is actually committed to their ESG goals.

If you plan on joining an ESG mutual funds account or robo-investing program, don’t assume the program or asset manager aligns with your values. Research the ESG criteria or technology behind the program to get a better sense of who these companies are and what they represent.

Look for Companies Making a Direct Impact

If you are having trouble managing your ESG funds, look for firms and organizations that make a direct, tangible impact on the environment or society at large, such as donating a portion of their proceeds to worthy causes or reducing their carbon footprint.

Keep these tips in mind when you’re looking at your investment options to avoid greenwashed companies that don’t support your beliefs.

PLEASE NOTE: The information provided is for educational purposes only and should not be considered recommendations or advice. Please consult the appropriate financial, tax or legal professional to determine whether the strategies presented in this article are appropriate for your situation.

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