04 Jul 2019

ESG Leaders and Laggards – 3 companies in focus


Well over 200 years ago, religious groups such as Quakers and Methodists were already pioneering early forms of SociallyResponsible Investing (SRI), shunning businesses related to the likes of slave labour and harmful chemical production.1

In the 1960s, the civil rights movement took centre stage, with prominent figureheads such as Martin Luther King Jr.targeting companies opposing racial equality.2

By the 70s, much of the SRI efforts shifted towards corporate behaviour. Dow Chemical for instance came under heat forits role as the eventual sole provider of napalm in the Vietnam war.3 SRI even helped contribute to the end ofApartheid, thanks to international pressure to avoid investing in companies operating in South Africa.4

Moving on to the 80s and 90s, environmental concerns started gaining traction, from the health risks of fossil fuels to climate change.

ESG today is all about data

These days, popular forms of sustainable investing combine many of these issues through broad strategies with negativeand/or exclusionary screens based on certain sectors or companies, as well as “best-in-class” screens focused oncompanies leading the way on ESG metrics.

Indeed, one of the fastest growing segments of ESG investing is the “best-in-class” approach, with a growth in globalAuM of 125% between 2016 and 2018.5 And of the record-breaking €5.3bn of inflows into ESG ETFs in Europe year to date,almost three quarters went to broad “best-in-class” equity strategies.6

One of the main appeals of the “best-in-class” approach is the ability to keep a similar level of risk-adjusted returnand sector exposure as non-ESG products. While there is a lingering myth that an ESG aligned portfolio sacrificesreturns, it has largely been dispelled – one particular meta study reviewed over 2,000 papers and showed that ~90% ofthem found a non-negative link between ESG considerations and financial performance.7

Technology and culture have shifted. Today, we have swathes of high-quality data at our disposal thanks to increaseddisclosures from companies. As a result, sophisticated ETFs are available that can both align with your personal values,and still achieve a similar (if not better) risk/return profile to that of the broad market, with limited trackingerror. Our ESG Leaders range is a good example.

MSCI World ESG Trend Leaders vs. parent index – ESG Ratings breakdown8


ETFs and ESG share many qualities, daily transparency arguably chief amongst them. On that note, and to betterillustrate what really goes on in your portfolio, we shed the light on three companies and their respective ESGprofiles. The first two make the cut for our Lyxor MSCI World ESG Trend Leaders (DR) UCITS ETF, while the third onefalls short.6

Microsoft Corp. – an ESG “Leader”

MSCI ESG Rating: AAA 9

Microsoft is an American multinational technology company specialised in the development, manufacturing and licensing ofcomputer software, hardware and related services. Most of you are likely to have used one of their applications over thepast week – if not in this very moment! Founded over 40 years ago, it boasts a market cap that recently crossed the $1tnmark.

With a top MSCI ESG Rating of AAA – held for three years running now – Microsoft is the corporate posterchild for whatit means to be socially and environmentally responsible. In fact, the company scores so well that MSCI didn’t identifyany areas of improvement relative to its peers.10 Unsurprisingly, Microsoft is the largest holding in our Lyxor MSCIWorld ESG Trend Leaders (DR) UCITS ETF.

One of Microsoft’s major strengths relates to Privacy & Data Security – probably one of the first things that comes tomind in the context of tech firms these days. Factors considered include whether the company’s privacy policies coverall relevant business lines, oversight on policies at board level, employee training on data privacy, and investmentsmade to improve cybersecurity.

Microsoft is also recognised for its strong policies around Corruption & Instability. For a company that does a lot ofgovernment work, good business ethics is something you would naturally expect. Another strong point is its environmentalconsiderations. Clean tech innovation lies at the heart of Microsoft, with investments in areas as varied as carbonneutrality, sustainable management of water, energy-efficient data centres, and waste minimisation.11

Fresenius Medical Care AG & Co. – “Average”, but improving

MSCI ESG Rating: BBB (up from BB)9

Fresenius Medical Care is a leading provider of products and services for people with chronic kidney failure.Headquartered in Germany, the company cares for more than 336,000 patients in a global network of more than 3,900dialysis clinics.

Sustainable growth lies at the core of its strategy. Fresenius assumes a medical responsibility through its “patientsfirst” principle, but also an economic responsibility based on “integrity, sound corporate governance and adherence tocompliance principles”.12

Digging into MSCI’s ESG Rating, the company performs well in areas such as Carbon Emissions, Privacy & Data Security,Product Safety & Quality, and Corruption & Instability. Where it significantly underperforms versus its peers however isin Labour Management and Corporate Governance. This puts it just below its industry relative score, earning it an“Average” middle-ranking of BBB.

Worth noting, Fresenius has improved its ESG profile over time, having been upgraded from BB to BBB in its latestreview. We believe that a positive change in ESG rating – “ESG trend” – can have a positive impact on share price. Our Lyxor MSCI World ESG Trend Leaders (DR) UCITS ETF takes both ESG rating and ESG trend into account, thereby rewardingthe champions of change. So, while Fresenius doesn’t make the cut for the standard MSCI World ESG Leaders index, it doesearn its place in our fund.

Mitsubishi Motors Co. – an ESG “Laggard”

MSCI ESG Rating: CCC9Mitsubishi Motors is a Japanese multinational automotive manufacturer. Since October 2016, Mitsubishi has been one thirdowned by Nissan, and is part of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance.

With an MSCI ESG Rating of CCC – the worst possible score – Mitsubishi does not qualify for any MSCI ESG Leadersindices. Perhaps not surprising, given its admission in 2016 that it had falsified fuel efficiency tests for the pastquarter century, and the ensuing penalties, compensations and lasting reputational damage.

In early 2018, the company announced its recall of about 640,000 cars and SUVs worldwide because of a faulty accessorydrive belt. The arrest in November 2018 of Mr. Carlos Ghosn – Chairman of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance – overconcerns around financial misconduct and governance further embroiled the company in controversy.

With regards to its MSCI ESG Rating, poor scores in key areas such as Product Safety & Quality and Corporate Governancemeant Mitsubishi Motors was dragged down significantly, giving it a “Laggard” CCC rating.

This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be taken as investment advice. Lyxor ETF does not in any way endorse or promote the companies mentioned in this article. The ESG Ratings mentioned in this article are determined by MSCI, not Lyxor ETF. Capital at risk. Please read our Risk Warning below.

1Source: Eurosif, European SRI Study 2018.
2Source: Investopedia, https://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/sri.asp
3Source: Bloomberg, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2019-03-20/how-dow-chemical-got-woke
4Source: Journal of Business Ethics, https://www.jstor.org/stable/40785191?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
5Source: Global Sustainable Investment Alliance, 2018 Global Sustainable Investment Review.
6Source: Lyxor International Asset Management, Bloomberg, as at 30/06/2019.
7Source: Journal of Sustainable Finance & Investment, ESG and financial performance: aggregated evidence from more than 2000 empirical studies, Friede, Busch and Bassen, November 2015.
8Source: Lyxor International Asset Management, MSCI. Data as at 30/04/2019.
9Source: MSCI, as at June 2019.
10Source: MSCI, as at 31/03/2019.
11Source: Microsoft website, as at 02/07/2019.
12Source: Fresenius Medical Care website, as at 02/07/2019.​

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