20 Apr 2021

A Matter of Degrees: Aligning ESG Strategies with the Paris Agreement


For Marketing Purposes - ​FOR QUALIFIED INVESTORS ONLY– This document is reserved and must be given in Switzerland exclusively to Qualified Investors as defined by the Swiss Collective Investment Scheme Act of 23 June 2006 (as amended from time to time, CISA).


Having already witnessed some of the consequences of climate change around the world, more and more investors are now factoring ESG into their investment decisions. Enter the S&P PACTTM (Paris-Aligned & Climate Transition) Indices, created to give market participants access to strategies designed to be compatible with limiting global warming to 1.5°C. 

In a piece originally published in their latest Indexology Magazine, S&P Dow Jones Indices (S&P DJI) talked with Francois Millet, Managing Director and Head of Strategy, ESG and Innovation at Lyxor ETF, and Jaspreet Duhra, Senior Director and Head of EMEA ESG Indices at S&P DJI, about the evolving role of ESG in mainstream investing and how these indices may help market participants envision a less fraught future.

Indexology Magazine: Why do you think ESG investing is becoming more important to investors around the world, and do you think the recommitment to climate initiatives in the U.S. adds to the momentum? 

Francois: The pandemic triggered a realization that humans are extremely dependent on natural systems. Many investors now work on the widespread conviction that climate, and exponential inequalities, are major risks—and that mitigating these risks, and building a more inclusive and resilient world with long-term focus, is a precondition for financial stability.

ESG investments captured more than 50% of net inflows to ETFs in Europe last year.1 This more than offset the negative influence of the official U.S. position on the Paris Agreement at the time. But it’s great to see the U.S., which produces around 15% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions,2 rejoining the Agreement. This recommitment to climate initiatives should bolster the ESG transformation that’s already underway and make the Paris Agreement stronger than ever.

Indexology Magazine: Why were the S&P PACT Indices created, and what specific climate goals do they seek to achieve?   

Jas: The world is on a dangerous trajectory of warming that is already impacting society and the economy. Regulators are taking action and as investors increasingly take stock of the climate risks in their holdings, more and more are looking to align their investments with a scenario in which warming increases by no more than 1.5°C. The S&P PACT Indices were created with this goal in mind.

The indices are designed to meet the requirements for EU Paris-aligned and EU Climate Transition Benchmarks, which means that in addition to  lowering carbon emissions relative to their vanilla benchmarks, the indices also seek to decarbonize on an absolute basis at a rate of 7% year-on-year. This is the rate of decarbonization required to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and limit warming to 1.5°C according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Interestingly, these indices are also designed to maintain the same exposure to high-climate-impact sectors as their benchmarks, which means the decarbonization can’t be achieved by just tipping all the weight into low-climate-impact sectors.

We have also gone beyond the EU Low Carbon Benchmark requirements by aligning with the recommendations of the TCFD (Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures). We believe that the TCFD approach of breaking climate issues into transition risks, physical risks, and opportunities provides a holistic assessment. It’s particularly important that our index takes climate change’s physical risks into account, as we already see these risks playing out today.

Indexology Magazine: What types of companies are excluded from the index and what types of companies are given extra weight?   

Jas: We have two index series under this umbrella: the S&P Paris-Aligned Climate Indices and the S&P Climate Transition Indices. The Paris-aligned indices are stricter and include a range of fossil fuel exclusions. Both sets of indices exclude companies involved in ESG controversies and problematic activities such as controversial weapons and tobacco, as well as companies with low UN Global Compact scores.

Broadly speaking, companies that perform well against the climate change constraints will be more heavily weighted in the indices. Factors that are particularly important include the companies’ environmental score, their predicted alignment with a 1.5°C scenario, and their exposure to physical risks.

You can find the complete methodology and more information about the indices here.

Indexology Magazine: How would you respond to someone who might be a bit wary of deviating too far from the market by investing in ESG?  

Francois: Our investors are often surprised that the “cost” of aligning their portfolio to the 1.5°C scenario is relatively moderate, in terms of deviation from the market. Based on back-tested data, we see a tracking error of less than 2% (over three years) for U.S. or developed world equities with the S&P Paris-Aligned Climate Indices, and a bit more for Europe. This tracking error turned out to produce positive tracking difference over the last three years.3

There are also portfolio construction techniques that are designed to achieve the lowest-possible deviation vis-à- vis the benchmark index. The index methodology adopted by S&P DJI relies on an optimization concept, which we feel is the best way to accommodate the multiple constraints required for portfolio temperature alignment when tracking this type of index.     

Indexology Magazine: What impact, if any, do you think promoting the 1.5°C alignment could have on corporate culture and our ability to ultimately achieve net-zero emissions by 2050?   

Francois: We see no other option than to set our portfolios on an absolute decarbonization pathway. By significantly reallocating capital in favor of companies that are the most successful in reducing their emissions, while penalizing laggards and incentivizing them to catch up, investors in climate-aligned strategies send clear signals to corporates. We believe that adoption of climate-aligned strategies at scale will have a strong leverage on the listed economy, which is responsible for close to 50% of global greenhouses gas emissions—and more through their supply chain.

Indexology Magazine: What do you think the ESG investing landscape may look like 10 years from now? 

Francois: It will likely take less than 10 years for ESG investing to become the new normal. Better corporate disclosure combined with enhanced standards and data will make ESG ratings as important as credit ratings in a global corporate assessment. We could potentially see the ‘implied temperature rise’ of companies or portfolios becoming a new standard market data point, just like P/E or EPS. There may be a tipping point where staying on the wrong side of the market—in terms of ESG rating, exposure to climate transition risks, physical risks, and under-exposure to opportunities—would be more costly. Some asset owners in Europe are starting to switch their whole “policy benchmark” to ESG or climate-aligned benchmarks. This could be a window into the future landscape of investing. 

Click here for a PDF version of this article

The view from Lyxor on climate change investing

Climate forms a key pillar within Lyxor’s ESG strategy. We launched the world’s first Green Bond ETF back in 2017, and more recently we were the first ETF provider in Europe to launch a comprehensive range of climate equity ETFs designed to meet the requirements of EU Climate Transition Benchmarks, and EU Paris-Aligned Benchmarks.

With these funds, you can do your part to help limit global warming to 1.5°C, the most ambitious scenario of the Paris Agreement.

To learn more about aligning your investments to a Paris-Aligned scenario, explore our Climate Transition ETFs, or discover our ETF temperature-checking ‘COtool’

1Source: Bloomberg, Lyxor International Asset Management. Data as at 08/01/2021.
2Source: Global Carbon Atlas, http://www.globalcarbonatlas.org/en/CO2-emissions
3Source: S&P  Dow Jones Indices, MSCI, Bloomberg LP, Lyxor International Asset Management. Data as at 31/12/2020. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance

Lyxor Risk Warning

This document has been provided by Lyxor International Asset Management that is solely responsible for its content.This document is not to be deemed distribution of funds in Switzerland according to the Swiss collective investment schemes act of 23 June 2006 (as amended from time to time, CISA) or any other applicable Swiss laws or regulations.The shares are not registered under the U.S Securities Act of 1933 and may not be directly or indirectly offered or sold in the United States (including its territories or possessions) or to or for the benefit of a U.S Person (being a “United State Person” within the meaning of Regulation S under the Securities Act of 1933 of the United States, as amended, and/or any person not included in the definition of “Non-United States Person” within the meaning of Section 4.7 (a) (1) (iv) of the rules of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.). No U.S federal or state securities commission has reviewed or approved this document and more generally any documents with respect to or in connection with the fund. Any representation to the contrary is a criminal offence.Past performance is no indication of current or future performance. The performance data do not take into account of the commissions and costs incurred on the issue and redemption of units.Financial intermediaries (including particularly, representatives of private banks or independent asset managers, Intermediaries) are hereby reminded on the strict regulatory requirements applicable under the CISA to any distribution of foreign collective investment schemes in Switzerland. It is each Intermediary’s sole responsibility to ensure that (i) all these requirements are put in place prior to any Intermediary distributing any of the Funds presented in this document and (ii) that otherwise, it does not take any action that could constitute distribution of collective investment schemes in Switzerland as defined in article 3 CISA and related regulation.Any information in this document is given only as of the date of this document and is not updated as of any date thereafter. This document is for information purposes only and does not constitute an offer, an invitation to make an offer, a solicitation or recommendation to invest in collective investment schemes.  This document is not a prospectus as per article 652a or 1156 of the Swiss Code of Obligations, a listing prospectus according to the listing rules of the SIX Swiss Exchange or any other trading venue as defined by the Swiss Financial Market Infrastructure Act of 19 June 2015 (as amended from time to time, FMIA), a simplified prospectus, a key investor information document or a prospectus as defined in the CISA. An investment in collective investment schemes involves significant risks that are described in each prospectus or offering memorandum. Each potential investor should read the entire prospectus or offering memorandum and should carefully consider the risk warnings and disclosures before making an investment decision. Any benchmarks/indices cited in this document are provided for information purposes only.This document is not the result of a financial analysis and therefore is not subject to the “Directive on the Independence of Financial Research” of the Swiss Bankers Association. This document does not contain personalized recommendations or advice and is not intended to substitute any professional advice on investments in financial products.

S&P DJI Performance Disclosure

The S&P 500 Paris-Aligned Climate Index and the S&P Developed Ex-Korea LargeMidCap Paris-Aligned Climate Index were launched June 1, 2020. The S&P Europe LargeMidCap Paris-Aligned Climate Index was launched May 4, 2020. The S&P Eurozone LargeMidCap Paris-Aligned Climate Index was launched April 20, 2020. All information presented prior to an index’s Launch Date is hypothetical (back-tested), not actual performance. The back-test calculations are based on the same methodology that was in effect on the index Launch Date. However, when creating back-tested history for periods of market anomalies or other periods that do not reflect the general current market environment, index methodology rules may be relaxed to capture a large enough universe of securities to simulate the target market the index is designed to measure or strategy the index is designed to capture. For example, market capitalization and liquidity thresholds may be reduced. Complete index methodology details are available at www.spglobal.com/spdji. Past performance of the Index is not an indication of future results. Back-tested performance reflects application of an index methodology and selection of index constituents with the benefit of hindsight and knowledge of factors that may have positively affected its performance, cannot account for all financial risk that may affect results and may be considered to reflect survivor/look ahead bias. Actual returns may differ significantly from, and be lower than, back-tested returns. Past performance is not an indication or guarantee of future results. Please refer to the methodology for the Index for more details about the index, including the manner in which it is rebalanced, the timing of such rebalancing, criteria for additions and deletions, as well as all index calculations. Back-tested performance is for use with institutions only; not for use with retail investors. S&P Dow Jones Indices defines various dates to assist our clients in providing transparency. The First Value Date is the first day for which there is a calculated value (either live or back-tested) for a given index. The Base Date is the date at which the index is set to a fixed value for calculation purposes. The Launch Date designates the date when the values of an index are first considered live: index values provided for any date or time period prior to the index’s Launch Date are considered back-tested. S&P Dow Jones Indices defines the Launch Date as the date by which the values of an index are known to have been released to the public, for example via the company’s public website or its data feed to external parties. For Dow Jones-branded indices introduced prior to May 31, 2013, the Launch Date (which prior to May 31, 2013, was termed “Date of introduction”) is set at a date upon which no further changes were permitted to be made to the index methodology, but that may have been prior to the Index’s public release date. Typically, when S&P DJI creates back-tested index data, S&P DJI uses actual historical constituent-level data (e.g., historical price, market capitalization, and corporate action data) in its calculations. As ESG investing is still in early stages of development, certain datapoints used to calculate S&P DJI’s ESG indices may not be available for the entire desired period of back-tested history. The same data availability issue could be true for other indices as well. In cases when actual data is not available for all relevant historical periods, S&P DJI may employ a process of using “Backward Data Assumption” (or pulling back) of ESG data for the calculation of back-tested historical performance. “Backward Data Assumption” is a process that applies the earliest actual live data point available for an index constituent company to all prior historical instances in the index performance. For example, Backward Data Assumption inherently assumes that companies currently not involved in a specific business activity (also known as “product involvement”) were never involved historically and similarly also assumes that companies currently involved in a specific business activity were involved historically too. The Backward Data Assumption allows the hypothetical back-test to be extended over more historical years than would be feasible using only actual data. For more information on “Backward Data Assumption” please refer to the FAQ. The methodology and factsheets of any index that employs backward assumption in the back-tested history will explicitly state so. The methodology will include an Appendix with a table setting forth the specific data points and relevant time period for which backward projected data was used. Index returns shown do not represent the results of actual trading of investable assets/securities. S&P Dow Jones Indices maintains the index and calculates the index levels and performance shown or discussed but does not manage actual assets. Index returns do not reflect payment of any sales charges or fees an investor may pay to purchase the securities underlying the Index or investment funds that are intended to track the performance of the Index. The imposition of these fees and charges would cause actual and back-tested performance of the securities/fund to be lower than the Index performance shown. As a simple example, if an index returned 10% on a US $100,000 investment for a 12-month period (or US $10,000) and an actual asset-based fee of 1.5% was imposed at the end of the period on the investment plus accrued interest (or US $1,650), the net return would be 8.35% (or US $8,350) for the year. Over a three-year period, an annual 1.5% fee taken at year end with an assumed 10% return per year would result in a cumulative gross return of 33.10%, a total fee of US $5,375, and a cumulative net return of 27.2% (or US $27,200).

S&P DJI General Disclaimer

Copyright © 2021 S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC. All rights reserved. S&P, S&P 500, S&P 500 LOW VOLATILITY INDEX, S&P 100, S&P COMPOSITE 1500, S&P MIDCAP 400, S&P SMALLCAP 600, SELECT SECTOR, S&P GIVI, GLOBAL TITANS, DIVIDEND ARISTOCRATS, S&P TARGET DATE INDICES, S&P PRISM, S&P STRIDE, GICS, SPIVA, SPDR and INDEXOLOGY are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC, a division of S&P Global (“S&P”). DOW JONES, DJ, DJIA, The Dow and DOW JONES INDUSTRIAL AVERAGE are registered trademarks of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC (“Dow Jones”). These trademarks together with others have been licensed to S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC. Redistribution or reproduction in whole or in part are prohibited without written permission of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC. This document does not constitute an offer of services in jurisdictions where S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC, S&P, Dow Jones or their respective affiliates (collectively “S&P Dow Jones Indices”) do not have the necessary licenses. Except for certain custom index calculation services, all information provided by S&P Dow Jones Indices is impersonal and not tailored to the needs of any person, entity or group of persons. S&P Dow Jones Indices receives compensation in connection with licensing its indices to third parties and providing custom calculation services. Past performance of an index is not an indication or guarantee of future results. It is not possible to invest directly in an index. Exposure to an asset class represented by an index may be available through investable instruments based on that index. S&P Dow Jones Indices does not sponsor, endorse, sell, promote or manage any investment fund or other investment vehicle that is offered by third parties and that seeks to provide an investment return based on the performance of any index. S&P Dow Jones Indices makes no assurance that investment products based on the index will accurately track index performance or provide positive investment returns. S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC is not an investment advisor, and S&P Dow Jones Indices makes no representation regarding the advisability of investing in any such investment fund or other investment vehicle. A decision to invest in any such investment fund or other investment vehicle should not be made in reliance on any of the statements set forth in this document. Prospective investors are advised to make an investment in any such fund or other vehicle only after carefully considering the risks associated with investing in such funds, as detailed in an offering memorandum or similar document that is prepared by or on behalf of the issuer of the investment fund or other investment product or vehicle. S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC is not a tax advisor. A tax advisor should be consulted to evaluate the impact of any tax-exempt securities on portfolios and the tax consequences of making any particular investment decision. Inclusion of a security within an index is not a recommendation by S&P Dow Jones Indices to buy, sell, or hold such security, nor is it considered to be investment advice. These materials have been prepared solely for informational purposes based upon information generally available to the public and from sources believed to be reliable. No content contained in these materials (including index data, ratings, credit-related analyses and data, research, valuations, model, software or other application or output therefrom) or any part thereof (“Content”) may be modified, reverse-engineered, reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of S&P Dow Jones Indices. The Content shall not be used for any unlawful or unauthorized purposes. S&P Dow Jones Indices and its third-party data providers and Licensors (collectively “S&P Dow Jones Indices Parties”) do not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, timeliness or availability of the Content. S&P Dow Jones Indices Parties are not responsible for any errors or omissions, regardless of the cause, for the results obtained from the use of the Content. THE CONTENT IS PROVIDED ON AN “AS IS” BASIS. S&P DOW JONES INDICES PARTIES DISCLAIM ANY AND ALL EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, ANY WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY OR FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE OR USE, FREEDOM FROM BUGS, SOFTWARE ERRORS OR DEFECTS, THAT THE CONTENT’S FUNCTIONING WILL BE UNINTERRUPTED OR THAT THE CONTENT WILL OPERATE WITH ANY SOFTWARE OR HARDWARE CONFIGURATION. In no event shall S&P Dow Jones Indices Parties be liable to any party for any direct, indirect, incidental, exemplary, compensatory, punitive, special or consequential damages, costs, expenses, legal fees, or losses (including, without limitation, lost income or lost profits and opportunity costs) in connection with any use of the Content even if advised of the possibility of such damages. S&P Global keeps certain activities of its various divisions and business units separate from each other in order to preserve the independence and objectivity of their respective activities. As a result, certain divisions and business units of S&P Global may have information that is not available to other business units. S&P Global has established policies and procedures to maintain the confidentiality of certain non-public information received in connection with each analytical process. In addition, S&P Dow Jones Indices provides a wide range of services to, or relating to, many organizations, including issuers of securities, investment advisers, broker-dealers, investment banks, other financial institutions and financial intermediaries, and accordingly may receive fees or other economic benefits from those organizations, including organizations whose securities or services they may recommend, rate, include in model portfolios, evaluate or otherwise address.