Bottom Line: You don’t have to sacrifice strong performance
Many investors have found that they can make money and do good by owning funds that invest in companies that meet high standards in how they treat the environment, their communities and employees, and shareholders. In the past, that meant focusing on certain stocks in the US and other developed countries. But in recent years, at least 10 mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) have been created that focus on emerging-market stocks that meet these standards. Also among the criteria, tobacco companies and weapons manufacturers typically are excluded.
A 2016 study found that an index of companies that met the standards did as well as or better than a standard emerging-market index. Among the reasons: Companies that pass these demanding screens tend to be well-run…retain talented managers who allocate capital wisely…and avoid major scandals. Technology companies often are a heavy presence. And government-controlled companies, which often act on political motives over profit motives, tend to neglect shareholder interests.
Two attractive emerging-market ETFs that invest with a social conscience…
iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ESG Optimized ETF (ESGE) invests in about 240 companies scoring high in a screen of 37 environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria. Launched in June 2016, it has a heavier allocation to tech than conventional emerging-market funds do and smaller allocation to energy and telecom firms, which often are government-controlled. One-year performance through May 15, 2018: 14.5%.
SPDR MSCI Emerging Markets Fossil Fuel Reserves Free ETF (EEMX) is best for investors who put a priority on energy conservation and reducing the world’s carbon footprint. The fund, started in October 2016, excludes oil and coal-mining companies. One-year performance: 12.9%.