Given the fiduciary responsibilities faced by institutional investors, we recognize that the risk-and-return consequences of various ESG strategies are extremely important because they relate to investment outcomes. Thus, we are particularly interested in the research related to this issue. Our own research, as well as research by others, leads us to conclude that certain measures closely related to ESG tenets can be additive to returns and company performance, particularly as they pertain to governance and diversity.
We find that financial metrics related to corporate governance are associated with better investment performance as measured by low accounting accruals; conservative issuance and dilution practices; high profitability; and conservative investment. These metrics have been incorporated in multiple RA product suites since 2005 as well as in our dedicated ESG products.
At Research Affiliates, diversity has long been an important topic of research and crucial to the management of our business. Diversity in background, education, culture, frame of reference, and experience leads to diversity in thinking and ideas, and strengthens the foundation of our firm. A growing body of literature documents a positive relation between greater diversity and outcomes when measured as a level of collective intelligence and firm financial performance.
An academic consensus on the investment benefits of other ESG factors has not emerged. Our own research highlights some of the current challenges related to consistent data and lack of history. Research Affiliates believes, however, that thoughtfully designed systematic ESG strategies can improve performance and/or reduce risk while delivering on the objectives of ESG investing.