The tenacity of ESG investing

The standard story of 2021’s green-finance boom goes something like this: in a phenomenon that reached fever pitch a year ago at the cop26 convention in Glasgow, a lot of investors lost their heads. A potent cocktail of cheap money and sanctimony fuelled a boom in environmental, social and governance (esg) investing, during which asset managers and bankers pitched themselves as environmental saviours.

Nemesis followed hubris. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and subsequently elevated gas and oil prices, reminded the world just how much it needed fossil fuels, and how profitable investing in them could be. The cynicism of the asset managers and bankers was exposed as regulators cracked down on “greenwashing”. dws, Germany’s largest asset manager, was raided by the authorities following a whistleblower complaint; Britain’s advertising watchdog banned hsbc, a bank, from making “misleading” environmental claims. Far from saving the world, esg thus became mired in greenwash…

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