Financial advisers have “significantly increased” their focus on sustainable and responsible funds since the pandemic, according to statistics from FE Fundinfo.
The FE Analytics data shows that sustainable funds now account for a larger proportion of the top-25 researched funds within the Investment Association (IA) Global universe.
In 2019, only 28% (seven out of 25 funds) of the top-25 researched funds were environmentally focused, while this year that figure has risen to 44% (11 out of 25 funds). In 2021, the highest number of sustainable funds made the list when just under half (48% or 12 funds) made the top 25.
The company acknowledged that the searches could also have been generated by advisers looking to understand each fund better, on the basis that many environmentally friendly funds have underperformed in recent years.
Performance has tailed off
FE Fundinfo reported that while performance of many sustainable equity funds over the last five years has been good, this has tailed off over the last two years
For the year to 31 March 2023, all four sustainable funds in the top-10 most researched funds in the IA Global sector underperformed the sector average. Baillie Gifford Positive Change and Liontrust Sustainable Future Global Growth fund also underperformed the sector average in the 12 months to the end of March 2022.
In 2023, the third most researched fund within the IA Global sector – the top-ranked sector for the opening three months of the year – was Janus Henderson’s Global Sustainable Equity.
Others making it into the top 10 included Baillie Gifford’s Positive Change fund, Liontrust’s Sustainable Future Global Growth and Columbia Threadneedle’s Responsible Global Equity fund which ranked fifth, sixth and eight respectively.
In 2021, four funds made the top 10 of the most-researched list. Baillie Gifford’s Positive Change fund ranked fourth, Liontrust’s Sustainable Future Global Growth ranked fifth, Janus Henderson’s Global Sustainable Equity ranked sixth and Columbia Threadneedle’s Responsible Global Equity ranked ninth.
Charles Younes, research manager at FE Fundinfo, said: “The need for firms to invest in sustainably minded ways has grown in recent years, with the increased interest and scrutiny in company’s commitments to ESG.
“In the past few years, especially, this has been heightened even further and we are seeing advisers research greater numbers of funds that meet their clients’ environmentally conscious investment requirements.
“During the Covid-19 pandemic there was a noticeable increase in interest in responsible and sustainable investing. Regulatory initiatives and changed investor attitudes mean this appears to be a long-term change.”