The rise of ethical investing


It is possible to make money and to do some good at the same time.

It is what is known as responsible investing, or ethical investing, and it is growing in popularity in New Zealand.

The money invested in responsible investments grew by 28 percent last year to $78.7 billion.

The Responsible Investment Association Australasia (RIAA) says the vast bulk ($77.1 billion) is money invested by institutions like the NZ Super Fund, ACC, community trusts and nine asset managers.

They have committed to the United Nations' supported Principles for Responsible Investment.

The Super Fund and ACC accounted for $56.7 billion or 72 percent of total assets managed under a responsible investing approach.

Ethical investing is also growing in popularity among individual investors, including some people who have funds invested in KiwiSaver.

The RIAA says there was around $1.6 billion invested in "core responsible investment funds" last year. That was an increase of 18 percent from the year before.

Core responsible investment funds now total 2.6 percent of all professionally managed assets (up from 2.4 percent in 2014).

The Association says it is a myth that responsible or ethical funds do not deliver good financial returns for investors.

It says the core responsible investment share funds outperformed both the ASX300 and the average large cap Australian equities funds across one, three, five and ten year funds - five year returns for responsible investment funds beat the wider market in Australia.

It says core responsible investment international equities funds outperformed larger cap international equities funds over five and 10 years. But they slightly underperformed in the short term.

Core responsible multi-sector growth funds (balanced funds) outperformed their equivalent mainstream multi-sector growth funds over the one, three five and ten year periods.

The relative returns of ethical funds against the wider market will continue to be debated. But the figures from RIAA show that investors do not appear to be financially disadvantaged by opting for an ethical fund.

The rise in popularity of responsible investing is encouraging more local fund managers to launch ethical funds.

You can ask your provider if they offer a responsible investment option.

But you should also ask how they select their investments and what sort of companies they exclude or include.

That is because the manager's idea of responsible investing may not quite fit with your idea of an ethical investment.