Show, Don’t Tell: 10 Times ESG Managers Used Stories

ESG content marketers have a good thing going. The zeitgeist is in their favor, and interest in sustainable investing is high. But it’s more than that: ESG managers have markedly more interesting topics to cover than the average portfolio manager. Their fund managers are explicitly putting human-centered issues – workplace equality, environmental impact, and accountability – alongside investment returns in their priority list. Where there are human concerns, there is meaning. And meaning is the asset rising in value these days.

Riding the ESG wave

To wit, the ESG corner of the investment universe is growing quickly. In a recent report, Morningstar tallied approximately 275 ESG-focused investment choices, which it calls the Sustainable Funds Universe. The options span mutual funds and ETFs, active and passive strategies, and nearly every asset class you can think of, with new-product launch numbers climbing every year.
Though institutional investors have historically been the biggest takers, interest among individuals is expanding rapidly. Morningstar points to a Morgan Stanley report which found that 71% of individual investors are interested in ESG-focused options.
The younger generation in particular looks for meaning in the way they work, in what they consume, and how they invest. But they aren’t alone; other generations also exhibit a growing interest in meaningful options, seeking choices they can feel good about.

Meaning-first marketing

A number of savvy ESG marketers are putting meaning at the top of their marketing message, but have found a way to show rather than tell: using examples or case studies of specific ESG investments. Here are 10 wide-ranging examples of how ESG leaders are using stories to show current and potential investors what kind of meaning they’ll find within an investment option.

3 examples from TIAA/Nuveen

  1. How we invest in farmland: An introduction to Nuveen’s global agricultural sustainability approach

This comprehensive guide includes an interactive map showing all the places where Nuveen invests in farmland (through a related asset manager called Westchester), while also covering the ESG metrics it aims for and specific investment examples in Brazil and California.

  1. Solar farm investments: Taking 160,000 homes off the grid each year

This impact-first example covers a specific Nuveen investment in Topaz Solar Farm, a California-based solar farm.

  1. Thirst for coffee, brew a sustainability bond: Nuveen

Using the example of Starbucks green bond, Nuveen highlights a stakeholder-oriented investment process.

A shareholder proxy story from Pax World Funds

  1. Old Republic Shareholders Should Support Climate Change Proposal

Though Pax World Funds generally avoids specific investment stories in its extensive ESG content, they used the story of a specific shareholder engagement event in a proxy position in an insurance company, Old Republic International Corporation.

A fixed income case study from Neuberger Berman

  1. Non-Investment Grade Credit Fixed Income Engagement Case Studies (2 stories)

Neuberger Berman, which has recently expanded its ESG offerings to cover most asset classes, uses two specific case studies to demonstrate why engaging with management on ESG issues can dampen risk.

Several examples from Community Capital Management

  1. Investment stories (3 stories)

The firm showcases ESG stories in a few venues, including this microsite with three brief, specific investment stories.

  1. The Impact Investor Newsletter (2 stories)

CCM details two more examples of ESG investments in its newsletter, one which is covered on the microsite and one new one.

  1. Gender Lens Investing: Opportunities in Fixed Income

This gated report offers a comprehensive look at an issue, gender-lens investing, and provides specific case studies to illustrate CCM’s approach.

Two bond stories from Praxis Mutual Funds

  1. Praxis affirms investment approach with green bond purchases (3 stories)

Praxis, a mutual fund family affiliated with faith-based manager Everence, details three recent green bond purchases in its fixed income fund.

  1. Company provides energy to those in Tanzania and Rwanda

This is an example of financing done by Calvert Impact Capital, an ESG-oriented foundation that makes direct investments and which Praxis contributes to.