Almost two centuries ago, gold prospectors in California set off one of the greatest rushes for wealth in history. Proponents of socially conscious investing claim fund managers will start a similar stampede when they discover that environmental, social and governance (ESG) insights can yield treasure in the form of alternative data that promise big payoffs — if only they knew how to mine it.

First, let’s be clear: ESG is not on the fringe.

There may be some truth to that line of thinking if you take some of the rhetoric and advertising out of the equation.

First, let’s be clear: ESG is not on the fringe. The European Union has implemented new financial regulations via the Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR). These improve ESG disclosures and considerations and help to direct capital toward products and companies that benefit people and the planet. As we write, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is also considering drafting and implementation of ESG-related regulations.

Whether enacted or currently under consideration, these rules encourage fund managers to integrate sustainability risks into their business processes, report on them publicly, stamp out greenwashing, and promote transparency and knowledge among investors. Accordingly, it will become easier to compare firms’ sustainability efforts, too, allowing stakeholders from all corners to make more informed decisions.

Incorporating ESG factors into investment strategies is not new, of course. The world’s largest asset managers have been practicing it for years. According to the Governance & Accountability Institute, 90% of companies listed on the S&P 500 now produce sustainability reports, an increase of 70 percentage points from more than a decade ago.

Yet some are still groaning about adopting an ESG investing mindset; they see ESG as a nuisance that detracts from their mission of earning high returns. But could this mindset mean they are missing important opportunities?

Don’t wait

Waiting for new mandatory ESG reporting and compliance framework standards in the U.S. puts Americas-focused managers at a significant disadvantage. Fund managers can start gaining insights today from alternative data originating in ESG-related data stemming from climate change, natural disasters, harassment and discrimination lawsuits, and other events and information that can be mined.

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