Hugh Wheelan’s 12 days of Xmas: gold, geese and swans-a-swimming!

My argumentative advent calendar based on the traditional song.

On we roll with the 12 days of Xmas at a breakneck three per day, so we can close the office on Friday!
As I’ve said a few times (if you’ve been tuning in to this series…you’re forgiven if you haven’t), I’ve been perplexed of late at the proliferation of press articles critiquing responsible investment and ESG. It is time to take a stance good responsible investors and fight back with the mighty pen, not the sword! I thought I’d tackle the issue head on in a seasonal style with an argumentative advent calendar based on the 12 days of Christmas: one mistletoe-ESG-misnomer buster or aphorism per day. Thanks for all your suggestions…keep ‘em coming!

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love sent to me: Five gold rings:
Gold rings can only mean the eternal debate on performance, or better put: the myth of ESG and performance sacrifice. I’ve lost track of the number of times this old chestnut has been pulled out of the wise financial professional’s pocket with a “that’s all well and good sonny, but this is not charity, this is real investment.” OK, old man (for it is, inevitably an…old…man) go and examine the financial/ESG performance literature (which is still scant for such a societally important subject), then show me your fail-safe, transparent, value-for-money performance strategy over a meaningful, risk-adjusted time-frame, and then tell me that none of the issues analysed in the ESG world has any bearing on where real ‘investment’ value is created (medium to long-term), then tell me why many of the world’s largest institutional investors are so horribly confused……and then we’ll talk! (Disclaimer: I have nothing against old men!).On the sixth day of Christmas my true love sent to me: six geese a-laying
Or perhaps six geese not a-laying? Anyone noticed how many vegetarian/vegan restaurants are out there, and how reduced meat eating (flexitarianism), veganism and meat substitutes are the coolest subjects in town amongst the young, and increasingly the old, concerned about animal welfare, antibiotic resistance and climate change? In the RI world that discussion has been happening for a good few years now: you heard it here first!

On the seventh day of Christmas my true love sent to me: Seven swans a-swimming
Are they black swans I hear you cry? Well, yes, I do believe they are. For many of us in the responsible investment space issues such as the rapid shift to seriously destabilising populist politics (Brexit anyone?) or dangerous demographic/migration shifts as a result of poverty and inequality are not new subjects of discussion. That’s before we even get on to climate change. They have become some of the biggest talking points in investment in the last 12 months, and will continue to be so. Let’s just hope there’s not seven of them!