How ESG Takes Advantage of Bureaucratic Finance
Principles for responsible business and investing are not new. But the increasing bureaucratization of the investment industry enabled the rapid rise of ESG.
“Environmental, social, and governance,” or ESG for short, is an umbrella term for a number of frameworks for measuring “responsible” business management and investing. There is no authoritative list of ESG concerns, but representative examples include using renewable energy instead of fossil fuels and increasing diversity in the workplace. For investors, the ESG market is enormous and growing fast. Assets under management in ESG strategies are expected to reach $41 trillion by the end of 2022.1 That is up from around $15 trillion in 2014 and is projected to rise to $53 trillion by 2025—this would constitute a full third of total assets under management globally.2 In 2021, the ESG industry racked up $1.8 billion in fees, up from around $1.1 billion in 2020. This is despite ESG funds on average not charging higher fees than their non-ESG equivalents.3 The higher total fees are then reflective of an enormous growth industry, rather than price-gouging.