What is the Morningstar ESG Commitment level?

--  |   20/11/2020 Text size  Decrease  Increase   |  
email_fwd
<p><strong>Karen Wallace:&nbsp;</strong>ESG funds have gained a lot of traction with investors in the past few years. And no surprise&mdash;there are more ESG funds out there than ever before. With an increasingly crowded landscape, investors looking for an ESG fund want to know if ESG concerns play a central role in buy and sell decisions or whether they're barely considered at all. Morningstar analysts have developed a new assessment that helps investors answer this question and more. I'm here with Alyssa Stankiewicz, an analyst on Morningstar's Manager Research team, to discuss Morningstar's new ESG Commitment Level.</p> <p>Alyssa, thanks for being here.</p> <p><strong>Alyssa Stankiewicz:&nbsp;</strong>Thank you so much for having me.</p> <p><strong>Wallace:&nbsp;</strong>Alyssa, you and your team do very extensive evaluations of funds' resources and strategies. Can you discuss some of the high-level findings that have come out of your research?</p> <p><strong>Stankiewicz:&nbsp;</strong>One thing we expected is that the level of quality varies really widely. Some funds take a rigorous in-depth approach to integrating ESG. Others may be labeled ESG, or sustainable, but really do very little. One surprise was just how many asset managers don't label themselves ESG but do regularly consider those factors. In many cases, managers cite sustainability as a helpful lens for understanding financially material risks and opportunities. So, this ESG Commitment Level was designed to provide investors a really clear understanding of the ESG fund landscape. Currently, most investors are dependent on marketing materials to sift through different approaches to ESG investing. But even if that information is trustworthy, it's hard to compare one fund to another. So that's where Morningstar comes in. Our unique position as independent researchers allows us to help investors navigate an increasingly confusing space.</p> <p><strong>Wallace:&nbsp;</strong>I'd like to take a second and discuss that notion of independence. What does that mean?</p> <p><strong>Stankiewicz:&nbsp;</strong>The ESG Commitment Level is specifically geared toward investors and advisors, not the fund managers or firms themselves. As with our Analyst Rating, asset managers have no say in whether we consider them in our reports. So, we as analysts are under no pressure to give a good or bad rating to a fund. We develop our own opinions through our research. And because we're independent, we can be really transparent about those opinions.</p> <p><strong>Wallace:&nbsp;</strong>And what are some of the criteria that analysts look for when determining a fund's Commitment Level? What makes a Leader?</p> <p><strong>Stankiewicz:&nbsp;</strong>It starts with the fund's ESG philosophy, but then it's backed up by the resources they're committing to the effort, how strong the process is for considering and integrating ESG in the fund, and then how active the team is about engaging with portfolio companies on sustainability issues. A lot of it is actually very similar to how we look at funds for the Analyst Rating: You want to know how strong a fund's strategy is, that the team is well supported in carrying that out, and that the process is robust enough to deliver consistently strong portfolio. Often, the best performers on ESG have developed really thorough proprietary frameworks for evaluating companies. And once a company makes it into the portfolio, they're active about engaging with company management, to ensure they're making progress on sustainability issues. Some fund managers actually have a policy that requires them to sell out of a company if they're not making enough progress.</p> <p><strong>Wallace:&nbsp;</strong>What would be the flip side of that? What would be some characteristics of a fund that you would give a Low score to?</p> <p><strong>Stankiewicz:&nbsp;</strong>In some cases, you'll see a fund that's labelled sustainable or ESG, but once we start digging into the resources and the process backing that up, we find they're really not doing much at all. The portfolio managers may look for ESG opportunities, but there may not be any actual minimum criteria or firm guidelines to make sure the portfolio reflects the ESG mandate. Some of these are pretty obvious: You wouldn't expect an ESG fund to have huge holdings in the oil and gas industry. So, if a fund does, that's something we want to take a closer look at. It's also worth noting that because we'll eventually extend the ESG Commitment Level to all of the funds in our coverage universe, some funds that we think really highly of from a financial perspective might receive a Low or Basic ESG Commitment Level. Some funds just make it clear that ESG isn't part of their process, and that doesn't necessarily mean the fund won't perform well. So that's why we've kept the Analyst Rating separate from the ESG Commitment Level.</p> <p><strong>Wallace:&nbsp;</strong>That's a good point. Alyssa, how should investors use this Commitment Level alongside the Morningstar Analyst Rating or the Morningstar Sustainability Rating?</p> <p><strong>Stankiewicz:&nbsp;</strong>It's important to note that the ESG Commitment Level is completely separate from our other ratings. If a fund is a Leader, which is the top ESG Commitment Level, that doesn't mean they'll receive an upgrade or a medal in the Analyst Rating. The Analyst Rating seeks to identify funds that will outperform the category index in terms of financial return or alpha. The ESG Commitment Level is designed to identify funds that have stronger or weaker approaches from a sustainability perspective. And the way this differs from the Sustainability Rating, or the "globe rating," is that that's really based on the companies that are currently in a fund's portfolio. So, it's more of an aggregate of those companies' sustainability scores, and it's not as forward-looking as this ESG Commitment Level.</p> <p><strong>Wallace:&nbsp;</strong>Alyssa, thank you so much for being here to discuss this ESG Commitment Level. Not all ESG funds are alike, and this rating really helps investors go under the hood to find funds that take the smartest and most thoughtful approaches to ESG investing. Thank you so much for being here to discuss it.</p> <p><strong>Stankiewicz:&nbsp;</strong>Thank you so much for having me.</p> <p><strong>Wallace:&nbsp;</strong>For Morningstar, I'm Karen Wallace. Thanks for tuning in.</p>

Video Archive...

'We don't learn': Morningstar sits with King Nudge Richard Thaler
25/05/2022  The Nobel prize winner who cameo'd alongside Selena Gomez in Hollywood hit The Big Short  discusses the latest developments in behavioural economics.
Why are Coles, Woolworths and JB Hi-Fi tanking? Morningstar explains
19/05/2022  Local investors were spooked after US retail giants Target and Walmart plummeted overnight as rising prices hit margins and inventory.
Dan Kemp's best tip for successful long-term investing: Beware market narratives
19/05/2022  On his recent visit to Australia, Morningstar's global chief investment officer Dan Kemp talks investing narratives, confronting the growing list of reasons to be concerned about markets and sustainable investing.
What's driving the latest big drop in US stocks?
19/05/2022  Worries about inflation’s toll on earnings sparks Wednesday’s 4% plunge, but stocks are now far undervalued.
Value strikes back: How to manage style in your portfolio
18/05/2022  One of the big themes of the year has been the value comeback. What is behind this resurgence after a pretty dismal period, and should your portfolio be tilting in its direction?
Is it time to recession-proof your portfolio?
11/05/2022  Here's what investors who are worried about a recession should consider today.
Morningstar Best Ideas List: An undervalued play in telecom
11/05/2022  Morningstar analysts have identified TPG telecom as the most undervalued telecom stocks in the ASX 200 detailing multiple catalysts for earnings recovery and growth.
Bill Browder: A scared Putin will only escalate the conflict
29/04/2022  Exclusive: Hermitage Capital Management CEO Bill Browder talks Putin, Russia, and the next six months for Ukraine
5 risks facing the US market right now
28/04/2022  Inflation, rising interest rates, geopolitical risks, and other things to keep your eye on.
Buffett and Berkshire in 2022
27/04/2022  Morningstar's analyst talks about the Buffett's recent deals, what the stock is worth, and whether Berkshire will pay a dividend any time soon.
Fair value upgrades on the table: Morningstar resources update
31/03/2022  Supply disruptions following Russia's invasion of Ukraine are forcing analysts to consider the possibility elevated prices persist.
Bank outperformance speaks to positive trajectory: Morningstar
30/03/2022  Rising interest rates, strong economic growth and cheaper valuations are driving banking stocks ahead of the broader market.
Stock vs stock: Netflix and Disney
28/03/2022  Where are entertainment and streaming services headed?
Morningstar Best Ideas List: WiseTech looks cheap after tech selloff
24/03/2022  Problems in global supply chains are an opportunity for WiseTech as its logistics company customers move to replace old software.
First fires, then floods: How listed insurers are weathering extreme events
23/03/2022  Markets focused on floods and bushfires are missing how insurers are cutting costs, doing more digitally and are looking down the barrel of a lift in investment income.
Don't get 'whipsawed' by false promises of peace in Europe
17/03/2022  Morningstar Investment Management's global CIO Dan Kemp explains why well-intentioned investors desperate for peace in Europe are making dangerous market calls
Morningstar Best Ideas List: Kogan to hold own in faceoff with Amazon
15/03/2022  Knowledge of the local market, strong branding and a growing subscription service should see the undervalued retailer retain market share in the rapidly growing online sales category, says Roy Van Keulen.
"There's been a big rotation in markets": Value surges as growth stumbles
08/03/2022  Higher inflation, rising interest rates and booming commodity markets are driving a major rotation away from the post-pandemic winners, says Tim Murphy, Morningstar director of manager selection.
Afterpay's rivals set for battle with rates and regulators
03/03/2022  Regulators are likely to be less lenient now the buy-now-pay-later sector is part of the fabric of Australian payments.
Industry champions on the cheap: Emerging markets at the Morningstar Investment Conference
23/02/2022  Strong commodity prices, cheap valuations and a head start on interest rate hikes means emerging markets are set for strength, says Dr. Joseph Lai of Ox Capital.
The Russia crisis is heating up, but you need to stay cool
23/02/2022  A belligerent speech from a president signalled the start of the latest phase of Russian agression last night, causing markets to wobble and investors to wonder.
Peter Warnes on FAANGs, investing in Asia and bond market smoke signals
15/02/2022  In an extended interview, Morningstar's Peter Warnes discusses the bear market in US technology stocks, interest rates and growth and his approach to investing outside the US and Australia.
Weighing up Magellan Financial Group after Douglass surprise exit
13/02/2022  Morningstar equity analyst Shaun Ler explains why he see valuation upside high for MFG even as shares lose steam.
Year of the Tiger: What's next for Chinese stocks
31/01/2022  The Chinese lunar year is almost over, and what a ride it's been. Morningstar speaks to JPMorgan Asset Management strategist Mike Bell about what's ahead. 
What to do (and not do) in a volatile market
23/01/2022  Christine Benz discusses how investors should handle the turmoil, whatever the life stage.
Bare shelves only a short-term hit to Coles and Woolies
18/01/2022  Empty shelves will negatively impact supermarkets in the second half of fiscal 2022 but the impact on long-term earnings is minimal, says Morningstar analyst Johannes Faul. 
Morningstar's outlook for 2022
17/01/2022  Bank earnings, house prices and China risk: Our experts and analysts discuss what they've got their eyes on in 2022.
Morningstar's Year in Review 2021
24/12/2021  Our experts and analysts weigh in on what mattered for investors last year.
"A bump in the road" as Magellan loses major client
21/12/2021  New products, lower fees and a portfolio of undervalued stocks set to help the fund manager right the ship. 
What role should Bitcoin play in your portfolio?
10/12/2021  And how does it match up against gold?
Years of demand remain for Australian coal producers
10/12/2021  Australian miners to be among the last standing as coal use fades.
Year-end portfolio rebalancing: What you need to know
08/12/2021  Rebalancing your portfolio is one of those beneficial habits that’s easy to let slide. But year-end is an ideal time to check how your portfolio is tracking against your target asset allocation. 
3 quality names from Stewart Investors
03/12/2021  The gold-rated fund manager shares three ideas with long-term potential.
Silver linings for investors amid the climate stalemate: COP26 debrief
01/12/2021  Long-term investor sees opportunities where businesses are moving towards a zero-carbon future faster than governments.
6 qualities of great index funds
30/11/2021  To understand your fund, get to know its underlying index.
Lazard's 3 top picks for the energy transition
29/11/2021  These companies are set to profit from the move to clean energy, says Lazard.
An uneven energy transition leaves room for coal and gas: COP26 debrief
24/11/2021  The results of the COP26 climate summit suggest coal demand is likely to persist for longer than expected.
What rising inflation means for Australian investors
17/11/2021  And how investors can protect their portfolios.
6 inflation-tough stocks for global investors
08/11/2021  Morningstar thinks these moaty companies will remain resilient in the face of inflation and ongoing supply chain challenges.
Risk/reward equation still looks good at Westpac
05/11/2021  Morningstar maintains fair value despite a fall in margins and slower progress on cost reductions.
These aren't the Bitcoin ETFs you're looking for
19/10/2021  These new US-listed exchange-traded funds will invest in bitcoin futures, not bitcoin itself.
ESG funds don't underperform - but nor do they outperform
15/10/2021  The ESG outperformance narrative is flawed, new research shows.
Building investment portfolios in a low interest rate environment
06/10/2021  Investors may need to hold more growth assets over the coming years, says Morningstar's Jody Fitzgerald.
Covid impacts still being felt in real estate and tech: Reporting season roundup
01/10/2021  And how G8 Education and Link Administration are positioned for long-term success.
Look to Credit Corp for a leading indicator of economic health: Reporting season roundup
30/09/2021  What Reporting Season August 2021 told investors about the health of the financials sector.
Cause for optimism at a2 Milk and Invocare: Reporting season roundup
28/09/2021  a2 milk is an opportunity to be greedy when others are fearful.
Post-covid normalisation is underway in healthcare: Reporting season roundup
23/09/2021  Covid's winners and losers are returning to their prior trajectories. 
One of the most underappreciated dangers of investing
21/09/2021  Sequence-of-returns risk matters for both retirees and savers. Here's why. 
REITs recover pandemic losses: Reporting season roundup
20/09/2021  Analysts expect the sector to recover to pre-Covid trading levels once borders reopen.
Australian banks face margin pressure amid low rates: Reporting season roundup
15/09/2021  Rising customer deposits and access to cheap funding helped Australia's banks stave off net interest margin pressure, but analysts see warning signs.
Greenwashing explained
14/09/2021  Morningstar's Hortense Bioy on how to spot greenwashing and how to avoid it.
Earnings down as private money circles infrastructure: Reporting season roundup
13/09/2021  Utilities and infrastructure names battle the impact of covid as private equity and pension funds circle. 
Frenzy of mergers in energy: Reporting season roundup
10/09/2021  Hydrocarbons poised for a comeback.
TPG tipped to recover as mobile competition eases: Reporting season roundup
09/09/2021  Providers have lifted prices after years of a debilitating chase for subscribers at all costs , says Morningstar's Brian Han.
Short-sellers bet against ARK Innovation ETF
08/09/2021  What shorting ETFs means for long-term investors.
Surging lumber prices were no match for Brambles: Reporting season roundup
07/09/2021  Morningstar senior analyst Grant Slade says Brambles secular growth trend is intact despite nearterm headwinds. He discusses results from the building and construction materials sector.
Miners soar thanks to iron ore: Reporting season roundup
03/09/2021  Miners bask in the glow of iron ore prices while bargains remain in coal.
BHP-Woodside merger is mutually beneficial
23/08/2021  Post-merger Woodside would be well positioned to deliver on the value we've seen for a long time, say Morningstar analysts.
Investors are getting serious about sustainability
16/08/2021  But the sector lacks uniformity, says Morningstar's Christopher Franz. 
Long term outlook for AGL is positive
11/08/2021  Higher wholesale electricity prices bode well for AGL, according to Morningstar senior equities analyst Adrian Atkins.
How you can hedge your portfolio against inflation
11/08/2021  Morningstar FundInvestor editor Russ Kinnel describes some direct and indirect hedges for inflation protection.
The iron ore party can't last: Morningstar
10/08/2021  Copper and iron ore have benefited materially from China’s stimulus and the developed world recovery. But Morningstar analyst Mat Hodge see these benefit as transitory.
What the Afterpay acquisition means for investors: Morningstar Minute
05/08/2021  We believe the transaction has a high chance of succeeding.
Cannabis' federal legal status is not a total buzzkill
03/08/2021  The industry still has significant growth potential.
Stock of the week: Toyota
03/08/2021  Is one of the biggest sponsors of the Olympics positioned for an all-electric future?
2 listed microcap names to consider
23/07/2021  Morningstar's Lex Hall talks micro-cap stock picks with Carlos Gil, chief investment officer at Microequities Asset Management.
Big returns, big risks: Making money with microcaps
22/07/2021  Mornngstar's Lex Hall catches up with Carlos Gil, chief investment officer at Microequities Asset Management.
3 small-caps with Dawn Kanelleas
21/07/2021  The head of Australian small and mid-cap stocks at First Sentier Investors has her eye on ARB, Breville and IDP Education.
Forecast 2021–2022: A correction could be around the corner
20/07/2021  The strong performances of global stock markets in 2020–21 are unlikely to be repeated in the coming year says Morningstar's Peter Warnes.
'Overvalued' warnings grow as ASX 200 hits new high
12/07/2021  Morningstar equity analysts warn that equities remain overvalued despite Australia's strong economic recovery.
What to know about private equity
08/07/2021  Private equity is an exciting area for investors, with lots of hotly-tipped stocks. But there are risks to be aware of, says Pitchbook analyst Dylan Cox.
Lazard's 3 top picks for the global covid recovery
08/07/2021  Warryn Robertson is looking at French infrastructure, retail pharmacy and tax services.
Aussie banks $34bn surplus points to more shareholder dividends, buybacks
06/07/2021  Australia's largest banks have excess capital because they cut dividends, were more conservative on lending, divested assets and raised equity last year. Morningstar's Nathan Zaia thinks most of it should be returned to shareholders.
Weighing up the PEXA IPO
02/07/2021  PEXA burst onto the ASX this week in the biggest float since 2019. Morningstar's Gareth James gives his take on the company's future growth prospects.
Can the iron ore price keep rising?
30/06/2021  Iron ore prices have  been on a tear, boosting the profits of Australia's top miners.  How did we get here and is the only way up? Lex Hall sits down with Morningstar's Mat Hodge.
2 new stocks to watch
28/06/2021  Morningstar has recently initiated coverage of a food delivery app and a consumer finance product. 
'Strongest earnings season I've ever seen'
24/06/2021  Meeting the deluge of demand is the biggest task for US companies, says Bell Asset Management's Ned Bell.
Biotech beyond covid
22/06/2021  Are there still opportunities in the biotech sector now the covid-19 vaccine roll out is underway? We ask International Biotechnology Trust manager Ailsa Craig
Alibaba is still deeply undervalued
21/06/2021  Morningstar's director of Asia equity research is confident the e-commerce giant will bounce back.
Weighing up the Endeavour IPO
18/06/2021  A wide moat and attractive dividend potential are among the key takeaways of Woolworth's decision to demerge from the liquor and hospitality group.
'Then we got hit with the equivalent of a war'
15/06/2021  Lazard Asset Management's Warryn Robertson explains how companies in the Global Equity Franchise fund have adjusted to covid, and assesses the threat of rising inflation.
Understanding Magellan's active ETF strategy
11/06/2021  Magellan's Craig Wright tells Emma Rapaport why it is leading the charge in the active ETF arena and how its global equity product works.
3 off-the-radar small caps
10/06/2021  Callum Burns of ICE Investors explains his conviction in pharmaceutical distributor Ebos, PSC Insurance Group, and elite sports analytics provider Catapult.
Small cap gems and how to find them
09/06/2021  Callum Burns explains how ICE Investors identifies companies with original products and sticky customer bases.
Stock of the Week: Salesforce.com
08/06/2021  They’re building an empire.
3 oil stocks we still like
07/06/2021  A year ago the oil price went negative. How have oil giants handled the past 12 months and what's the outlook from here? Morningstar analyst Allen Good explains.
Considering crypto? Here's what to think about
04/06/2021  As the investment world goes crazy for crypto, Morningstar Investment Management's Dan Kemp explains what to consider before putting it in your portfolio
Why we like Wizz Air
03/06/2021  The airline sector is set to recover as international travel resumes. Morningstar analysts think Wizz Air offer the best opportunity among low-cost carriers.
3 global infrastructure picks
28/05/2021  4D Infrastructure's Sarah Shaw outlines the investment case for Spanish multinationals Cellnex, and Iberdrola, and the potential of Mexican airports.
Are crypto ETFs coming?
28/05/2021  The SEC continues to sort out its regulatory concerns.
Stock of the Week: Apple
27/05/2021  We’re raising our fair value as sales hit new highs—but investors need to put it in perspective, says Andrew Willis.
Opportunities in global infrastructure
25/05/2021  Covid-19 has enhanced rather than impeded the future for global infrastructure, says Sarah Shaw of 4D Infrastructure.
Tribeca's eye for Domain
24/05/2021  Tribeca's Jun Bei Liu also explains why she sees opportunity in sleep apnea specialist ResMed as well as Treasury Wine Estates.
Stocks for emerging markets
19/05/2021  American Century Investment's Patricia Ribeiro sees growth in Chinese battery technology, biologics, and building materials in Latin America.
2 stocks for the rise of the robots
18/05/2021  Robotics is a fast-growing area of tech, creating opportunities in medical, logistics and life sciences sectors and much more.
Square: Stock of the week
18/05/2021  Square's Bitcoin purchase is more marketing than operations
Tesla: Stock of the week
10/05/2021  If Elon Musk ends up delivering, we might need to raise our fair value to US$1500 a share.
Why Tribeca's so upbeat on stocks
07/05/2021  Banks and resources are poised to deliver dividends, and Treasury Wine Estates and BNPL are worth a look, says Jun Bei Liu of Tribeca's Alpha Plus long/short fund.
Looking for value in emerging markets
05/05/2021  Digital banking, ecommerce and 5G are among the key trends set for rapid growth, says Patricia Ribeiro of American Century Investments.
Cash slashed, Aussie equities up: Why Morningstar updates Model ETF portfolios
04/05/2021  Analysts have made changes to the fixed interest, property, cash and equity allocations of Morningstar's Model ETF Portfolios to take advantage of the current market environment. They've also refreshed some of the funds in the portfolio.