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Inside Some ESG ETFs

April 26, 2016 3:09 pm
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Inside Some ESG ETFs

Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) investing has taken on added importance in recent years and the exchange traded funds and indexing communities have responded in significant fashion, launching an array of new products to meet investors' for more ESG solutions.


Last week, BlackRock's iShares unit introduced the iShares Sustainable MSCI Global Impact ETF (NASDAQ: MPCT), an ETF designed to “track the investment results of an index composed of positive impact companies that derive a majority of their revenue from products and services that address at least one of the world's major social and environmental challenges as identified by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,” according to iShares.


Additionally, over the past two years, index providers have launched scores of ESG benchmarks. For example, S&P Dow Jones Indices, the largest provider of indexes for use with ETFs, has launched 30 such indexes over the past 15 months, according to a new note from S&P Capital IQ.


Other examples of ETFs focusing on ESG themes include the SPDR S&P 500 500 Fossil Fuel Free ETF (NYSE: SPYX). Although it does not exclude the energy sector, SPYX features significantly reduced exposure to that group. At less than 2.2 percent of SPYX, the energy sector is a fraction of this ETF's lineup compared to the group's prominence in the S&P 500.


SPYX “which launched in December 2015 and had $75 million in assets. The ETF has a 0.20% net expense ratio and excludes companies who own any fossil fuel reserves. Relative to its older sister ETF, SPDR S&P 500 (SPY), SPYX’s energy exposure (2% of assets vs. 7%) is more modest,” according to S&P Capital IQ.


An extremely successful addition to the world of ESG ETFs and one of the most successful ETFs to come market in 2016 is the SSGA Gender Diversity Index ETF (NYSE: SHE). In about seven weeks on the market, SHE has amassed $362 million in assets under management.


SHE “is an investment that fits those criteria as the ETF is constructed with companies that exhibit the best gender diversity within each sector. The criteria include the ratio of female executives and female members of the companies’ board of directors to all executives and members of the board of directors,” said S&P Capital IQ.


SHE's holdings include Dow component Home Depot Inc. (NYSE: HD), Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK-B) and AbbVie Inc. (NYSE: ABBV). Financial services, healthcare and technology stocks combine for over half of SHE's weight.


Todd Shriber owns shares of AbbVie.

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