Using environmental, social, and governance (ESG) scores of firms belonging to the MSCI World universe, we measure the impact of score-based exclusion on both passive investment and smart beta strategies. We find that exclusion leads to improved scores of otherwise standard portfolios without deterioration of their risk-adjusted performance. Smart beta strategies exhibit a similar pattern, often in a more pronounced way. Moreover, our results demonstrate that exclusion also implies regional and sectoral tilts as well as (possibly undesirable) risk exposures of the portfolios.
Transparency is usually seen as integral to corporate responsibility best practice. It allows closer scrutiny of those firms claiming CR credentials. But, if we want optimal outcomes in terms of industry wide adoption of CR practices, it may pay to tolerate a little hypocrisy at times – rather than highlighting the difference between what a firm says about CR and what it actually does.