As Lanz explained, many advisory conversations with clients about responsible investing are triggered by major news events. A story of mass shootings, for example, often causes investors to ask advisors if they have any gun company exposure in their portfolios. Similarly, climate-focused customers may also want to confirm whether they have been in contact with fossil fuel companies after reporting environmental degradation, rising sea levels, or other disasters attributable to androgenic changes in earth temperature.
“Customers could express concerns about greenwashing in the market,” said Lanz. “I think some of these concerns are legitimate, but they are not as pervasive or malicious as some sensational headlines of late suggest.”
The current challenge was due to the lack of common definitions. While there are already various rating and ranking systems out there, there is no generally accepted standard for responsible investing. To counteract this, the CFA Institute is working on a series of ESG disclosure standards for investment products. A first draft is expected to be published in May and a final version in November.
“I think the standards issued by the CFA Institute will be of vital importance in promoting market integrity,” said Lanz. “Once these standards are in place, we will include information about these standards in our educational programs. We have actually worked with Desjardins and Aviso to train Canadian consultants on ESG and we are in the process of working with another institution. To date, we have engaged over 2,000 Canadian consultants in this effort. “
These engagement efforts have become increasingly important over time. Data from the annual RIA Investors’ Opinion Survey, which the association has conducted in collaboration with Ipsos over the past few years, shows that investor interest in RI is growing steadily. To meet this growing demand, the association has developed resources to support advisors’ conversations about responsible investing – a client questionnaire they can use to have structured discussions about ESG, for example – and plans to do more.