January 21, 2024

Sustainable Finance and ESG in Asset Management


In the age of sustainable development, the integration of ESG principles and sustainable financial strategies in asset management is no longer just an option, but a strategic necessity. Even if some asset managers or players think that the topic sometimes comes up too often or is a marketing topic, data shows that asset managers with a strong ESG focus can also convince asset owners and their customers and have thus been able to significantly increase their AUM. Bloomberg Intelligence even believes that ESG assets could grow to $53 trillion by 2025, a third of global AUM.

ESG assets by 2025: An increase to $53 trillion

This transformation of the financial sector marks a turning point that goes beyond maximizing financial returns and focuses on environmental and social responsibility.

By signing the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, the European Union has committed itself to achieving comprehensive climate and energy goals. Financial markets play a crucial role in this context, as they should support the EU's investment programme as providers of capital. In order to implement these goals, the EU has set sustainability goals for financial service providers and adopted an action plan that regulates the concrete implementation of these goals. The EU action plan consists of ten initiatives, all aimed at:

  1. The redirection of capital flows towards sustainable investments.
  2. Appropriate consideration of sustainability risks in risk management.
  3. Promoting transparency to improve the evaluation of long-term value creation.

The Rise of Sustainable Finance

The transformation towards sustainable financial practices is not a temporary trend, but a profound change in financial sector values. Institutional investors recognize that sustainable action is not only an ethical imperative, but also enables stable and competitive portfolios over the long term. For example, companies that invest in renewable energy have not only had positive effects on the environment but also achieved stable returns over the long term.

SFDR Regulation

The SFDR requires companies to disclose how they integrate sustainability risks into their investment decision process, what negative effects their investment decisions have on sustainability, and whether they take into account the most important negative effects on sustainability. In addition, specific disclosure requirements are set for financial products that promote environmental or social characteristics or pursue sustainable investment goals.

The regulation is divided into three main areas or levels:

  1. Level 1: It sets out the framework and overarching requirements for disclosure and defines key concepts related to the disclosure of sustainability data.
  2. Level 2: Provides more detailed regulatory technical standards (RTS) on specific disclosure requirements, methodology, and alignment with international standards.
  3. Level 3: This part includes the concrete implementation of regulatory requirements. It sets out the specific requirements and criteria that financial firms must meet in order to integrate the disclosure of sustainability information into their investment strategies and products. It defines detailed requirements for the disclosure of environmental, social and governance-related aspects.

You can read about SFDR and the EU taxonomy here: https://www.bavest.co/en/knowledge-hub/sfdr-and-eu-taxonomy 

ESG Criteria as a Central Assessment Tool

The increased consideration of ESG criteria as a basic assessment tool reflects the recognition that financial performance and social responsibility are linked. Environmental, social and governance factors are no longer viewed in isolation, but as decisive elements that significantly influence the risks and opportunities of investments. For example, an efficient governance structure can contribute to the stability of a company in the long term. Sustainability comprises three basic pillars: economic, environmental and social aspects. It includes promoting an economy that not only functions but also regenerates itself, and is committed to equitable growth and the conscious use of resources. From an ecological point of view, it is about preserving nature while using its resources responsibly. In social terms, it aims at community satisfaction and promotes balanced and inclusive development that meets people's needs without jeopardizing the well-being of future generations.

Integrating ESG into Investment Strategies

Integrating ESG criteria into investment strategies requires a holistic approach. A systematic selection of sustainable investments, such as green bonds, and the integration of ESG risks into portfolio allocation are not only ethically motivated, but also strengthen the resilience of portfolios to unpredictable market developments. This preventive measure can help ensure long-term financial stability.

Four different investment concepts have now been established here:

  1. ESG selection: In this category of selection, companies are excluded from certain industrial sectors that are considered socially or ecologically problematic. This includes, for example, mineral oil, defense or gaming companies. There is also occasionally a blanket exclusion of companies that do not meet internationally recognized standards, such as lack of measures against child labor.
  2. ESG integration: As part of ESG integration, specific ESG factors are included in all investment decisions, across all asset classes. This means that companies that cannot demonstrate a defined minimum level of ESG commitment in industry comparisons are automatically excluded.
  3. Sustainable and Responsible Investments (SRI): SRI selects companies that set particularly high ESG standards. In doing so, non-financial information is given the same value as financial information. There are various approaches to SRI investments, such as creating funds that include companies that demonstrate outstanding commitment to SDG or are particularly committed to social projects.
  4. Impact investing: The aim of so-called impact investing is companies whose business model is primarily aimed at making a positive social or ecological contribution. This supports companies in the area of sustainable agriculture or the production of renewable energy.

Implementation Challenges

Implementing sustainable investments and the ESG approach meets a number of challenges, particularly with regard to small and mid-cap companies. Here are some of the key issues:

  1. Lack of high-quality data: Small and mid-cap companies in particular often lack high-quality ESG data. These companies may not have the resources or incentives to produce comprehensive ESG reports. This makes it difficult for investors to make an accurate assessment of the sustainability performance of these companies.
  2. Fragmentation of standards: There are a variety of ESG standards and guidelines, leading to fragmentation. Investors are faced with the challenge of comparing and interpreting various data sets in order to make well-founded decisions. Harmonizing ESG standards could improve comparability and transparency.
  3. Complexity of ESG factors: ESG factors are often complex and can be interpreted in different ways. Integrating these factors into investment decisions requires specialized knowledge and analytical methods. It can be a challenge to develop a consistent understanding of how specific ESG criteria should be assessed.
  4. Risk Assessment and Uncertainty: The risk profile of ESG factors is dynamic and can be difficult to predict. Investors are faced with the challenge of evaluating the long-term impact of ESG risks on their portfolios. Uncertainty about the future development of environmental and social factors can make risk assessment difficult.

In particular, a lack of ESG data for small and mid-caps is currently a problem that we at Bavest have addressed. With the help of AI and also our ESG analysts, we are able to automatically and reliably collect ESG data for small and mid-caps. You can find out more about our ESG data here: https://www.bavest.co/en/solutions/esg-climate-solutions 

Opportunities for Investors and the Sector

Sustainable investing and the ESG approach offer a wide range of opportunities for investors as well as for the entire financial sector. Here are some of the key options:

  1. Long-term stability and return: Sustainable investments have the potential to generate long-term stability and returns. Companies that focus on sustainable practices tend to be better prepared for environmental and social challenges, which can lead to stable financial performance over the long term.
  2. Risk Management and Resilience: Taking environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into investment decisions improves risk management. Investors who integrate ESG factors are better positioned to be prepared for critical risks, such as environmental impacts or social unrest. This contributes to the resilience of portfolios.
  3. Meeting investor expectations: More and more investors are looking for investment opportunities that are in line with their ethical and sustainable principles. By integrating ESG criteria, financial institutions and investors can meet the increasing demand for sustainable investments while gaining investor trust.
  4. Access to innovative markets: Sustainable investments provide access to innovative markets and new business opportunities. Sectors such as renewable energy, environmentally friendly technologies and socially responsible companies not only offer sustainable prospects, but also potential for growth and innovation.
  5. Brand value and corporate image: Financial companies that actively promote sustainable investments can strengthen their brand value and corporate image. This can lead to a differentiated positioning in an increasingly competitive market environment and promote customer trust.
  6. Compliance and regulatory benefits: With a growing focus on sustainable financial practices and ESG criteria, investors and financial firms can achieve regulatory benefits. Compliance with sustainability standards and guidelines can not only meet legal requirements, but also minimize the risk of regulatory sanctions.
  7. Role as a pioneer in the sector: Investors who position themselves as pioneers in sustainable investing can take on a leading role in the sector. This not only makes a positive impact on society, but can also create long-term strategic advantages and business opportunities.


The impact of sustainable finance and ESG in asset management is profound and opens up promising prospects for a sustainable future. Asset managers have a unique opportunity not only to maximize financial gains but also to make a measurable contribution to a more sustainable world. A collective industry effort, backed by clear regulations and committed investors, can accelerate change and shape a sustainable financial landscape that is both ethically and economically responsible.


More articles