Sustainable Investment Strategies : A Quantitative Evaluation of Sustainable Investment Strategies For Index Funds

University essay from Umeå universitet/Institutionen för matematik och matematisk statistik; Umeå universitet/Institutionen för matematik och matematisk statistik

Abstract: Modern society is faced with the complex and intractable challenge of global warming, along with other environmental issues that could potentially alter our way of life if not managed properly. Is it possible that financial markets and equity investors could have a huge part to play in the transformation towards a greener and more sustainable world? Previous studies about investment strategies regarding sustainability have for the most part been centered around possibly less objective ESG-scores or around carbon and GHG-emissions only, with little or no consideration for water usage and waste management. This thesis aims to amend to the previous work on carbon reducing strategies and ESG-investing with the addition of water usage and waste management, especically using raw data of these measures instead of ESG-ratings. Index replicating portfolios have become more and more popular as it proves harder and harder to beat the index, offering good returns along with cheap and uncomplicated portfolio construction and management. In a trending market, the fear of missing out and the demand for market return can make an index replicating strategy a way for investors to have market exposure but still remain diversied and without confusion about which horses to bet on. This thesis studies the relationship between tracking-error and the increase of sustainability in a portfolio through reduction of the intensity of carbon emissions, water usages and poor waste management. To be able to make a fair comparison, these measures are normalized by dividing each measure by the reported annual revenue. These three obtained intensities are then implemented individually, as well as all together into index replicating portfolios in order to study the effect from decreasing them. First and foremost we study the effect on the tracking-error, but also the effects on returns and volatility. We also study the effect on liquidity and turnover in the portfolios to show that it is possible to implement extensive sustainability increasing methods into an index replication equity portfolio. We follow the UCITS-directory to avoid overweightin specic companies and only allow the portfolios to overweight a sector with maximum 2%, in order to avoid an unwanted exposure to sectors with naturally lower intensities. The portfolios are obtained by using a multi-factor risk model to predict the expected statistical behaviour in relation to the chosen factors. Followed by applying Markowitz Modern Portfolio Theory through a convex optimization problem with the objective function to minimize tracking-error. All displayed portfolios had stable and convex optimization and were compliant with the UCITS-directory. We limited our study to only North American stocks and chose the index "MCSI NA" to replicate. Only stocks that were a part of the index were allowed to invest in and we did not allow negative weights for any stocks. The portfolios were constructed and backtested for the period 2014-12-01 until 2019-03-01 with rebalancing quarterly at the same points in time that the index is rebalanced by MCSI. We found that it was possible to implement extensive sustainability considerations into the portfolios and still keep a high correlation with the index whilst keeping low tracking-errors. We believe that most index replicating investors should be able to implement reductions of above mentioned intensities of about 40-60% without compromising tracking-errors,returns and volatility too much. We found evidence that during this time and in this market our low-intensities portfolios would have overperformed the index. We also found that returns increased and volatility decreased as we increased the reduction of each individual measure and all three collectively. Reducing carbon intensity seemed to drive positive returns and lower volatility the most, but we also observed apositive effect from reduction of all intensities. Our belief before conducting this study was that sustainability should have a negative effect on returns due to the limitation of the feasible area of investing. This motivated us to build portfolios with intent to makeup for these lesser returns and hopefully "beat the index". This failed in almost all cases and the only way we were able to beat the index were through implementing sustainability in our portfolios.

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