The Causal Relationships Between ESG and Financial Asset Classes : A multiple investment horizon wavelet approach of the non-linear directionality

University essay from Linköpings universitet/Nationalekonomi; Linköpings universitet/Nationalekonomi

Abstract: This thesis investigates if Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) investments can be considered as an independent asset class. As ESG and responsible investing has increased substantially in recent years, responsible investments have entered the portfolios with other asset classes too. Therefore, there is a need in studying ESG investment properties with other financial asset classes. By collecting daily price data from October 2007 to December 2018, we research the directionalities between ESG, ethical, conventional, commodities and currency. Initially, we employed a MODWT, multiscale investment horizon wavelet analysis transformation of the data. The decomposed wavelet data is then applied in pairwise linear and non-linear Granger causality estimations to study the directionality relationships dependent on investment horizon. Additionally, econometric filtering processes have been employed to study the effects of volatility on directionality relationships. The results mainly suggest significant directionality relationships between ESG and the other asset classes. On the medium-term investment horizon, almost all estimations indicate strict bidirectionality. Thus, on the medium-term, ESG can be said to be integrated with the other asset classes. For the long-term horizon, most relationships are still predominantly bidirectional between ESG and all other asset classes. The biggest differences are found on the short-term horizon, with no directionality found between ESG and commodities that cannot be explained by volatility. Furthermore, most directionality relationships also disappear when controlling for the volatility transmission between ESG and currency on the short-term horizon. Thus, our findings suggest significantly more integration between ESG and ethical and conventional as bidirectionality overwhelmingly prevails regardless of investment horizon. As previous research has found similarities between ethical and conventional as well as ESG having similar characteristics to commodities as conventional and ethical, we suggest that ESG should be considered as being integrated and having strong similarities with other equities. Thus, it should be treated as being part of the conventional equity asset class. Deviations from bidirectionality could be caused by ESG variable specific heterogeneity. However, despite our rejection of ESG as an independent asset class, it still carries significant potential as it excludes firms with climate-harming practices, thereby helping in combating climate-related as well as social and governance issues the world is facing.

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