Is there a cost of being ethical?

University essay from KTH/Fastigheter och byggande; KTH/Fastigheter och byggande


Sweden is one of the countries in the world where investing in mutual funds is most prevalent among the population. The supply of funds in the market has increased significantly in recent decades as well as the public debate on ethical issues. This has contributed to the development of the market for ethical funds. There is no clear definition of what an ethical fund is but generally it is a fund that takes into account factors related to social responsibility in different ways.

This study analyzes the ethical funds historical performance levels in comparison with the corresponding traditional mutual funds. Three questions have been answered with the help of quantitative and qualitative analysis. A computational model has been constructed in Excel to analyze historical data from a range of ethical funds and traditional mutual funds. The results of the calculations are the basis for the quantitative portion of the analysis. These have been supplemented by external expertise. The effects, which the commodity prices have had on the yield differences between traditional and ethical funds, have also been studied. In this study, the price of oil has been chosen to illustrate these effects.

It is not possible to reliably reach any general conclusions about how ethical funds as a fund category have performed in comparison with the corresponding traditional mutual funds. However, a pattern is observed, that the risk levels for the selected ethical funds, during the periods studied when the market went sharply up or down, respectively, were higher in all cases. The reason for this seems to be the diversification problems that have arisen due to the ethical constraints, something that both the underlying theory on the subject and the discussion with one of Swedbank Roburs portfolio manager’s support. The increased level of risk has contributed to the fact that ethical funds have found it harder to reach an equivalent risk-adjusted rate of return when the bull and the bear markets were examined.

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