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Why Investors Need to Focus on ESG in 2022

iStock 1361089205 - Global Banking | Finance

By Gediminas Rickevičius, VP of Global Partnerships at Oxylabs

Gediminas Rickevicius - Global Banking | Finance

Gediminas Rickevičius, VP of Global Partnerships at Oxylabs

Can investment choices produce positive outcomes for the economy, environment, and global population? According to some governmental organizations and financial institutions, the answer lies in implementing Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) guidelines when choosing an investment portfolio.

ESG promises to positively influence investing and achieve positive goals that benefit humanity and the planet. Web scraping helps achieve these aims by collecting data and checking if company activities conform to ESG guidelines. While there are many challenges associated with ESG, recent data demonstrates that these investment trends have grown in previous years and are expected to increase in the future.

ESG Explained

ESG is an investment approach that assesses investment outcomes based on social goals in three areas: (1) environmental, (2) social issues, and (3) corporate governance.

Environmental Goals

ESG environmental goals primarily address climate change concerns, greenhouse gas emission reduction, water management, and waste reduction. As a result, ESG-focused investments are screened for impacts on possible factors of climate change and other environmental issues. For example, investments in fossil-fuel-dependent businesses are considered less attractive when compared to sustainable or “green” sources of energy. 

Social Issues 

ESG guidelines attempt to divert investment activity to improve social issues, including human rights, consumer protection, and animal welfare. Other considerations examined include employee work conditions, financial institution practices (such as predatory lending), and how business activity impacts local communities. 

Another social subset of ESG policies addresses Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). Policies and programs that promote DEI encourage the participation and representation of individuals categorized under various ethnic, gender, religious, and cultural groups, including sexual orientation. In addition, ESG guidelines assess a company’s activities with other businesses and its relationship with local communities, charitable contributions, and health and safety policies.

Corporate Governance

Corporate governance is primarily concerned with a business’s internal processes, financial transparency, board composition, and executive compensation. Other factors include the relationships of management with employees and stakeholders, and internal regulations designed to promote ethical behaviour and prevent conflicts of interest.

ESG Data Trends

ESG investing is growing worldwide, and the trend is expected to increase. According to the Sustainable Investments Institute, shareholder support for social and environmental proposals rose from 21% in 2017 to 32% in 2021. 

Other notable ESG investment trends include:

  • $35.3 trillion in global assets under management across the United States, Canada, Japan, Australasia, and Europe in 2020
  • 55% growth in professionally-managed assets labeled as ESG from 2016 to 2020
  • 50% of investment assets labeled ESG in Europe following the EU’s 2016 ESG global mandate
  • Professionally-managed ESG investments represent more than 60% of assets in Canada, 33% in the U.S., and 24% in Japan 

While sustainable investment strategies have seen an increase in recent years, there has been a drop in ESG flows on some investment platforms. According to a recent report, year-over-year flows to ESG funds dropped 115% in January 2022. Despite the decline, some investors remain bullish, projecting that ESG assets may hit $53 trillion by 2025 – approximately one-third of all global assets under management.

ESG Concerns and Challenges

Responses to ESG guidelines are mixed, spanning from hopeful optimism to severe criticism. The most common concerns and challenges include:


Greenwashing (also known as “green sheen”) is a deceptive marketing scheme that persuades investors to believe that an organization’s goals, policies, and products are environmentally friendly.

Non-Transparent ESG Score Methodologies

ESG aims to grade companies by assigning a score based on their conformity to ESG guidelines. A predominant concern with these scores is that quantifying facts such as carbon footprint or investment in biodiversity and ecosystems is challenging. Lack of data, multiple sources, and inconsistent calculation formulas result in differing ESG scores and ratings depending on the methodology used. In addition, the time periods related to the data may not be consistent across all sets and typically require normalizing. 

Lack of ESG Data Standards

Selecting ESG data can be a largely subjective process without consistent data standards. Rather than conform to a regulatory authority, firms typically use multiple data sources to make their own implementation decisions, resulting in differing outcomes based on varying ESG scores.

How to Obtain ESG Data

Public ESG information can be found in government publications, corporate reports, investment news, and social media. Other sources include:

Third-party Data Sets

ESG data can be purchased from third-party agencies. Most services cover multiple sectors and country-specific data points. Some key areas of available data include: 

  • Health and Safety
  • Water Management
  • Climate Change Energy Management
  • Materials & Waste Removal
  • Air Quality
  • Employee Compensation
  • Shareholders’ Rights
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • Audit Risk & Oversight
  • Board Independence, Structure & Tenure

Considerations for Selecting ESG Data Sets

When selecting data sets from third-party agencies, investment firms can refer to emerging regulations when creating frameworks, conducting analysis, and making portfolio decisions. Since data vendors have different ESG ratings, creating an evaluation framework enables investors to take critical differences into account when evaluating individual company scores. 

Ethical Web Scraping 

Web scraping uses scripts or “bots” to extract data from public websites. These scripts crawl websites with a specific set of keywords and send requests for information that is collected and parsed into a format that analysts can read.

Web scraping can be used to collect publicly available ESG data from multiple sources, including company websites, social media networks, online directories, and news websites. Companies opting to scrape their own data can do so via an in-house team of developers and analysts. Other businesses opt for ready-to-use tools that can be customized to extract public data from predefined target sources. Since the process of accessing websites can be complex, datacenter and residential proxies are used to provide anonymity, distribute requests, avoid geo-restrictions, and prevent server issues. 

Global Banking & Finance Review


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