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Webinar: ESG Investing and Market Pricing. Ayumi Mori, Seikei University, Musashino-shi, Tokyo, Japan

The speakers for this March 7th webinar event were Ms. Ann-Maree Tippoo, ESG Investment Portfolio Manager at Ninety One and professor Satayjit Bose, Professor of Practice; Associate Director, Program in Sustainability Management, Columbia University. The main focus was to identify key drivers for sustainability and to determine whether traditional investors understand or are interested in sustainability. A final goal was to see if an ESG lens can help investors identify places where markets might be mispricing assets or projects.

To start, they defined the current controversy in ESG. Professor Bose suggested the controversy was due to multiple definitions of ESG. These depend on how some people see ESG. He explained ESG is about defining what non-financial factors are and how these make it possible for sustainably generate returns. This democratic approach makes ESG factors unratable since they differ from investor to investor. 

Next, they moved onto the issue of identifying mispricing. A key question concerns the ability of an investor and whether they're educated for this change in approach. The speakers explained that, as mentioned above, ESG can mean various things to various people but it is essential parts of investing now and growing. This presages future difficulty due to ESG rapidly shifting with global issues, and the lack of consistency along different ESG strands. They also highlighted the need to change the analytical monoculture to look beyond the 5 years time horizon, typically the longest time period used by investors now in order to incorporate environmental and other ESG effects.

Lastly, they expressed the importance of incorporating ESG to people’s investment styles and that a solid definition of ESG will make discussion easier. They also stated that government action is necessary. However, they recognized the importance of intervening specifically to allow more flexibility for investors. They closed by speaking about the probability that pension funds will be the primary type of investor looking far into the future, changing investment timelines and perspectives to a longer term, providing the change we need to make ESG work

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