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Equities

A closer look at custom ESG equity indexes for ETFs

Windmill farm on a grassy hill

Nuveen has worked with MSCI to develop a custom equity index methodology that reflects Nuveen’s approach to investment strategies focused on environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors. Each custom index seeks to deliver the investment performance of a broad-based, conventional “parent” index by investing in a subset of securities that meet certain ESG criteria. The use of these indexes provides exposure to companies within the parent indexes that exhibit both positive ESG characteristics and lower carbon exposure, while seeking to achieve risk and return characteristics similar to those 0f the respective parent index. 

The following analysis examines the absolute and risk-adjusted returns of these custom ESG equity indexes using standard deviation and Sharpe ratios as of 31 December 2021. We also assess tracking error and information ratios to provide further insights into how these indexes have performed and what advantages they may offer.

Key takeaways

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Endnotes

1 In addition to the eight custom ESG indexes analyzed here, a ninth, the TIAA ESG USA High Dividend Yield Index, was introduced on 27 September 2021, precluding it from being part of the analysis for the time periods covered in this piece.

2 https://www.msci.com/eqb/methodology/meth_docs/TIAA_ESG_Indexes_Methodology_Mar2019.pdf.

The performance data and risk characteristics in this analysis are from custom indexes that are owned and calculated by MSCI, based on MSCI parent indexes. MSCI Inc. does not make any representation regarding the advisability of investing in strategies that use the custom indexes as benchmarks.

The views and opinions expressed are for informational and educational purposes only as of the date of production/writing and may change without notice at any time based on numerous factors, such as market or other conditions, legal and regulatory developments, additional risks and uncertainties and may not come to pass. This material may contain “forward-looking” information that is not purely historical in nature. Such information may include, among other things, projections, forecasts, estimates of market returns, and proposed or expected portfolio composition. Any changes to assumptions that may have been made in preparing this material could have a material impact on the information presented herein by way of example. Past performance does not predict or guarantee future results. Investing involves risk; principal loss is possible.

All information has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but its accuracy is not guaranteed. There is no representation or warranty as to the current accuracy, reliability or completeness of, nor liability for, decisions based on such information and it should not be relied on as such. For term definitions and index descriptions, please access the glossary on nuveen.com. Please note, it is not possible to invest directly in an index.

Important information on risk

All investments carry a certain degree of risk, including possible loss of principal, and there is no assurance that an investment will provide positive performance over any period of time. Investments in Responsible Investments are subject to the risk that because social criteria exclude securities of certain issuers for nonfinancial investors may forgo some market opportunities available to those that don’t use these criteria. Impact investing and/or Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) managers may take into consideration factors beyond traditional financial information to select securities, which could result in relative investment performance deviating from other strategies or broad market benchmarks, depending on whether such sectors or investments are in or out of favor in the market. Further, ESG strategies may rely on certain values based criteria to eliminate exposures found in similar strategies or broad market benchmarks, which could also result in relative investment performance deviating. Investment products may be subject to market and other risk factors.

Equity investments are subject to market risk or the risk that stocks will decline in response to such factors as adverse company news or industry developments or a general economic decline. Debt or fixed income securities are subject to market risk, credit risk, interest rate risk, call risk, tax risk, political and economic risk, and income risk. As interest rates rise, bond prices fall. Non-U.S. investments involve risks such as currency fluctuation, political and economic instability, lack of liquidity and differing legal and accounting standards. These risks are magnified in emerging markets. This report should not be regarded by the recipients as a substitute for the exercise of their own judgment. It is important to review your investment objectives, risk tolerance and liquidity needs before choosing an investment style or manager.

Nuveen provides investment advisory solutions through its investment specialists.

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