For years, there have been mutual funds and ETFs focused on companies scoring well on various environmental, social and governance metrics. ESG investments have often lagged the broader market, but are now seemingly having a moment.
For example, the iShares ESG MSCI USA (ESGU), Vanguard ESG US Stock (ESGV) and FlexShares STOXX US ESG impact (ESG) ETFs are each up about 10% over the past year, easily outperforming the Dow and S&P 500 over the same time frame. Index provider MSCI (MSCI) even ranks companies based on their ESG performance. Some of the top firms include Microsoft (MSFT), Texas Instruments (TXN), Home Depot (HD), Hasbro (HAS) and Owens Corning (OC). And according to research from mutual fund tracker EPFR, funds with socially responsible or environmental, social and governance mandates attracted more new money last week for the 11th time in the past 12 weeks. EPFR said that so far this year, ESG funds have brought in $61.6 billion in new money. "One of the reasons you are seeing investors embrace ESG is that this is no longer about just avoiding companies that are doing bad things and controversial sectors," said Blake Pontius, director of sustainable investing and portfolio specialist for William Blair's global equity team. "There has been a change in consumer preferences. Millennials are willing to pay more for a product based on how ingredients are sourced, how companies treat their employees and how energy efficient they are," Pontius said in an interview with CNN Business.