What is ESG investing?

Environment, social and governance (ESG) investing is on the rise. Here’s what you need to know about this approach to investing your money sustainably.

When you think of investing, what image springs to mind? If it’s the ruthless, Gordon Gekko-esque figure of the 80s and 90s, push it aside. Over the past decade, investing has gone and got itself a conscience.

Woman walking down lane

The value of an investment is no longer just about how much money it can make you – but also about the positive impact it can have on the world. And that’s where ESG investing comes in.

ESG – or environment, social and governance investing, for those not keen on acronyms – has been gaining popularity particularly. In a recent survey conducted by Aviva 7 in 10 pension investors agreed that it’s important to consider ESG factors when investing their pension1.  

And it’s not just woke millennials getting involved either, 7 in 10 pension holders over the age of 45 believe this is an important1.  But what does putting your money into ESG funds mean – and how can you be reassured your money is actively doing good? Here’s what you need to know about ESG investing.

ESG investing: the basics

Taking an ESG approach to investing means that an investor will take environmental, social, and governance criteria into account when they’re considering investing in an asset. 

So, if an investor was looking at putting their money into a company, they’d assess the organisation’s environmental factors, like the business’ energy consumption, their policy on climate change, or their waste production. 

They’d look at social factors, like the company’s community engagement, how well they protect human rights, or employee relations. 

And they’d look at the company’s governance – the way the business is run – such as the quality of management, diversity of the board, or conflicts of interest. 

What about return on investment?

Evaluating ESG criteria is a way of enhancing traditional financial analysis, not replacing it. The aim isn’t solely to make sure that investment is ethical; the main objective of ESG, as with any investment, is financial performance.

Of course, as with any investment, the value of ESG funds could always go down as well as up and you could get back less than you put in.

ESG and other responsible investments

Unlike ESG, some responsible investments are focused on specific sustainable outcomes.

For example, some ethical investments try to exclude so-called sin stocks, like investments in tobacco, oil, or gambling. ESG, meanwhile, goes one step further. Instead of focussing on excluding the bad, it positively includes the good.

Rather than simply removing all sin-stocks, an ESG approach seeks to include assets that score highly on those all-important environment, social and governance factors. So, you can be assured that your money is being put into companies that have been actively identified as doing good.

The differences go beyond ethics, too. From a financial point of view, ethical investments may prioritise social responsibility over profits and are sometimes criticised for the difficulty that presents in building a truly diverse investment portfolio.

ESG instead puts potential returns on investment and responsible investment on more equal terms.

Putting your money where your values lie

With an Aviva pension you may not to need to pay more or compromise on returns to invest in line with your values. Find out more about Aviva’s investment options.

Watch our short video to learn more about ESG investing.

As with all investments, it’s worth speaking to a financial broker first to make sure it’s the right choice for you. Find our local financial broker.

Interested in ESG investing?

Visit our responsible investing page to learn more about ESG investing.


Important information to consider.

Warning: Past performance is not a reliable guide to future performance.

Warning: The value of your investment may go down as well as up.

Warning: These funds may be affected by changes in currency exchange rates.

Warning: If you invest in this product you will not have access to your money until you retire.

1. Source: iReach survey carried out on behalf of Aviva May 2021.  Survey covers 570 Irish pension holders.

Aviva Life & Pensions Ireland Designated Activity Company, a private company limited by shares. Registered in Ireland No. 165970. Registered office at Building 12, Cherrywood Business Park, Loughlinstown, Co. Dublin, D18 W2P5. Aviva Life & Pensions Ireland Designated Activity Company, trading as Aviva Life & Pensions Ireland and Friends First, is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland. Tel (01) 898 7950.