Reframing the debate over responsible investment

30 March 2023 by National Bank Investments
Image of NBI Monthly Edition – April 2023

The ongoing argument pitting the champions of performance against the advocates of responsible investment (RI) turns out to be a largely false debate.

The opposing viewpoints

Milton Friedman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, argued in 1970 that the social responsibility of business is to increase its profits1. Proponents of RI, on the other hand, maintain that companies should target broader objectives while conducting their activities. According to them, environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors should also be taken into account when assessing their performance. These perspectives, however, are not mutually exclusive.  

The performance imperative

Research shows that integrating ESG criteria in conjunction with traditional financial analysis can allow investors to seize long-term growth opportunities. Taking them into consideration can improve risk management and contribute to more stable returns over time. The issue, therefore, is not whether profits are necessary, but rather how they are generated.

  • Sustainable development practises can prevent environmental damage and the associated backlash from stakeholders. 
  • Inclusive hiring and progressive human resource policies can help attract and retain top talent while reducing costly turnover. 
  • Better governance rules can increase shareholder value by preventing short-sighted decisions that may harm long-term profitability.

The Responsible Investment Association’s 2022 Canadian RI Trends Report illustrates how generating better risk-adjusted returns drives the respondents’ integration of ESG factors into their decision-making process.  

The key takeaway

The best way for any business to achieve a sustainable competitive advantage is to build and maintain mutually beneficial relationships with its stakeholders. Demanding accountability from issuers can prove lucrative for investors. Granted, those who push the responsible investment agenda today may have loftier goals in mind than profits, but that doesn’t mean their methods are bad for business.

NBI sustainable funds

For investors interested in responsible investment, here are some sustainable funds offered by National Bank Investments. 

NBI Sustainable Canadian Equity Fund (NBC5753)

NBI Sustainable Global Equity Fund (NBC5754)

NBI Sustainable Canadian Bond Fund (NBC5752)

Legal notes

The information and opinions herein are provided for information purposes only and are subject to change without notice. The opinions are not intended as investment advice nor are they provided to promote any particular investments and should in no way form the basis for your investment decisions. National Bank Investments Inc. has taken the necessary measures to ensure the quality and accuracy of the information contained herein at the time of publication. It does not, however, guarantee that the information is accurate or complete, and this communication creates no legal or contractual obligation on the part of National Bank Investments Inc.

NBI Funds (the “Funds”) are offered by National Bank Investments Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of National Bank of Canada. Commissions, trailing commissions, management fees and expenses all may be associated with mutual fund investments. Please read the prospectus of the Funds before investing. The Funds’ securities are not insured by the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation or by any other government deposit insurer. The Funds are not guaranteed, their values change frequently, and past performance may not be repeated.

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National Bank Investments is a signatory of the United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment, a member of Canada’s Responsible Investment Association, and a founding participant in the Climate Engagement Canada initiative.

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