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Leaders | Sustainable investing
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英文部分选自经济学人20220716社论版块
Leaders | Sustainable investing
社论 | 可持续投资

ESG should be boiled down to one simple measure: emissions

ESG归根到底还得看减排力度

Three letters that won’t save the planet

区区三个字母,焉能拯救地球家园
If you are the type of person who is loth to invest in firms that pollute the planet, mistreat workers and stuff their boards with cronies, you will no doubt be aware of one of the hottest trends in finance: environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing. It is an attempt to make capitalism work better and deal with the grave threat posed by climate change. It has ballooned in recent years; the titans of investment management claim that more than a third of their assets, or $35trn in total, are monitored through one ESG lens or another. It is on the lips of bosses and officials everywhere.
如果在你这儿,污染地球、虐待工人、在董事会中安插亲信的公司有多远滚多远,一毛钱也不会投,那么你肯定知道金融领域时下最热门的投资趋势之一:环境、社会和企业治理(ESG)投资。ESG投资旨在让资本向善,以及应对气候变化带来的严重威胁。近年来,ESG投资可谓欣欣向荣、蓬勃发展。投资管理巨头们声称,其超过三分之一的在管资产,约合35万亿美元,都或多或少地受到ESG指标的约束。世界各地的老板和官员们无不把ESG挂在嘴边。
You might hope that big things would come from this. You would be wrong. Sadly those three letters have morphed into shorthand for hype and controversy. Right-wing American politicians blame a “climate cartel” for soaring prices at the petrol pump. Whistleblowers accuse the industry of “greenwashing” by deceiving its clients. Firms from Goldman Sachs to Deutsche Bank face regulatory probes. As our special report this week concludes, although ESG is often well-meaning it is deeply flawed. It risks setting conflicting goals for firms, fleecing savers and distracting from the vital task of tackling climate change. It is an unholy mess that needs to be ruthlessly streamlined.
如果你希望ESG大有作为,那就大错特错了。令人遗憾的是,ESG这三个字母已经慢慢变味,成为炒作和争议的代名词。美国右翼政客们因油价飙高而贬责气候卡特尔。举报者则拉响警报:该行业通过种种漂绿行径欺骗客户。从高盛到德意志银行,数家公司皆面临相关监管调查。正如本周的特别报道指出,尽管ESG本意通常是好的,但确实存在严重缺陷:给企业设定了互相冲突的目标、敲储户竹杠、以及偏离了全力聚焦于应对气候变化这一重要任务。眼下的ESG行业一片污秽、乱象丛生,亟待大刀阔斧地进行整改。
注释:
1. climate cartel
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) is calling for investigation and is asking pointed questions: Have ESG-promoting companies bonded together to form a cartel in order to destroy competition for their own products? Have they broken anti-trust laws?
ESG ‘Climate Cartel’ Finally Connected To Soaring Fuel Prices – David Icke
2.greenwash:洗绿,漂绿,一词通常被用在描述一家公司或单位投入可观的金钱或时间在以环保为名的形象广告上,而非将资源投注在实际的环保实务中。Greenwash是在whitewash(粉饰,洗白)基础上衍生而来,green指绿色、环保,作为后缀的wash有粉刷、在……上涂清漆的意思,进而延伸出制造错误印象或误导性信息(false impression or misleading information)的含义,组合而成的greenwash就成了打着环保旗号牟利的洗绿,也称漂绿
给荒山刷绿漆来制造绿色假象,或者通过投放药剂让污染严重的河水暂时达标,这可以说是典型但低阶的洗绿形式。一些宣扬使用天然面料的平价服装品牌,甚至以环保为存在前提的新能源企业也常被认为有洗绿之嫌。
苹果公司202010月推出iPhone12系列手机时宣布,为减少碳排放,不再附赠充电器。巴西圣保罗州保护消费者权益基金会为此向苹果公司开出200万美元罚单,并认定此举没有任何环保效益。这让人想到greenwash一词的起源。1986年,针对酒店鼓励住客重复使用毛巾并称这种做法是在拯救地球(save our planet)的现象,美国环保人士杰伊·韦斯特费尔德创造了greenwash。他认为酒店在废弃物回收等更重要的环保问题上并未积极行动,反复利用毛巾不过是以环保之名,行牟利之实。
无论洗绿者(greenwasher)牟取的是政治前途还是商业利润,都没有为环保做出真正的贡献,甚至造成二次污染与资源浪费(secondary pollution and resource wasting)。当前,气候变暖给世界各地带来了冲击,甚至被认为已经威胁到人类文明的存续,在需要拿出实际行动拯救地球、拯救人类自己的时候,greenwashing可以休矣。
The term ESG dates as far back as 2004. The idea is that investors should evaluate firms based not just on their commercial performance but also on their environmental and social record and their governance, typically using numerical scores. Several forces have thrust it into the mainstream. More people want to invest in a way that aligns with their concerns about global warming and injustice. More companies, including a sister firm of The Economist, offer ESG analysis. With governments often gridlocked, many people feel business should solve society’s problems and serve all stakeholders, including suppliers and workers, not just shareholders. And then there is the self-interest of an asset-management industry never known to look a gift horse in the mouth: selling sustainability products allows it to charge more, easing a long blight of falling fees.
ESG这个说法最早可以追溯到2004年,鼓励投资者在评估企业时,不仅仅局限于其商业绩效,还应该将其环境保护、社会表现以及企业治理情况(通常采用评分的方式)纳入考量范围。ESG成为主流归功于几股力量的共同作用。投资者方面,越来越多的人希望自己的投资行为能体现自身对全球变暖和公平公正的关注。企业方面,包括《经济学人》姐妹公司在内,越来越多的公司开始提供ESG分析。再加之政府常常在解决社会问题时陷入僵局,许多人因此认为企业应该挺身而出,关注包括供应商和工人在内的所有利益相关者的利益,而非只是股东至上。此外,资产管理行业出于自身利益考虑,从中推波助澜。这个历来对各类客户都来者不拒的行业发现,销售可持续产品能收取更高的费用,从而缓解费率长期下滑这一困扰。
注释:
Don'tlook a gift horse in the mouth. 馈赠之马,勿看牙口。此处用来表明资管行业接业务时不挑嘴。
Unfortunately ESG suffers from three fundamental problems. First, because it lumps together a dizzying array of objectives, it provides no coherent guide for investors and firms to make the trade-offs that are inevitable in any society. Elon Musk of Tesla is a corporate-governance nightmare, but by popularising electric cars he is helping tackle climate change. Closing down a coalmining firm is good for the climate but awful for its suppliers and workers. Is it really possible to build vast numbers of wind farms quickly without damaging local ecology? By suggesting that these conflicts do not exist or can be easily resolved, ESG fosters delusion.
不幸的是,ESG本身存在三大基本问题。第一,ESG制定的目标纷繁杂乱,投资者和公司根本无法获得清晰一致的指导以权衡利弊,而这些权衡在任何社会中都必不可少。特斯拉的埃隆·马斯克(Elon Musk)在公司治理上堪称噩梦,但却通过普及电动车,在应对气候变化问题上助力良多。关闭一家挖煤公司对气候有所裨益,但对其供应商和工人而言却糟糕透顶。在不破坏当地生态的情况下,快速建立大量风能发电厂,真的可能吗?认为这些冲突并不存在或解决起来易如反掌,这些都是ESG给人的错觉。
注释:
lump to put people or things into the same group, although they do not really belong together
The industry’s second problem is that it is not being straight about incentives. It claims that good behaviour is more lucrative for firms and investors. In fact, if you can stand the stigma, it is often very profitable for a business to externalise costs, such as pollution, onto society rather than bear them directly. As a result the link between virtue and financial outperformance is suspect. Finally ESG has a measurement problem: the various scoring systems have gaping inconsistencies and are easily gamed. Credit ratings have a 99% correlation across rating agencies. By contrast, ESG ratings tally little more than half the time. Firms can improve their ESG score by selling assets to a different owner who keeps running them just as before.
第二,ESG的激励机制不够明朗直接。它宣称善行能让企业和投资者获利更多。而事实上,如果企业能忍受骂名,将治理污染等成本转嫁给社会而非自己承担,收益通常更加可观。由此可见,美德和业绩之间的关系令人生疑。最后,ESG的衡量标准存在问题。各种评分系统并不一致,很容易钻空子。在信用评级市场,各评级机构的结果相关性高达99%,而这一指标在ESG评级市场才勉强过半。企业只需把资产出售给其他所有者,就能提高ESG评分,尽管新的所有者仍维持原来的经营模式。
As investors become wiser to such flim-flam, they are growing more sceptical. This, coupled with turmoil in financial markets, is slowing the influx of money into sustainable funds. It is surely time, then, for a rethink. The first step is to unbundle those three letters: e, s and g. The more targets there are to hit, the less chance of bullseye-ing any of them. Regarding s, in a dynamic, decentralised economy individual firms will make different decisions about their social conduct in the pursuit of long-run profits within the law. Tech firms may appeal to the values of young employees to retain them; firms in declining industries may have to lay people off. There is no one template. The art of management, or g, is too subtle to be captured by box-ticking. Britain’s listed firms have an elaborate governance code—and dismal performance.
投资者逐渐识破了这种把戏,也越来越怀疑ESG。加之金融市场的动荡,资金流入可持续发展的基金的速度正在减缓。因此,是时候彻底反思了。首先应该给ESG三个字母松绑。想追求的目标太多,结果往往是哪个都无法彻底解决。关于S(代表社会Social),在动态变化的去中心化经济中,个体公司要在法律允许范围内追求长期利润,会做出不同的社会行为。科技公司可能会迎合年轻员工的价值观来留住人才,而身处下行行业的公司则可能不得不裁员。各种情况不可一概而论。管理的艺术,也就是G(代表治理Governance )高深莫测,非打勾评分所能体现。英国上市公司的治理准则不可谓不精妙,而它们的业绩却一片愁云惨淡。
It is better to focus simply on the e. Yet even that is not precise enough. The environment is an all-encompassing term, including biodiversity, water scarcity and so on. By far the most significant danger is from emissions, particularly those generated by carbon-belching industries. Put simply, the e should stand not for environmental factors, but for emissions alone. Investors and regulators are already pushing to make disclosure by firms of their emissions more uniform and universal. The more standardised they are, the easier it will be to assess which companies are large carbon culprits—and which are doing most to reduce emissions. Fund managers and banks should be better able to track the carbon footprints of their portfolios and whether they shrink over time.
最好还是只关注E,也就是环境。但是这还不够确切,因为环境是个包罗万象的概念,包括生物多样性、水资源短缺等。目前最严重的环境威胁来自排放物,尤其是那些碳排大户行业。简单来说,E应该单指排放,而不是各种环境要素。投资者和监管机构已经在敦促所有公司以统一的方式公开排放信息。信息披露越标准,就越容易看出哪些企业是碳排放元凶,哪些企业的减排做得最好。基金经理和银行也能更好地追踪投资组合中的碳足迹,看碳排放是否逐渐下降。

Unsustainable

不可持续
Better information alone will help in the struggle against global warming. By revealing more accurately which firms pollute, it will help the public understand what really makes a difference to the climate. A growing number of altruistic consumers and investors may choose to favour clean firms even if it costs them financially. And even if they can get away with polluting today, many firms and investors expect that tighter regulation of carbon emissions will eventually come and want to measure their risks and adapt their business models.
仅在信息披露上做得更好就能帮助应对全球变暖。更准确地披露哪些公司对环境造成污染后,公众可以更加了解气候问题的关键所在。越来越多利他的消费者和投资者宁愿在经济上有所牺牲,也要选择支持绿色环保公司。即便目前许多企业和投资者没有因为污染环境而受到惩罚,他们仍然可以预见,对碳排放的监管必定会更加严格,他们也会权衡利弊,及时调整商业模式。
Make no mistake, though: tougher government action is essential now. We have long argued for much higher carbon prices that would harness the market to save the planet. Today pricing schemes cover 23% of global emissions, about double the level of five years ago. But far more needs to be done, not least in America. It is government action, combined with clear and consistent disclosure, that can save the planet, not an abbreviation that is in danger of standing for exaggerated, superficial guff.
不要误会,当前,政府采取更加有力的行动仍是当务之急。一直以来,我们主张提高碳价,发挥市场的作用应对气候变化。目前,各种碳定价机制已经覆盖全球23%的碳排放,几乎是五年前的两倍。但是这还远远不够,美国尤其如此。要想拯救地球,需要政府的行动以及透明一致的信息披露制度,而不是ESG这个可能沦为夸张(exaggerated)且肤浅(superficial)的废话(guff)的首字母缩写。
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