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Sustainable Investment Funds: Aligning Your Portfolio with Your Values

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Quick Answer: Examples of Sustainable Investment Funds?

  1. iShares ESG Aware MSCI USA ETF (ESGU) 
  2. Fidelity Sustainable MoneyBuilder Income
  3. Legal & General Future World ESG Developed Index
  4. Invesco S&P International Developed Dividend Aristocrats ESG Index ETF (IIAE)
  5. Vanguard ESG International Stock ETF 


Sustainable investment funds prioritize environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria, allowing investors to support ethical practices while seeking financial returns. These funds aim to generate positive impact alongside profit, aligning investments with personal values.


In recent years, the financial landscape has witnessed a profound transformation, with sustainable investing emerging as a powerful trend that transcends mere profit. This shift reflects a growing consciousness among investors worldwide who are not only seeking financial returns but are equally committed to making a positive impact on the environment and society. Sustainable investing represents a significant departure from traditional investment approaches, emphasizing the importance of ethical, environmental, and social values in the decision-making process.

At the heart of this movement are “sustainable funds,” vehicles designed to channel capital into companies and projects that adhere to stringent Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) criteria. These funds serve as a bridge between the financial objectives of investors and their desire to contribute to a more sustainable and equitable world. By prioritizing investments in organizations that are leaders in ESG practices, responsible investment funds aim to support initiatives that address critical issues such as climate change, social inequality, and corporate governance.

A responsible investment fund play a pivotal role in promoting ethical, sustainable, and governance practices by leveraging the power of investment capital to influence corporate behaviours and market trends. Through these funds, investors have the opportunity to drive positive change, ensuring that their investments work not only for their financial benefit but also for the betterment of society and the environment. As this investment philosophy continues to gain momentum, sustainable funds are increasingly seen not just as a niche option but as a fundamental component of a modern, forward-thinking investment portfolio.

The rise of sustainable investing is a testament to the evolving priorities of investors around the globe, who now recognize that financial success can and should be aligned with global sustainability goals. As we delve deeper into the mechanics, benefits, and strategies associated with sustainable funds, it becomes clear that this approach is not merely a trend but a paradigm shift in how we think about and engage with the world of finance.

Understanding Sustainable Investing

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Definition and Overview

Sustainable funds are investment vehicles that allocate capital towards companies and projects adhering to robust Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) criteria. These criteria serve as a framework to evaluate the sustainability and ethical impact of an investment in relation to environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and governance practices. Sustainable investing encompass a variety of fund types, including mutual funds and Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs), which offer investors the opportunity to contribute to societal goals while seeking financial returns.

Mutual funds focused on sustainability invest pooled resources from individuals into a diversified portfolio of stocks or bonds that meet specific Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) benchmarks. Similarly, ETFs provide a platform for investing in a basket of securities that reflect an index composed of sustainably operating companies. Both fund types are instrumental in directing investment flows towards businesses that are leaders in implementing energy-efficient technologies, fostering workplace diversity, and exhibiting strong corporate governance.

Growth of Sustainable Funds

The landscape of sustainable funds has experienced remarkable growth over the past decade. According to reports from the Global Sustainable Investment Alliance (GSIA), sustainable investment assets worldwide have grown significantly, with assets under management in these funds reaching trillions of dollars. This surge is not just a reflection of investor demand for more ethical investment options but also an acknowledgment of the potential for competitive, if not superior, returns compared to traditional investment funds.

Studies have increasingly shown that companies scoring high on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) criteria often exhibit lower risk profiles and better long-term performance. This is attributed to their forward-thinking approaches, resilience to regulatory changes, and ability to innovate in response to environmental challenges. Consequently, sustainable funds have not only matched but, in many cases, outperformed traditional funds, debunking the myth that ethical investing comes at the cost of financial gain.

Types of sustainable funds

Sustainable funds can be categorized into several types, each with a unique focus and investment strategy:

Green Bonds:

These are fixed-income securities specifically earmarked to raise money for climate and environmental projects. Green bonds are a direct way for investors to contribute to initiatives such as renewable energy projects, emission reduction efforts, and sustainable water management.

Social Impact Funds:

Aimed at generating social returns on investment, these funds focus on companies or projects that have a significant positive impact on society. This includes investments in affordable housing, healthcare, education, and social enterprises.

ESG-Focused Funds:

These funds select investments based on comprehensive Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) criteria, evaluating companies across a wide spectrum of sustainability metrics. ESG-focused funds invest in companies that lead in sustainable practices across all sectors, not limited to environmental initiatives.

Thematic Sustainability Funds:

Concentrating on specific sustainability themes, such as clean energy, water conservation, or sustainable agriculture, these funds offer investors targeted exposure to particular sectors driving forward the sustainability agenda.

Each type of sustainable investment fund offers investors different pathways to align their portfolios with their values, whether they are motivated by environmental concerns, social justice, or the desire for ethical governance. By choosing to invest in these funds, individuals not only champion sustainability but also contribute to a global shift towards more responsible corporate behavior and investment practices. This variety ensures that there is a sustainable investing option to match the goals and values of virtually any investor, reinforcing the role of finance in building a more sustainable future.

Why Sustainable Investing?

Aligning Investments with Values

Sustainable funds offer investors a powerful tool to align their financial goals with their ethical values. By choosing to invest in these funds, individuals can support companies that prioritize environmental protection, social responsibility, and ethical governance. This alignment allows investors to contribute to positive change in the world, such as combating climate change, enhancing workplace diversity, and promoting fair labor practices, without sacrificing their financial objectives. The act of investing, therefore, becomes not just a financial decision but a reflection of personal values and a contribution to a sustainable future.

Risk Management

Investing in companies with strong ESG practices can significantly reduce investment risk and lead to more stable returns. Companies that prioritize sustainability are often better positioned to navigate regulatory changes, adapt to environmental challenges, and mitigate risks associated with social issues. For example, companies that proactively address climate change risks through innovation and adaptation are less likely to face unexpected costs or regulatory penalties. Similarly, companies with strong governance structures are less susceptible to scandals or management crises that can erode shareholder value. Therefore, sustainable funds, by focusing on such companies, offer investors a way to manage risk more effectively, contributing to the overall resilience of their investment portfolio.


The myth that sustainable investing leads to lower returns has been increasingly debunked by empirical evidence. Numerous studies and performance data have shown that sustainable funds can offer competitive, if not superior, returns compared to traditional investment funds. A growing body of research suggests that companies with high ESG scores often exhibit stronger financial performance and lower volatility over the long term. This can be attributed to their forward-thinking strategies, efficient operations, and the ability to attract and retain talent. As such, sustainable funds do not require investors to choose between their values and financial performance; rather, they offer a pathway to achieving both.

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How to Choose the Right Sustainable Investment Fund

Researching Funds

Selecting the right sustainable investment fund involves careful research and consideration. Investors should start by examining the fund’s objectives to ensure they align with their personal values and investment goals. Performance history is also crucial; while past performance is not indicative of future results, it can provide insights into how the fund has navigated market fluctuations and ESG challenges. Additionally, investors should consider the fees associated with the fund, as high fees can erode returns over time. Finally, scrutinizing the ESG criteria used by the fund to select investments is essential to ensure that the fund truly adheres to sustainable investing principles.


Diversification is a fundamental investment principle that applies equally to sustainable investing. By diversifying across different types of sustainable funds—such as green bonds, social impact funds, and ESG-focused funds—investors can spread risk and enhance the resilience of their portfolio. Diversification helps mitigate the impact of volatility in specific sectors or markets, ensuring that the portfolio is well-positioned to capture growth across the broad spectrum of sustainability opportunities.

Monitoring Performance

After investing in sustainable funds, ongoing monitoring of the fund’s performance and alignment with ESG goals is crucial. Investors should regularly review fund reports and updates to assess how their investments are contributing to positive environmental and social outcomes. Additionally, keeping an eye on the fund’s financial performance relative to its benchmarks and peer funds can provide valuable insights into its management and strategy. This proactive approach ensures that investors remain aligned with their financial and ethical objectives over the long term.

By understanding the value proposition of sustainable funds and how to select and manage these investments, individuals can make informed decisions that reflect their values, manage risk effectively, and achieve competitive financial returns.

5 ESG Investment Funds With Sustainability at Their Core

  • iShares ESG Aware MSCI USA ETF (ESGU)

Overview: The iShares ESG Aware MSCI USA ETF aims to track the investment results of an index composed of U.S. companies that exhibit favorable environmental, social, and governance (ESG) characteristics. It seeks to provide exposure to large- and mid-cap U.S. stocks while promoting more sustainable outcomes.

Performance: Over the last 12 months, the ETF has shown a significant total return of 25.72%. This performance indicates a strong year for the fund, with market price and benchmark percentages closely aligned, showcasing its competitive stance in the sustainable investing space​​​​.

  • Fidelity Sustainable MoneyBuilder Income

Overview: This fund is part of the Fidelity Sustainable Family of Funds and aims to deliver income while increasing the value of investors’ investments. It adheres to a framework where at least 70% of the fund’s net assets are invested in issuers with sustainable characteristics, focusing on sterling-denominated investment-grade debt instruments.

Performance: The fund has seen a modest 1-year change of +0.04%, reflecting a stable performance in a challenging market environment. It maintains a focus on delivering consistent income with a sustainability lens​​​​.

  • Legal & General Future World ESG Developed Index

Overview: The Legal & General Future World ESG Developed Index Fund aims to track the performance of the Solactive L&G Enhanced ESG Developed Markets Index NTR. It invests in assets that make up the Benchmark Index, focusing on companies with positive ESG characteristics.

Performance: The fund has shown a YTD return of 6.06% and a 3-year annualised return of 11.47%. With an emphasis on global large-cap blend equity, it offers broad exposure to companies leading in ESG practices​​​​​​.

  • Invesco S&P International Developed Dividend Aristocrats ESG Index ETF (IIAE)

Overview: The Invesco S&P International Developed Dividend Aristocrats ESG Index ETF is designed to provide investors exposure to high dividend-yielding companies in developed markets outside North America and Korea. These companies have a history of maintaining or increasing dividends for at least ten consecutive years. This ETF integrates Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) criteria into its investment strategy, aiming to offer a blend of sustainable investment practices with a dividend income approach.

Performance: As of January 19, 2024, specific performance data such as the 1-year change was not provided. However, the ETF’s price was listed at CAD 21.76​​. The detailed performance metrics, including YTD daily total return, were listed as 3.93% on Yahoo Finance, indicating recent performance trends​​.

  • Vanguard ESG International Stock ETF

The Vanguard ESG International Stock ETF (VSGX) is designed to offer investors exposure to stocks outside the United States that meet specific environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria. This ETF seeks to track the performance of the FTSE Global All Cap ex US Choice Index, a market-capitalization-weighted index. This index includes large-, mid-, and small-cap stocks from developed and emerging markets, excluding the United States, and filters companies based on ESG considerations. The ETF aims to provide a diversified portfolio by investing in a broad array of sectors and regions, emphasizing companies that adhere to ESG principles.


VSGX has exhibited a year-to-date (YTD) daily total return of 0.27%, showcasing modest growth in the short term. Over a longer horizon, the ETF has achieved a 1-year daily total return of 8.07% and a 3-year daily total return of -1.89%. These returns reflect the fund’s ability to navigate the complex landscape of international investing while adhering to ESG standards. The ETF offers investors a way to gain exposure to international markets with an ESG focus, aiming for growth and sustainability in their investment portfolios.

Integrating funds

Integrating sustainable funds into Your Portfolio

Integrating sustainable funds into an existing portfolio is a strategic process that allows investors to align their investments with their ethical values while pursuing their financial objectives. This integration can be approached thoughtfully through starting small, considering asset allocation, and seeking professional advice.

Starting Small

For investors looking to venture into sustainable investing, beginning with a cautious approach can be wise. This involves gradually incorporating sustainable funds into the portfolio, allowing investors to familiarize themselves with the performance and management style of these funds without overhauling their entire investment strategy at once.

Pilot Investments:

Start by allocating a small portion of your investment capital to one or two sustainable funds. This could be a percentage of your portfolio that you’re comfortable experimenting with, allowing you to observe the fund’s performance and its impact on your overall investment strategy.

Sector-Specific Funds:

Consider starting with sustainable funds that focus on specific sectors or themes you believe in. For example, if you’re passionate about renewable energy, investing in a green energy fund can be a meaningful entry point.

Incremental Increases:

As you gain confidence in sustainable investing and its alignment with your values and financial goals, gradually increase your allocation to sustainable funds. This could be done by reinvesting dividends from traditional investments into sustainable funds or reallocating a portion of your portfolio during regular review periods.

Asset Allocation

Integrating sustainable funds into a broader asset allocation strategy requires balancing these investments with traditional stocks, bonds, and other assets to achieve a diversified portfolio. Sustainable funds should be viewed as a complement to your existing investments, contributing to the diversification and risk management of your portfolio.

Diversification Benefits:

Sustainable funds can offer diversification benefits by exposing your portfolio to companies and sectors that may be underrepresented in traditional funds, such as clean energy or sustainable agriculture.

Risk and Return Profile:

Consider the risk and return profile of sustainable funds in the context of your overall portfolio. Some sustainable funds may have a higher risk-return profile due to their focus on emerging technologies or markets. Balancing these with more stable, traditional investments can help manage overall portfolio risk.

Strategic Allocation:

 Determine the strategic allocation of sustainable funds within your portfolio based on your investment horizon, risk tolerance, and financial goals. This might involve allocating a certain percentage of your equity portfolio to sustainable stocks or including green bonds in your fixed income allocation.

Consulting with a Financial Advisor

Seeking the guidance of a financial advisor can be invaluable in integrating sustainable funds into your portfolio. A professional advisor can provide personalized advice based on your financial situation, goals, and values.

Alignment with Goals and Values:

A financial advisor can help ensure that your investment in sustainable funds aligns with your broader financial goals and personal values. They can assist in identifying funds that not only meet your ethical criteria but also complement your investment strategy.

Expertise in Sustainable Investing:

Financial advisors with expertise in sustainable investing can offer insights into the performance, management, and impact of various sustainable funds. They can help you navigate the growing landscape of sustainable investment options and select funds that are reputable and align with your investment criteria.

Ongoing Support and Adjustment:

Investing is an ongoing process that requires regular review and adjustment. A financial advisor can provide ongoing support, helping you to monitor the performance of your sustainable investments and make adjustments as needed to ensure they continue to meet your objectives.

Integrating sustainable funds into your portfolio is a proactive step towards responsible investing. By starting small, considering asset allocation, and consulting with a financial advisor, investors can effectively incorporate sustainable funds into their investment strategy, achieving a balance between ethical values and financial objectives.

Challenges and Considerations


One of the most significant challenges facing investors in sustainable funds is the risk of “greenwashing.” This term refers to the practice by some organizations of overstating or falsely advertising their commitment to environmental responsibility and sustainable practices. Greenwashing can mislead investors who are looking to support genuine sustainability efforts, leading them to invest in funds that do not truly align with their values or contribute to positive environmental and social outcomes.

To guard against greenwashing, investors need to conduct thorough due diligence. This involves scrutinizing the fund’s sustainability reporting and the criteria it uses to select investments. Look for funds that adhere to recognized sustainability standards and frameworks, such as the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) or those that have received certification from credible third-party ESG evaluators. Additionally, investors should seek out funds that provide transparent, detailed reporting on their ESG impact, including specific projects funded and outcomes achieved. This level of transparency is often a good indicator of a fund’s commitment to genuine sustainability practices.

Market Trends

Global trends and policies toward sustainability can significantly impact the performance of responsible investment funds. The increasing focus on climate change and social inequality by governments, corporations, and the public is driving regulatory changes and market shifts that can benefit sustainable investments. For example, policies aimed at reducing carbon emissions could boost the renewable energy sector, positively impacting funds invested in green technologies.

However, these trends can also introduce volatility and risk. Political and economic shifts can alter the landscape of sustainable investing, affecting the viability of certain projects or sectors. For instance, changes in government can lead to shifts in environmental policy, which could adversely affect investments in renewable energy or other sustainability-focused industries.

To navigate these trends, investors should adopt a long-term perspective, recognizing that sustainability is an evolving field influenced by a complex interplay of factors. Staying informed about global sustainability trends and understanding their potential impact on different sectors can help investors make more informed decisions. Additionally, diversifying investments across a range of sustainable funds and sectors can mitigate the risk associated with any single trend or policy change. 

Incorporating sustainable funds into a portfolio requires a careful approach to avoid greenwashing and to understand the influence of market trends and policies. By conducting thorough research, seeking transparency, and staying informed about global sustainability movements, investors can better navigate the challenges and leverage the opportunities presented by sustainable investing. This approach not only aligns investments with personal values but also contributes to the broader goal of achieving a sustainable future for all.


Sustainable funds represent a compelling opportunity for investors to make a positive contribution to the world, without compromising on financial return. By carefully selecting funds that prioritize environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and strong governance issues, investors can support initiatives that align with their values, such as renewable power generation, human rights, and sustainable development, while also aiming for competitive returns. These funds offer a pathway to invest ethically, steering clear of industries like tobacco companies and instead focusing on businesses that contribute to a healthier planet and equitable societies.

Integrating sustainable funds into a well-diversified portfolio allows investors to align their investment goals with their personal values. Many ethical funds and SRI (Socially Responsible Investing) funds employ a negative screening process to exclude companies that do not meet certain ethical standards, such as those related to executive pay, environmental practices, or involvement in controversial industries. This approach ensures that investments contribute to positive change while managing higher risk associated with unsustainable practices.

A balanced fund approach, incorporating both sustainable characteristics and traditional investments like government bonds, can offer a strategy that meets both financial objectives and ethical considerations. However, it’s important to remember that future performance is influenced by a myriad of factors, including governance issues and global trends in sustainable development. Thus, a critical look at the sustainability claims of funds, beyond the surface, is essential to ensure that your investments truly reflect your commitment to making a difference.

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Call to Action

We invite you to delve deeper into the world of sustainable funds for your next investment. Research the myriad options available, from funds focusing on local communities to those with a global reach addressing broad sustainable development goals. Understand the sustainable characteristics of each fund, the governance issues they prioritize, and how they employ strategies like negative screening to ensure your investments work not just for you, but for the greater good.

If you’re looking to tailor your investments to match your ethical and financial goals precisely, consider subscribing to our blog for ongoing insights into sustainable investing. Alternatively, consulting with a financial advisor who understands the nuances of sustainable funds can provide personalized advice, helping you navigate the complexities of socially responsible investing. 

Incorporating real-world examples, case studies of successful sustainable funds, and insights from financial experts, such as Stewart Investors, can enhance your understanding and confidence in sustainable investing. Remember, a well-informed investment decision is one that considers not only the potential for financial return but also the broader impact on society and the environment. By choosing to invest in sustainable funds, you’re not just planning for your financial future; you’re contributing to a future where sustainable development and human rights are at the forefront of business practices.


Sustainable investment funds are investment vehicles that seek not only financial returns but also consider environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria to generate long-term competitive financial returns and positive societal impact. These funds invest in companies that adhere to sustainable practices, including environmental protection, social justice, and ethical governance.

Unlike traditional funds that primarily focus on financial returns, sustainable investment funds incorporate ESG criteria into their investment decisions. This means they actively seek out companies that contribute positively to the environment and society, or avoid industries that have negative impacts, such as fossil fuels, tobacco, and firearms. This approach aims to support sustainable and ethical business practices while still targeting competitive returns.

Investing in sustainable funds offers several benefits, including the potential for competitive financial returns, alignment of investments with personal values, and contribution to positive societal and environmental change. It allows investors to support companies that are leading the way in sustainable practices, potentially reducing investment risk linked to ESG issues such as climate change, social injustice, and poor governance.

Sustainable investment funds can be an excellent option for investors looking to align their investments with their ethical values without compromising on financial performance. However, like any investment, they come with risks and should be considered as part of a diversified investment strategy. Individual investors should assess their financial goals, risk tolerance, and investment horizon to determine if sustainable funds are a good fit for their portfolio.

To start investing in sustainable investment funds, begin by researching funds that match your investment criteria and ESG values. Many fund managers and investment platforms offer sustainable fund options across various asset classes, including stocks and bonds. Consider consulting with a financial advisor who has experience in ESG investing to help identify funds that align with your financial goals and ethical preferences. Once you’ve selected a fund, you can invest directly through the fund manager or an investment platform.


Investing in ESG ETFs – Motley Fool 

Five responsible funds to watch in 2024 – Hargreaves Lansdown

Sustainable Investment Funds – Morning Star

I'm Dom Farnell, a retail investor sharing my market experiences through blogs and articles. Though not a professional advisor, I aim to offer practical insights based on real-world experience, exploring strategies, challenges, and opportunities in investing.

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