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Bonds are an ESG blind spot in investing

Equity funds with socially responsible investing or ESG mandates have attracted twice as much money in the year to date as their counterparts without them, according to data provider EPFR. Yet this push for decarbonisation and social responsibility, which is as much an asset management marketing ploy as a token of virtue, is primarily an equity market phenomenon. In the much larger global bond market, BBVA Global Markets Research has estimated that in late 2020 the stock of green, social and sustainable bonds had yet to reach $1tn out of a market total of $128tn. While this green exposure is rising fast from a low base, it is indisputably minuscule. The great majority of this market is ethically value free. ShareAction, a non-profit responsible investment research group, found last year, for example, that 84 per cent of asset managers had no public policy against purchasing sovereign bonds from countries under international sanction for human rights abuses.