(The Center Square) – With a rise in environmentally and socially responsible investing, some are calling for disclosure rules to back up those claims.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the Sustainable Investment Act into law by in August 2019. It encourages public agencies and governmental units in Illinois to develop a sustainable investment policy, but does not mandate them to do so. According to the Treasurer’s office, some fund managers already integrate sustainability factors into their investment practices and no changes will be required. Considering sustainability factors might lead a municipality to adjust its overall investment strategies.
Gary Gensler, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, is considering whether to require fund managers to disclose the criteria they use to apply labels such as green, low-carbon and sustainable.
Gensler has asked his staff to make recommendations for new disclosure requirements for such funds and expects to seek public comment on the issue in the coming months.
“We are looking at funds that say they are something: They are green, they’re sustainable and the like. What stands beneath that right now?” Gensler said in a video news conference.
Industry insiders have criticized the absence of clear standards for environmental, social and governance investing, or ESG investing, with some saying fund managers sometimes mislead the public through their marketing messages.
“It is horribly vague,” said Wirepoints founder Mike Glennon “It encompasses really whatever social justice goal you think is fashionable today.”
Critics have also suggested ESG investing limits investment opportunities due to political ideologies.
Earlier this year, Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs defended signing a letter asking the nation’s top money managers to refrain from donating to 147 members of Congress who objected to certifying the 2020 election results.
“Those kinds of threats through the use of our money – this is our money – is just wrong,” Glennon said. “It should be invested for the highest return irrespective of politics.”
Taxpayers are often on the hook when public investments fail to meet assumptions on returns.
A request for comment from the treasurer’s office went unanswered.