Fresh capital has not run dry for unsustainable firms

Fresh capital has not run dry for unsustainable firms

11-03-2021 | 研究
Despite rising interest in sustainable investing, unsustainable companies have faced no obstacles in raising funds in public markets. To deprive these businesses from fresh capital, sustainable investing needs to become ’business as usual’ in the investment community.
  • David Blitz
    Chief Researcher
  • Jan Anton van Zanten
    Jan Anton
    van Zanten
    SDG Strategist
  • Laurens Swinkels

Speed read

  • Sustainability has garnered increased attention in recent years
  • Yet unsustainable firms have not been starved of fresh capital
  • Sustainable investing must become the norm going forward

Sustainable investing has gathered rapid momentum in recent years. This impulse is shifting the goalposts for investments, as investors are increasingly looking for solutions that make an impact alongside financial returns. Asset managers and owners can reach these objectives through active ownership and capital allocation. With active ownership, they can pursue their sustainability goals by voting at shareholder meetings and engaging in constructive dialogue with firms to steer their behavior. They can also vote with their feet, through their capital allocation choices.

Sustainable investing is not limited to negative screening, as it also entails taking larger positions in sustainability leaders

Excluding companies, for example ‘sin stocks’, from investable universes is a popular way to make an impact through capital allocation. However, sustainable investing is not limited to negative screening, as it also entails taking larger positions in sustainability leaders. This can be done with the integration of environmental, social and governance (ESG) indicators in investment processes, targeting carbon footprint reductions in portfolios, or aligning investments with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

There can be many reasons to divest from unsustainable firms and shift capital towards more sustainable ones. Some investors are content with simply disassociating themselves from certain businesses, such as the tobacco industry, regardless of whether this will have any effect on the actual production and consumption of tobacco products. Others see it as a signaling tool, even though they acknowledge that this approach likely has no direct impact on the related companies. The third and most ambitious reason is to allocate capital in a way that supports sustainable companies and hurts unsustainable ones. This approach can incentivize the latter to improve their corporate behavior.

Measuring the impact on a firm’s cost of capital

Our analysis examines how sustainable investing has affected capital flows and the financing needs of companies. In principle, divestment would negatively affect the targeted firm, but this mechanism is actually not so clear-cut. Divesting results in a transfer of ownership from one investor to another, which has no direct impact on the firm. However, divestment may hurt companies indirectly by increasing their cost of capital. With this in mind, we argue that the ultimate impact of sustainable investing on listed companies is best evaluated by examining the primary market, i.e. new issues of bonds and stocks.

In our study, we considered all stocks in the MSCI All Countries World Index over the 2010-2019 period. We classified a company as an equity issuer if its number of shares outstanding increased by at least 10% over the year. Similarly, we categorized a company as a debt issuer if the book value of its debt increased by at least 10% over the year. To distinguish between sustainable and unsustainable businesses, we used a broad range of metrics, namely ESG, carbon footprint and SDG dimensions.

Our analysis showed no evidence that fresh capital flowed more towards sustainable firms than towards unsustainable ones

Our analysis showed no evidence that fresh capital flowed more towards sustainable firms than towards unsustainable ones. More specifically, it appears unsustainable companies faced no obstacles in raising funds in public markets. Indeed, the sustainability profile of equity issuers was generally similar to the broad market, while debt issuers even tended to have a below-average sustainability profile. Moreover, our results were stable over time. Capital did not flow more towards sustainable firms in recent years than before.

Therefore, our results suggest that sustainable investing has not been able to starve unsustainable companies from fresh capital over our sample period. We acknowledge that if sustainable investing continues to grow, it may become increasingly hard for unsustainable firms to obtain fresh funding in capital markets. But how much growth would be needed for that, and whether such a scale is realistically attainable, remain open questions.

To deprive unsustainable companies from fresh capital, sustainable investing needs to become ’business as usual’ in the investment community.

Important information

The contents of this document have not been reviewed by any regulatory authority in Hong Kong. If you are in any doubt about any of the contents of this document, you should obtain independent professional advice. This document has been distributed by Robeco Hong Kong Limited (‘Robeco’). Robeco is regulated by the Securities and Futures Commission in Hong Kong.
This document has been prepared on a confidential basis solely for the recipient and is for information purposes only. Any reproduction or distribution of this documentation, in whole or in part, or the disclosure of its contents, without the prior written consent of Robeco, is prohibited. By accepting this documentation, the recipient agrees to the foregoing
This document is intended to provide the reader with information on Robeco’s specific capabilities, but does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell certain securities or investment products. Investment decisions should only be based on the relevant prospectus and on thorough financial, fiscal and legal advice.
The contents of this document are based upon sources of information believed to be reliable. This document is not intended for distribution to or use by any person or entity in any jurisdiction or country where such distribution or use would be contrary to local law or regulation.
Investment Involves risks. Historical returns are provided for illustrative purposes only and do not necessarily reflect Robeco’s expectations for the future. The value of your investments may fluctuate. Past performance is no indication of current or future performance.



1. 一般事項


此網站由Robeco Hong Kong Limited(「荷寶」)擬備及刊發,荷寶是獲香港證券及期貨事務監察委員會發牌從事第1類(證券交易)、第4類(就證券提供意見)及第9類(資產管理)受規管活動的企業。荷寶不持有客戶資產,並受到發牌條件所規限。荷寶在擴展至零售業務之前,必須先得到證監會的批准。本網頁未經證券及期貨事務監察委員會或香港的任何監管當局審閱。

2. 風險披露聲明

Robeco Capital Growth Funds以其特定的投資政策或其他特徵作識別,請小心閱讀有關Robeco Capital Growth Funds的風險:

  • 部份基金可涉及投資、市場、股票投資、流動性、交易對手、證券借貸及外幣風險及小型及/或中型公司的相關風險。
  • 部份基金所涉及投資於新興市場的風險包括政治、經濟、法律、規管、市場、結算、執行交易、交易對手及貨幣風險。
  • 部份基金可透過合格境外機構投資者("QFII")及/或 人民幣合格境外機構投資者 ("RQFII")及/或 滬港通計劃直接投資於中國A股,當中涉及額外的結算、規管、營運、交易對手及流動性風險。
  • 就分派股息類別,部份基金可能從資本中作出股息分派。股息分派若直接從資本中撥付,這代表投資者獲付還或提取原有投資本金的部份金額或原有投資應佔的任何資本收益,該等分派可能導致基金的每股資產淨值即時減少。
  • 部份基金投資可能集中在單一地區/單一國家/相同行業及/或相同主題營運。 因此,基金的價值可能會較為波動。
  • 部份基金使用的任何量化技巧可能無效,可能對基金的價值構成不利影響。
  • 除了投資、市場、流動性、交易對手、證券借貸、(反向)回購協議及外幣風險,部份基金可涉及定息收入投資有關的風險包括信貨風險、利率風險、可換股債券的風險、資產抵押證券的的風險、投資於非投資級別或不獲評級證券的風險及投資於未達投資級別主權證券的風險。
  • 部份基金可大量運用金融衍生工具。荷寶環球消費新趨勢股票可為對沖目的及為有效投資組合管理而運用金融衍生工具。運用金融衍生工具可涉及較高的交易對手、流通性及估值的風險。在不利的情況下,部份基金可能會因為使用金融衍生工具而承受重大虧損(甚至損失基金資產的全部)。
  • 荷寶歐洲高收益債券可涉及投資歐元區的風險。
  • 投資者在Robeco Capital Growth Funds的投資有可能大幅虧損。投資者應該參閱Robeco Capital Growth Funds之銷售文件內的資料﹙包括潛在風險﹚,而不應只根據這文件內的資料而作出投資。

3. 當地的法律及銷售限制




4. 使用此網站



5. 投資表現



6. 第三者網站

本網站含有來自第三方的資料或第三方經營的網站連結,而其中部分該等公司與荷寶沒有任何聯繫。跟隨連結登入任何其他此網站以外的網頁或第三方網站的風險,應由跟隨該連結的人士自行承擔。荷寶並無審閱此網站所連結或提述的任何網站,概不就該等網站的內容或所提供的產品、服務或其他項目作出推許或負上任何責任。荷寶概不就使用或依賴第三方網站所載的資料而導致的任何虧損或損毀負上法侓責任,包括(但不限於)任何虧損或利益或任何其他直接或間接的損毀。 此網站以外的網頁或第三方網站皆旨在作參考之用。

7. 責任限制




8. 知識產權


9. 私隠

荷寶保證將會根據現行的資料保障法例,以保密方式處理登入此網站的人士的數據。除非荷寶需按法律責任行事,否則在未經登入此網站的人士許可,不會向第三方提供該等數據。 請於我們的私隱及Cookie政策 中查找更多詳情。 

10. 適用法律


如果您已閱讀並理解本頁並同意上述免責聲明以及同意荷寶收集和使用您的個人資料,用於私隱及Cookie政策 所列的收集和使用個人資料的目的(包括用於直接推廣荷寶的產品或服務),請點擊“我同意”按鈕。否則,請點擊“我不同意”離開本網站。