Almost 90% of asset management firms have said they are planning to launch new ESG-specific products during the next 12-months, all of which may lead to an even deeper mistrust of the broader industry regarding claims around responsible investment.

This is according to JPES Partners’ latest study, the Asset Management Trends Report 2021, which is based on in-depth interviews with senior in-house communications professionals at asset managers who collectively manage €12-trillion in assets.

Alongside this expected surge in green products by many industry players, 76% of these same firms surveyed said they still had serious misgivings about greenwashing by the wider investment industry.

Yet even with a complex, multi-layered topic such as ESG, there is still one theme that appears to have cross-industry support. When asked what subset of the ESG debate they were most focused on, climate was overwhelmingly the top response given by over 40% of asset managers, with other popular themes including broader environmental issues, impact investing and diversity.

If climate, or decarbonisation, is linked to the new product development plans, then caution may need to be exercised in some cases though. Recent analysis by InfluenceMap found that 71% of funds specifically marketed using ESG and climate-related key words, had a negative Portfolio Paris Alignment score.

Whether it is climate, broader environment or impact-focused, all of this may provide some indication of the topics that we can expect to see content on from asset managers in the next 12 months, for there is near-unanimous certainty that we will be seeing far more ESG material on the horizon, as 82% of firms expect to produce more ESG content in the next year.

For those who are planning to do so, it is worth keeping in mind that a recent JPES Media Audit found that the amount of ESG content journalists are receiving has soared by over 150% in the last 24 months from an average of 32 pieces of content per month to now over 90, the majority of which will never be used in a published piece.

As more and more questions are being raised about what impact or benefit all of these ESG products are truly having on the issues they purport to be tackling, further scrutiny can be expected of even the brightest green stars, particularly those with brightest, loftiest, claims.

Other notable findings:

  • Two thirds of asset managers expect to use some form of virtual event post-pandemic
  • Nearly 60% believe there is a greater need for digital expertise in a communications role
  • Over a quarter are actively recruiting to fill this digital communications gap
  • 41% of firms think they are an early adopter of ESG, with 23% citing their pioneer status
  • Most managers are now producing less content overall than they were two-to-three years ago
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