Assets in global sustainable funds hit a record high of US$1.65 trillion (up 29% from the previous quarter) as at end-December 2020, according to a report by Morningstar. ALTHOUGH there is no global single definition, ESG, which stands for environmental, social and governance, essentially takes into account those issues. The environmental pillar in ESG typically includes a company’s impact concerning climate change, preservation of natural resources, and pollution and waste. The social pillar is about issues such as health and safety, community engagement, and employee relations while the governance pillar looks at board independence, transparency and disclosure, and shareholder rights. Assets in global sustainable funds hit a record high of US$1.65 trillion (up 29% from the previous quarter) as at end-December 2020, according to a report by Morningstar. The report noted that the past three years have seen a steady increase in assets in sustainable funds globally. Assets remain dominated by Europe, accounting for 81.3% of global sustainable funds, owing to its long history of responsible investing and favorable regulatory environment. This is followed by the United States (14.3%) and Asia excluding Japan (1.5%). ESG assets in Asia ex-Japan reached the US$25bil mark in 2020, growing by 130% compared with 2019. Equity remained the largest asset class represented, with US$13.2bil in assets, recording a strong growth of 94% in 2020 over 2019. Product development activity reached new highs in the fourth quarter of 2020, with 17 new ESG fund launches from China, South Korea, India, and Taiwan. A majority of the new launches in China and India were equity funds, while South Korea’s and Taiwan’s new launches were allocation and fixed-income products. While China’s fourth-quarter data captured only 60% of ESG funds at the time of publication of the Morningstar report, investors interest in the electric-vehicle theme drove China’s fourth-quarter 2020 ESG flows to a record US$3.8bil. The Morningstar report noted that the strong inflows speak of the growing investor interest in ESG issues, especially in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis. “The disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of building sustainable and resilient business models based on multi-stakeholder considerations.”
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