Pax World Management blazed a trail in socially responsible investing (SRI) when it launched the financial industry’s first SRI mutual fund in 1971. On Wednesday, the company is breaking more new ground by rolling out the industry’s first family of environmental, social and governance (ESG) ETFs.
The idea is to capitalize on the growing popularity of ETFs, which has spread beyond institutional investors to envelop financial advisors who want them for their clients, and the fast-growing interest in sustainable investing principles, Pax World president and chief executive officer Joe Keefe said in a phone conversation.
Individual SRI and ESG funds, such as the iShares FTSE KLD 400 Social Index Fund, are already actively traded, but Pax World is the first to introduce a group of such funds to investors. “This helps us build a more complete investment platform,” Keefe said. Pax World manages 11 actively managed mutual funds, which hold $2.4 billion in assets, he added.
Pax World’s ESG Shares ETFs family includes: the ESG Shares North America Sustainability Index ETF [NASI], launched Wednesday; the ESG Shared FTSE Environmental Technologies (ET50) Index ETF [ETFY], which is expected to launch on May 21; and the ESG Shares Europe Asia Pacific Sustainability Index ETF [EAPS], which is expected to begin trading on May 25.
The NASI will track the performance of the FTSE KLD North America Sustainability Index, a broadly diversified, sector-neutral index of American and Canadian companies with superior ESG performance as rated by KLD Research & Analytics, Inc., and the EAPS will follow the FTSE KLD Europe Asia Pacific Sustainability Index. The ETFY will track the performance of the FTSE ET50 Index, comprised of the 50 largest so-called pure-play environmental companies by full market capitalization. Pax World expects that investors would pay between 50 and 55 basis points in fees, which Keefe said is competitive with comparable funds.
The ESG movement is considered a part of the broader and more established SRI approach. In its 2007 Report on Socially Responsible Investing Trends, the Social Investing Forum, an industry association, estimated that there were 260 socially screened mutual fund products in the U.S., with assets of $201.8 billion. More broadly, the SRI approach accounts for about $2.7 trillion of the $27.1 trillion investing marketplace.