Climate change must change investors’ portfolios

by Isabel Reuss | 25/02/2019
Climate Change


However investors view the problem of climate change – perhaps as a threat to carbon-intensive industries or as an opportunity to contribute to the greater good – ignoring its effects on portfolios increasingly seems like a short-sighted option. Fortunately, there are many ways investors can incorporate this urgent issue into their strategies.

Key takeaways

  • Global warming is forcing the world to move towards a low-carbon economic model, and that will incur costs that investors must factor into their decisions
  • There are many ways to incorporate climate change into portfolios – including screening out “stranded assets” like fossil fuels, selecting best-performing companies or aiding the “just transition” to a low-carbon economy more holistically
  • At Allianz Global Investors, we aim to accelerate the speed of positive change – particularly within strategies that deliver social or environmental impacts – while enhancing the value of our clients’ assets

Scientists’ warnings about a steadily warming planet have raised awareness about climate change – and the asset-management industry is paying attention. The reason for this growing interest is simple: to slow or even reverse global warming, the world must begin moving to a low-carbon or even carbon-neutral economic model. And that will come at a price for consumers, companies and governments alike.

Clearly, investors are free to choose how to factor these costs into their investment decisions, or they can choose to invest in a way that proactively supports solutions to this global challenge. But ignoring climate change’s effects on one’s portfolio increasingly seems like a short-sighted option.

For example, consider how certain asset classes or sectors could be forced out of business, directly or indirectly, as a result of new policies and regulations meant to curb global warming. This is why some investors screen out fossil fuels as “stranded assets” – assets that could become prematurely obsolete and must be written down or sold off – in their investment models.

Thinking beyond the “good” and “bad” labels

At the same time, some investors are using the issue of climate change to make a positive contribution to the transition towards a low-carbon economy. For example, they may invest in companies that already have low carbon emissions compared with others in their industry, or invest in firms with ambitious plans to reduce their carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in line with international targets.

Other companies in carbon-intensive sectors offer products and services that make it easier to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. A portfolio that invests in these firms could, on the surface, look like one that relies heavily on carbon-intensive industries, but in reality it could help lower overall carbon emissions. This emphasises why it is important not to think about climate-change investing in terms of “good” or “bad”, but in terms of the best way to effect real change through the restructuring of business models, manufacturing processes or entire sectors.

How to create positive change

At Allianz Global Investors, the issue of how global warming and climate change affect different asset classes has long been a concern for us, and we continually analyse climate risk at multiple levels.

Yet as an active investment manager, we don’t approach the climate issue by applying “good” or “bad” filters or by solely emphasising exclusion. Instead, we aim to accelerate the speed of positive change while enhancing the value of our clients’ assets within specific strategies – particularly those that deliver an identifiable social or environmental impact for our clients.

One way we do this is by looking at how carbon emissions could affect a particular investment in the past, present and future. For example, the past might manifest itself through litigation or penalties related to previous emissions, the present can be affected by the “carbon price” and the future can be defined by stranded assets and disrupted sectors.

We address the issue of climate change in other ways as well – including by assessing share-price fluctuations related to energy-price volatility and by examining how management incentives are linked to climate-related corporate goals. We also explore how employees are retrained in the course of climate-related restructuring to reflect the “just transition” – a concept promoted by the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) that points to the societal costs incurred by efforts to combat climate change.

In addition, we work directly with clients and companies on reflecting climate targets in the framework of their own investment policies. For example, France was the first country to introduce mandatory annual climate reports for investors via their Energy Transition Law. Rather than viewing this law as an onerous restriction, we found that it helped us have more meaningful conversations with clients on how to align their investment policies with climate targets.

The risks of taking no action

Climate change shows that the consideration of ESG (environment, social and governance) factors has become a necessity in long-term value creation for investors. One only needs to look at the “yellow vest” movement in France to see how these issues all intersect. A social movement has grown out of protests against fuel taxes meant to encourage energy conservation and fight climate change. And a policy that French legislators intended to have a positive effect instead sparked a negative backlash that weakened France’s ability to pass further reforms.

For investors, this highlights the need to perform comprehensive assessments of the risks and costs associated with climate-change policies. All of us have an opportunity to help limit global warming, to help promote ecological change in a socially responsible manner and to help preserve the earth as a habitat for future generations. But even investors who operate on a much more immediate timescale must incorporate climate change into their investment decisions. The risks of not doing so will only continue to rise.

Investing involves risk. The value of an investment and the income from it will fluctuate and investors may not get back the principal invested. Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) strategies consider factors beyond traditional financial information to select securities or eliminate exposure which could result in relative investment performance deviating from other strategies or broad market benchmarks. The impact may be greater with longer-duration bonds. Past performance is not indicative of future performance. This is a marketing communication. It is for informational purposes only. This document does not constitute investment advice or a recommendation to buy, sell or hold any security and shall not be deemed an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy any security.

The views and opinions expressed herein, which are subject to change without notice, are those of the issuer or its affiliated companies at the time of publication. Certain data used are derived from various sources believed to be reliable, but the accuracy or completeness of the data is not guaranteed and no liability is assumed for any direct or consequential losses arising from their use. The duplication, publication, extraction or transmission of the contents, irrespective of the form, is not permitted. This material has not been reviewed by any regulatory authorities. In mainland China, it is used only as supporting material to the offshore investment products offered by commercial banks under the Qualified Domestic Institutional Investors scheme pursuant to applicable rules and regulations.

This document is being distributed by the following Allianz Global Investors companies: Allianz Global Investors U.S. LLC, an investment adviser registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission; Allianz Global Investors Distributors LLC, distributor registered with FINRA, is affiliated with Allianz Global Investors U.S. LLC; Allianz Global Investors GmbH, an investment company in Germany, authorized by the German Bundesanstalt für Finanzdienstleistungsaufsicht (BaFin); Allianz Global Investors (Schweiz) AG, licensed by FINMA ( for distribution and by OAKBV (Oberaufsichtskommission berufliche Vorsorge) for asset management related to occupational pensions in Switzerland; Allianz Global Investors Asia Pacific Ltd., licensed by the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission; Allianz Global Investors Singapore Ltd., regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore [Company Registration No. 199907169Z]; Allianz Global Investors Japan Co., Ltd., registered in Japan as a Financial Instruments Business Operator [Registered No. The Director of Kanto Local Finance Bureau (Financial Instruments Business Operator), No. 424, Member of Japan Investment Advisers Association and Investment Trust Association, Japan]; and Allianz Global Investors Taiwan Ltd., licensed by Financial Supervisory Commission in Taiwan.


About the author/s

 Isabel Reuss

Isabel Reuss

Global Head of SRI Research

Ms Reuss is Global Head of SRI Research at Allianz Global Investors – a position she has held since October 2018. She contributes extensively to AllianzGI’s proprietary socially responsible investment (SRI) rating methodology and the implementation of SRI filters across asset classes. Ms Reuss was previously a Senior Portfolio Manager European SRI equities and a member of the Conviction strategy team. She also co-managed AllianzGI’s European SRI flagship fund and was responsible for AllianzGI’s Climate Transition strategy, which was launched at the end of 2015. Before that, Ms Reuss was a Senior Portfolio Manager of a global sector fund for 10 years. She joined the Allianz Group in 1987 and was active in various management positions in insurance in Italy and the US. Ms Reuss has 24 years of experience in the asset-management industry, plus seven years of experience in the insurance industry. She graduated from Stanford University and is a member of AIAF (Associazione Italiana degli Analisti Finanziari); she is also a Certified AIAF Financial Analyst and an EFFAS ESG Analyst. Ms Reuss has been a member of the Italian SIF since 2011 and is part of the DVFA Kommission Corporate Governance in Germany. She is fluent in German, English, Spanish and Italian and was an Olympic finalist.

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CEO Andreas Utermann seated at a table


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