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04 jul 2019

ESG Leaders and Laggards – 3 companies in focus

Well over 200 years ago, religious groups such as Quakers and Methodists were already pioneering early forms of Socially Responsible Investing (SRI), shunning businesses related to the likes of slave labour and harmful chemical production.1

In the 1960s, the civil rights movement took centre stage, with prominent figureheads such as Martin Luther King Jr. targeting companies opposing racial equality.2

By the 70s, much of the SRI efforts shifted towards corporate behaviour. Dow Chemical for instance came under heat for its role as the eventual sole provider of napalm in the Vietnam war.3 SRI even helped contribute to the end of Apartheid, thanks to international pressure to avoid investing in companies operating in South Africa.4

Moving on to the 80s and 90s, environmental concerns started gaining traction, from the health risks of fossil fuels to climate change.

ESG today is all about data

These days, popular forms of sustainable investing combine many of these issues through broad strategies with negative and/or exclusionary screens based on certain sectors or companies, as well as “best-in-class” screens focused on companies leading the way on ESG metrics.

Indeed, one of the fastest growing segments of ESG investing is the “best-in-class” approach, with a growth in global AuM of 125% between 2016 and 2018.5 And of the record-breaking €5.3bn of inflows into ESG ETFs in Europe year to date, almost three quarters went to broad “best-in-class” equity strategies.6

One of the main appeals of the “best-in-class” approach is the ability to keep a similar level of risk-adjusted return and sector exposure as non-ESG products. While there is a lingering myth that an ESG aligned portfolio sacrifices returns, it has largely been dispelled – one particular meta study reviewed over 2,000 papers and showed that ~90% of them found a non-negative link between ESG considerations and financial performance.7

Technology and culture have shifted. Today, we have swathes of high-quality data at our disposal thanks to increased disclosures from companies. As a result, sophisticated ETFs are available that can both align with your personal values, and still achieve a similar (if not better) risk/return profile to that of the broad market, with limited tracking error. Our ESG Leaders range is a good example.

MSCI World ESG Trend Leaders vs. parent index – ESG Ratings breakdown8

 pie chart

ETFs and ESG share many qualities, daily transparency arguably chief amongst them. On that note, and to better illustrate what really goes on in your portfolio, we shed the light on three companies and their respective ESG profiles. The first two make the cut for our Lyxor MSCI World ESG Trend Leaders (DR) UCITS ETF, while the third one falls short.6


Microsoft Corp. – an ESG “Leader”


Microsoft is an American multinational technology company specialised in the development, manufacturing and licensing of computer software, hardware and related services. Most of you are likely to have used one of their applications over the past week – if not in this very moment! Founded over 40 years ago, it boasts a market cap that recently crossed the $1tn mark.

With a top MSCI ESG Rating of AAA – held for three years running now – Microsoft is the corporate posterchild for what it means to be socially and environmentally responsible. In fact, the company scores so well that MSCI didn’t identify any areas of improvement relative to its peers.10 Unsurprisingly, Microsoft is the largest holding in our Lyxor MSCI World ESG Trend Leaders (DR) UCITS ETF.

One of Microsoft’s major strengths relates to Privacy & Data Security – probably one of the first things that comes to mind in the context of tech firms these days. Factors considered include whether the company’s privacy policies cover all relevant business lines, oversight on policies at board level, employee training on data privacy, and investments made to improve cybersecurity.

Microsoft is also recognised for its strong policies around Corruption & Instability. For a company that does a lot of government work, good business ethics is something you would naturally expect. Another strong point is its environmental considerations. Clean tech innovation lies at the heart of Microsoft, with investments in areas as varied as carbon neutrality, sustainable management of water, energy-efficient data centres, and waste minimisation.11

Fresenius Medical Care AG & Co. – “Average”, but improving

MSCI ESG Rating: BBB (up from BB)9

Fresenius Medical Care is a leading provider of products and services for people with chronic kidney failure. Headquartered in Germany, the company cares for more than 336,000 patients in a global network of more than 3,900 dialysis clinics.

Sustainable growth lies at the core of its strategy. Fresenius assumes a medical responsibility through its “patients first” principle, but also an economic responsibility based on “integrity, sound corporate governance and adherence to compliance principles”.12

Digging into MSCI’s ESG Rating, the company performs well in areas such as Carbon Emissions, Privacy & Data Security, Product Safety & Quality, and Corruption & Instability. Where it significantly underperforms versus its peers however is in Labour Management and Corporate Governance. This puts it just below its industry relative score, earning it an “Average” middle-ranking of BBB.

Worth noting, Fresenius has improved its ESG profile over time, having been upgraded from BB to BBB in its latest review. We believe that a positive change in ESG rating – “ESG trend” – can have a positive impact on share price. Our Lyxor MSCI World ESG Trend Leaders (DR) UCITS ETF takes both ESG rating and ESG trend into account, thereby rewarding the champions of change. So, while Fresenius doesn’t make the cut for the standard MSCI World ESG Leaders index, it does earn its place in our fund.

Mitsubishi Motors Co. – an ESG “Laggard”


Mitsubishi Motors is a Japanese multinational automotive manufacturer. Since October 2016, Mitsubishi has been one third owned by Nissan, and is part of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance.

With an MSCI ESG Rating of CCC – the worst possible score – Mitsubishi does not qualify for any MSCI ESG Leaders indices. Perhaps not surprising, given its admission in 2016 that it had falsified fuel efficiency tests for the past quarter century, and the ensuing penalties, compensations and lasting reputational damage.

In early 2018, the company announced its recall of about 640,000 cars and SUVs worldwide because of a faulty accessory drive belt. The arrest in November 2018 of Mr. Carlos Ghosn – Chairman of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance – over concerns around financial misconduct and governance further embroiled the company in controversy.

With regards to its MSCI ESG Rating, poor scores in key areas such as Product Safety & Quality and Corporate Governance meant Mitsubishi Motors was dragged down significantly, giving it a “Laggard” CCC rating.

Find out how you can “back the best” with our ESG Leaders ETFs

This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be taken as investment advice. Lyxor ETF does not in any way endorse or promote the companies mentioned in this article. The ESG Ratings mentioned in this article are determined by MSCI, not Lyxor ETF. Capital at risk. Please read our Risk Warning below.

1Source: Eurosif, European SRI Study 2018.
2Source: Investopedia,
3Source: Bloomberg,
4Source: Journal of Business Ethics,
5Source: Global Sustainable Investment Alliance, 2018 Global Sustainable Investment Review.
6Source: Lyxor International Asset Management, Bloomberg, as at 30/06/2019.
7Source: Journal of Sustainable Finance & Investment, ESG and financial performance: aggregated evidence from more than 2000 empirical studies, Friede, Busch and Bassen, November 2015.
8Source: Lyxor International Asset Management, MSCI. Data as at 30/04/2019.
9Source: MSCI, as at June 2019.
10Source: MSCI, as at 31/03/2019.
11Source: Microsoft website, as at 02/07/2019.
12Source: Fresenius Medical Care website, as at 02/07/2019.

Risk Warning​

This document is for the exclusive use of investors acting on their own account and categorised either as “Eligible Counterparties” or “Professional Clients” within the meaning of Markets in Financial Instruments Directive 2014/65/EU. These products comply with the UCITS Directive (2009/65/EC). Société Générale and Lyxor International Asset Management (LIAM) recommend that investors read carefully the “investment risks” section of the product’s documentation (prospectus and KIID). The prospectus and KIID are available free of charge on, and upon request to

Except for the United-Kingdom, where this communication is issued in the UK by Lyxor Asset Management UK LLP, which is authorized and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK under Registration Number 435658, this communication is issued by Lyxor International Asset Management (LIAM), a French management company authorized by the Autorité des marchés financiers and placed under the regulations of the UCITS (2014/91/EU) and AIFM (2011/61/EU) Directives. Société Générale is a French credit institution (bank) authorised by the Autorité de contrôle prudentiel et de résolution (the French Prudential Control Authority).

The products mentioned are the object of market-making contracts, the purpose of which is to ensure the liquidity of the products on the London Stock Exchange, assuming normal market conditions and normally functioning computer systems. Units of a specific UCITS ETF managed by an asset manager and purchased on the secondary market cannot usually be sold directly back to the asset manager itself. Investors must buy and sell units on a secondary market with the assistance of an intermediary (e.g. a stockbroker) and may incur fees for doing so. In addition, investors may pay more than the current net asset value when buying units and may receive less than the current net asset value when selling them. Updated composition of the product’s investment portfolio is available on In addition, the indicative net asset value is published on the Reuters and Bloomberg pages of the product, and might also be mentioned on the websites of the stock exchanges where the product is listed.

Prior to investing in the product, investors should seek independent financial, tax, accounting and legal advice. It is each investor’s responsibility to ascertain that it is authorised to subscribe, or invest into this product. This document is of a commercial nature and not of a regulatory nature. This material is of a commercial nature and not a regulatory nature. This document does not constitute an offer, or an invitation to make an offer, from Société Générale, Lyxor Asset Management (together with its affiliates, Lyxor AM) or any of their respective subsidiaries to purchase or sell the product referred to herein.

Research disclaimer

Lyxor International Asset Management (“LIAM”) or its employees may have or maintain business relationships with companies covered in its research reports. As a result, investors should be aware that LIAM and its employees may have a conflict of interest that could affect the objectivity of this report. Investors should consider this report as only a single factor in making their investment decision. Please see appendix at the end of this report for the analyst(s) certification(s), important disclosures and disclaimers. Alternatively, visit our global research disclosure website

Conflicts of interest 

This research contains the views, opinions and recommendations of Lyxor International Asset Management (“LIAM”) Cross Asset and ETF research analysts and/or strategists. To the extent that this research contains trade ideas based on macro views of economic market conditions or relative value, it may differ from the fundamental Cross Asset and ETF Research opinions and recommendations contained in Cross Asset and ETF Research sector or company research reports and from the views and opinions of other departments of LIAM and its affiliates. Lyxor Cross Asset and ETF research analysts and/or strategists routinely consult with LIAM sales and portfolio management personnel regarding market information including, but not limited to, pricing, spread levels and trading activity of ETFs tracking equity, fixed income and commodity indices. Trading desks may trade, or have traded, as principal on the basis of the research analyst(s) views and reports. Lyxor has mandatory research policies and procedures that are reasonably designed to (i) ensure that purported facts in research reports are based on reliable information and (ii) to prevent improper selective or tiered dissemination of research reports. In addition, research analysts receive compensation based, in part, on the quality and accuracy of their analysis, client feedback, competitive factors and LIAM’s total revenues including revenues from management fees and investment advisory fees and distribution fees.

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