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For many of us, January and February are times of transition—leaving old ideas and habits in the past as we adapt to new ones. And it looks like we can finally leave behind some old-school thinking about ESG and performance. Lost among the (hopefully) short-term gyrations of a very volatile stock market over the past two weeks was new analysis from Morningstar that shows in 2021, sustainable index funds performed as well or better than traditional funds, with an average return of 29.2% compared to 28.7%. What’s more, seven of the 13 ESG index funds available to US investors delivered returns over 30%. And the two-year comparison data looks even better.

 

This evidence comes on the back of multiple years of dramatic growth of capital flowing into ESG ETFs, and debunks claims that investing with both financial and sustainable goals is “concessionary.” Better ESG performance is not a trade-off for financial returns. As commitments to diversity and sustainability start to bear fruit—State Street’s push for more diverse corporate boards is a recent excellent example—we hope to see even more proof points that a more just and conscious economy generates returns for all.

 
 
 
 
FEARLESS FEATURE
 
 
 
 
Meet 19-year-old Alexandra Huỳnh, a Stanford freshman and the new national youth poet laureate.
 
 
 
 
IMPACT INVESTING
 
 
 
 
Shrinking Corporate Carbon Footprints
More than 2000 companies have made commitments to reduce their emissions. The Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) put together a list of the 243 companies with the most ambitious climate goals. The leaders? Walmart and IKEA. See who else made the cut (and why).
 
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Black Leadership Grows
When he takes over as head of food and health sciences company IFF on February 14th, Frank Clyburn will become the sixth Black CEO currently leading an S&P 500 company — evidence that the recent push to diversity corporate boards is (albeit slowly) leading to changes in the C-suite.
 
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INCLUSIVE ENTREPRENEURSHIP
 
 
 
 
Cleantech Entrepreneurs Are Everywhere
A new report from Startup Genome & the Global Entrepreneurship Network breaks down the who, where, and how of the cleantech startup world. Among the findings: later-stage investments are growing, and valuation of companies in the sector increased by a whopping 176% in 2021.
 
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Investing in Black Health Tech Founders
VC investor Marcus Whitney announced a $55 million fund — raised from the likes of Eli Lilly and the American Hospital Association — to invest in Black founders focused on healthcare. The fund, Jumpstart Nova, will provide seed and Series A capital to health tech entrepreneurs innovating everything from diagnostic devices to consumer health.
 
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BEFORE YOU GO
 
 
 
 
Sustainability and the City
Fashionistas are gearing up for the first New York Fashion Week since the passage of state legislation mandating transparency on sustainability and social impact for clothing brands.
 
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Summer Seaweed Rolls
Climate change could make lobster even more of a delicacy, so Maine fishermen are now looking at kelp and seaweed harvesting to keep their local economies thriving—even beyond the summer months.
 
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