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Should investors be worried about social consciousness?

28/03/2019 · BP plc   · British American Tobacco PLC (BATS)  · Facebook (FB)  · GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) 

ESG ETFs Shares Trends

Balanced scale between dollar sign and the world
ESG (environmental, social and governance) investing is becoming increasingly popular, especially amongst young people. So, does this mean we should align our portfolios to reflect better social principles or is ESG just a fad which will pass?

In 1970 Milton Friedman said companies which put social principles before profits are “unwitting puppets of those who would undermine a free society”. His views were praised. Today, the opinion of the Nobel prize winning economist has far less support. The ‘profits first’ principle that was enjoyed (or perhaps endured) by capitalists for most of the last 50 years is crumbling.

We can point fingers. Was unethical business practice first questioned when Lehman Brothers collapsed in the wake of the US real estate crisis and subsequent global banking disaster? Perhaps society’s trust in Friedman’s capitalism has been eroded by a succession of corporate scandals, from BP’s oil spill to Facebook’s data mining? Or maybe a shift in sentiment has been born from the simple fact that financial capital is now more plentiful than natural or social capital.

In 2016, a YouGov survey found both Brits and Americans aged between 18 and 30 preferred socialism to capitalism. The same results were…

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