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Deutsche Bank on ESG: Inaction Is Not an Option

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The facts speak for themselves: With global warming, even the earth heating up a moderate amount means by 2050 London’s climate will be more like Barcelona’s, and Madrid’s will be more like that of Marrakesh, according to a Swiss University ETH Zurich study.

A report from the Chief Investment Office of Deutsche Bank puts it more succinctly: “The prevailing climate is currently moving away from the equator at a rate of 20 kilometers [12.43 miles] a year. Of 250 cities analysed worldwide, 22% are set to be confronted with a climate that, at present, does not exist in any city on Earth.” (Italics ours.)

Deutsche Bank’s report, “ESG Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow — Sustainability Across the Centuries,” by Markus Müller, global head chief investment officer, is a frightening view of what the world should expect if nothing is done to curtail climate change. That said, actions being taken, especially through investor efforts, are a good start to change behavior, the report says.

The report’s foundation also is a reason that Deutsche Bank Wealth Management announced it is accelerating its environmental, social and governance strategy by “extending its ESG product offerings across discretionary wealth management and investment advisory, adopting ratings from MSCI, and launching new research, client materials and events,” it said in a statement.

“This fast-growing area is of critical relevance for our clients and for the future of our business and society,” said Fabrizio Campelli, global head of wealth management, in a statement. “ESG comes up more and more often in our regular discussions with clients. ESG analysis, guidance and investments are rapidly becoming not just an important component of our client offering but the essential foundation for everything we do.”

The paper by Müller walks through the history, even going back to ancient times and within various cultures, of “sustainability,” a review that was to provide the “sense of harmony between humans, other living beings and the earth itself, not only to respect nature … but also to realize that most environmental and social challenges can only be solved in mutual dependence.”

He concludes that “sustainability must be built into the ‘system’ and not imposed retrospectively.”

Although DB’s decision to move toward ESG investing seems built on customer demand, it doesn’t hurt that today the strategy represents more than $30 trillion of assets across the five major markets, according to the Global Sustainable Investment Alliance.

The bank notes that in its own behavior and across all divisions it plans to promote sustainable business, increased transparency and ensure its risk-management processes avoid any negative environmental or social impacts from its core businesses. After all, as the bank states, “surveys have found that the vast majority of millennials say a company’s ESG track record is important when they are deciding whether to invest.”

Further, Müller refers to a 2004 United Nations report, “Who Cares Wins,” in which it “argued that the inclusion of ESG criteria in certain investment decisions could have a positive impact on society and financial markets, as well as on one’s own portfolio.”

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