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Working Paper

Is Capital Structure Irrelevant with ESG Investors?

We examine whether capital structure is irrelevant for enterprise value and investment when investors care about ESG issues, which we denote “ESG-Modigliani-Miller” (ESG-MM). Theoretically, we show that ESG-MM holds if ESG is additive and markets are perfect. Empirically, we provide evidence of failure of ESG-MM, implying that firms and governments can exploit non-additive ESG or segmented markets.

Journal Article

ESG Ratings: A Compass without Direction

We examine the recent concerns about the reliability of the assessments of ESG ratings providers. We review the demand for ESG information, the stated objectives of ESG ratings providers, how ratings are determined, the evidence of what they achieve, and structural aspects of the industry that potentially influence ratings. We find that while ESG ratings providers may convey important insights into the nonfinancial impact of companies, significant shortcomings exist in their objectives, methodologies, and incentives which detract from the informativeness of their assessments.

News

A Fireside Chat with Cliff Asness and Institutional Investor on ESG Investing

AQR Managing and Founding Principal Cliff Asness sat down with Institutional Investor Editor-in-Chief Michael Corcoran to answer some of the key questions on ESG investing. The conversation covered how a quantitative manager can effectively engage with companies, how investors can use their portfolios to help address climate change, why shorting is an effective ESG tool, and more.

White Paper

Supply Chain Climate Exposure

To manage climate risks, investors need reliable climate exposure metrics, but such risks may be difficult to measure, particularly along the supply chain. Using broadly accessible data, we propose an intuitive metric that quantifies the exposure a company has to customers and suppliers. Our metric is related to scope 3 emissions and captures the strength of economic linkages as well as the overall climate exposure of a firm’s customers and suppliers.

White Paper

Looking Forward With Historical Carbon Data

Increasingly many allocators are interested in computing their portfolio’s carbon footprint. We show that historical emissions data are useful despite a substantial 1-2 years’ lag typically to when investment portfolios are built.

Perspective

Shorting Counts

Man Group recently wrote an op-ed titled “Short-selling does not count as a carbon offset.” Of course we agree it doesn’t. But the headline is quite misleading if taken to mean shorting has no role in the fight to reduce carbon emissions. Shorting does exactly what it’s supposed to do – raise the cost of capital to the emitters, even more so than divestment.

Journal Article

Sustainable Systematic Credit

Interest in sustainable investing is now expanding into fixed income. This paper assesses how measures of sustainability/ESG might be relevant for corporate bonds and analyzes how ESG measures can be incorporated into an investment process to achieve the joint object of maximizing risk-adjusted returns and a sustainability target.

Perspective

Shorting Your Way to a Greener Tomorrow

It would be an understatement to say there is confusion in the industry about the use of shorting in an ESG context. When it comes to calculating a portfolio’s ESG score, we have heard arguments ranging from "ignore the shorts” to “net them against longs,” and, my favorite as it’s creatively insane, “pretend the shorts are actually longs.” This note explains why it is critical that shorts be properly accounted for, so that investors can use shorting to reduce carbon exposure, to get to net zero or to achieve other ESG goals.

White Paper

(Car)Bon Voyage: The Road to Low Carbon Investment Portfolios

We discuss how an investment portfolio could dramatically reduce its carbon footprint, potentially even achieving a ‘net zero’ carbon footprint. We discuss the pros and cons of techniques to achieve carbon reduction goals, including security selection, shorting high carbon footprint companies, and trading instruments such as carbon offsets and carbon permits.

Working Paper

Does ESG Help or Hurt Returns?

Combining several large data sets, we compute the empirical ESG-efficient frontier and show the costs and benefits of responsible investing.