As environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors gain prominence in the world of investing, striking a balance between ESG risk management and driving meaningful impact becomes a complex challenge. In this article, we explore key strategies employed by investors to navigate the intricate landscape of ESG and impact investing.  

1. Tailoring the approach to the company's journey: 

Every company is at a different stage of its sustainability journey, so adopting a flexible strategy is key. Investors should adapt their approach based on a company's maturity level, ensuring progress is made at an appropriate pace without compromising long-term objectives. By tailoring efforts, investors set the foundation for sustainable growth and positive impact. 

2. Unravelling the ESG ratings paradox: 

ESG ratings often create misconceptions, especially when evaluating highly regulated industries like oil and gas. While these industries may score well on ESG ratings due to their robust risk management practices, it may not necessarily reflect their impact on society and the planet. On the other hand, innovative companies with transformative missions may not align perfectly with ESG frameworks. This highlights the need for comprehensive evaluation models that consider both risk management and impact to make informed investment decisions. 

3. The quest for an impact index: 

There is growing recognition of the value of ESG ratings as benchmarking tools, but there is also a need for an impact index that goes beyond risk evaluation. An impact index would provide a clearer picture of a company's sustainability performance by considering its inherent impact on the environment and society. Although challenging, the development of such an index holds the potential to enhance responsible investment decision-making in the future. 

4. Evaluating environmental impact: 

Assessing climate impact is a critical aspect of responsible investing. Organisations need a robust evaluation framework that considers both quantitative and qualitative factors. This evaluation should take into account the feasibility of achieving environmental objectives, potential barriers, and management commitment. By conducting thorough assessments, investors can guide their investment decisions and ensure ongoing tracking and verification of climate impact performance. 

5. The social side of climate investing: 

Addressing environmental impact is important, but responsible investors also  consider social factors. Investing in projects that foster energy access, create jobs, promote economic contributions, and ensure inclusion in the energy transition can have a profound societal impact. Aligning investment efforts with relevant Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) allows investors to track key metrics and engage with portfolio companies to develop strategies that drive positive social outcomes alongside climate impact and financial returns. 


Navigating the intersection of ESG and impact investing requires a comprehensive and responsible investment strategy. By tailoring the approach, understanding the limitations of ESG ratings, exploring the potential for an impact index, evaluating environmental impact, considering social factors, and striking a balance between compliance and purpose-driven performance, responsible investors can make a lasting impact on both financial and sustainability fronts. As the investment landscape evolves, these insights can guide investors in driving positive change while generating commercial returns. 

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Guest Author

Phil Davis

Phil Davis

Director of ESG, Helios Investments LLP

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