Prince Harry and Meghan, the duke and duchess of Sussex have fashioned themselves as relatable, compassionate royals who leverage their celebrity to bring about positive change for people and the planet.
Oh – and maybe make some money while being do-gooders.
So perhaps it was inevitable that the power couple would eventually extend their brand – which has spawned corporate partnerships with the likes of Netflix, Spotify, and Apple TV+ – into the hottest investment trend of recent years – ESG.
ESG stands for environmental, social, and governance and describes an approach to investing that takes all those criteria into account. Think of investment products like “green” bonds or funds that promise to only invest in companies that advance gender equity or lower greenhouse gas emissions.
At its core, ESG promises to put your money where your values are, or at the very least, put your money to work in a way that does not cause harm to people or the planet.
On Tuesday, Harry and Meghan announced they are joining Ethic – a fintech firm that makes asset-management technology for sustainable investing – as “impact partners”.
“We believe it’s time for more people to have a seat at the table when decisions are made that impact everyone,” Harry and Meghan wrote on their website, Archwell. “We want to rethink the nature of investing to help solve the global issues we all face.”
Ethic, which according to its website has “transitioned” more than $1bn into sustainable investing strategies, lauded the broader awareness that Harry and Meghan could bring to ESG investing.
“With their partnership, our shared vision for a world in which all investing is sustainable investing can reach many millions around the globe,” the company’s three co-founders said in a statement.
While Harry and Meghan could indeed help sustainable investing gain more traction on Main Street, it already commands a sizable chunk of assets that are professionally managed. The market for ESG topped $35 trillion last year, representing roughly 36 percent of all professionally managed assets globally, according to the Global Sustainable Investment Alliance
The timing of Harry and Meghan’s Ethic announcement also comes at a time when the ESG craze is facing growing scrutiny.
ESG benchmarks can vary widely, as can penalties for missing promised goals – all of which leaves the space wide open for a form of abuse known as “greenwashing”.
Europe has gone further than the United States and Asia in trying to create a regulatory framework to weed out greenwashing. Europe’s market for ESG products shrank by $2 trillion between 2018 and 2020, after regulators there enacted significant changes in what exactly defines a sustainable investment.
Risks could also be clouding the outlook for the space. Last month, the Bank for International Settlements – which is like the central bank of the world’s central banks – warned that the growing popularity of green investing could trigger an asset bubble.