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ESG compliant optimal portfolios: The impact of ESG constraints on portfolio optimization in a sample of European stocks

Costanza Torricelli () and Beatrice Bertelli

Centro Studi di Banca e Finanza (CEFIN) (Center for Studies in Banking and Finance) from Universita di Modena e Reggio Emilia, Dipartimento di Economia "Marco Biagi"

Abstract: The introduction of the Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) dimensions in setting up optimal portfolios has been becoming of uttermost importance for the financial industry. Given the absence of consensus in empirical literature and the limited number of studies providing performance comparison of ESG strategies, the aim of this paper is to assess the impact of ESG on optimal portfolios and to compare different approaches to the construction of ESG compliant portfolios. Following Varmaz et al. (2022) optimization model, we minimize portfolio residual risk by imposing a desired level of portfolio average systemic risk and ESG (measured by Bloomberg ESG score) over both an unscreened and a screened sample based on the 586 stocks of the EURO STOXX Index in the period January 2007 – August 2022. Three are the main results. First, regardless of the level of portfolio systemic risk, the Sharpe ratio of the optimal portfolios worsens as the target ESG level increases. Second, the Sharpe ratio dynamics of portfolios with the highest average ESG scores follows market phases: it is very close to/higher than other portfolios in bull markets, whereas it underperforms in stable or bear markets suggesting that ESG portfolios do not seem to represent a safe haven. Third, negative screenings with medium-low threshold reduce the performance of optimal portfolios with respect to optimization over an unscreened sample. However, when adopting a very severe screening we obtain a superior performance implying that very virtuous companies allows investors to do well by doing good.

Keywords: sustainable portfolio; portfolio optimization; investor preferences; ESG score; negative screening; portfolio performance (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: C61 G11 M14 Q01 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: pages 41
Date: 2022-10
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-eec, nep-env and nep-fmk
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