Real asset investors will be paying significantly more attention to ESG over the next five years, according to a survey released Friday by Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets.
"Investors in the real asset sector have reached an inflection point, with a growing consensus agreeing that sustainability strategies can be pursued while delivering value for investors and driving positive change in communities," Phil Peters, head of Macquarie Asset Management's client solutions group, said in a statement.
The MIRA ESG Survey of 150 real asset investors with a collective $20 trillion of assets under management found 91% of them expecting to increase their focus on ESG in the next five years. That compares to 58% who increased their focus in the previous five years.
Some of the increased attention is due to returns, with 78% of investors seeing a positive link between ESG and investment performance.
Several factors are preventing further integration of ESG into investment frameworks, the survey found. The biggest barrier is a lack of in-house expertise, with only 24% of respondents in the Americas and 21% from Asia reporting a dedicated ESG function, compared to 72% in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and 71% in Australia.
Partly because of that ESG skills gap, only 23% of investors currently quantify the benefits of their managers' efforts and performance on sustainability, the report found. Raising that percentage will also involve getting better performance information and measurement tools, the survey concluded.
"To harness this exciting opportunity, our industry needs to bridge the ESG skills gap and significantly improve measurement and reporting tools," Mr. Peters said.