Interest in responsible investing and implementation of responsible investing policies made significant gains in the last year, according to Aon PLC's 2019 Global Perspectives on Responsible Investing.
Those gains were reported by both corporate pensions, where responsible investing sentiment grew to 86% from 56% a year earlier, and public pensions, where it grew to 92% in 2019 from 70% one year earlier.
The survey of nearly 230 investment professionals globally found that 85% of them consider responsible investing at least somewhat important, up from 68% in the 2018 survey. Growth occurred across all geographic regions and institutional investor types, including corporate pensions, public pensions, endowments and foundations, and defined contribution plans.
The year-to-year increase in those believing responsible investing to be at least somewhat important, by region was 87% in the U.K., up from 66%; 78% in the U.S., up from 66%; 78% in Canada, up from 68%; and 85% in Europe, up from 80%.
When it came to implementing responsible investing policies, 44% of those surveyed already have a policy in place and another 34% are working on one.
The survey also found the concern over how returns might be affected is waning, with more than 40% believing that incorporating non-financial environmental, social and governance data results in better investment performance.
The number of respondents allocating assets to some type of responsible investing strategy grew to 64% from 49% over the year, and 59% said they would maintain or increase allocations in the coming year. Aon also found that the largest asset owners are more likely to have both a responsible investment policy and dedicated RI staff.
While growth in responsible investing is not surprising in regions like the U.K. and Europe where there has been a marked increase in regulation, "we are also seeing significant investor-led RI efforts in areas where regulation is not driving activity," said report author Meredith Jones, global head of responsible investing at Aon Hewitt Investment Consulting.
"It seems institutional investors are increasingly concerned about risks associated with non-financial factors within their portfolios," Ms. Jones said a statement. "And RI offers multiple ways to capture, evaluate and mitigate those risks."