But relationships that seem causal and permanent in one market era often vanish in the next, taking many “superior investment strategies” down with them. Today’s markets are also annoyingly efficient. The more studies that demonstrate that socially responsible stocks do better than regular stocks, the more investors will rush to buy them (and not just for “the greater good”). The resulting torrent of money flowing into the stocks will drive up their prices, and the higher prices will pave the way for subpar future returns.
…One implication of this argument-invest sustainably, and you’ll make a killing-is just dreaming. Even if the markets do soon “place a much higher value” on responsible companies, this won’t provide superior returns over the long term; rather, it will provide a pleasant short-term bump. Once stock prices have adjusted, the opportunity will evaporate. Investment decisions, moreover, will still be only one factor in changing corporate behavior. Regulatory practices and consumer buying choices will always play the most direct role in persuading companies to behave responsibly.
Source: The Atlantic Monthly
Subjects: Finance, Social Responsibility