Fixed Income

Sustainable Systematic Credit

Topics - Fixed Income ESG Investing Portfolio Risk and Performance

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Sustainable Systematic Credit

Interest in sustainable investing has exploded in recent years, initially focused on public equity markets, but now evolving into fixed income. We assess various aspects of sustainable investing for public corporate bond markets (both Investment Grade and High Yield). 

Using a representative set of sustainability measures spanning environment, societal and governance (ESG) constructs we find: (i) credit spreads are only marginally associated with ESG measures, (ii) ESG measures are only marginally associated with standard return forecasting measures for corporate bonds, and (iii) ESG measures are not reliably associated with future credit excess returns. 

While the direct investment impact of sustainability may be unclear/modest, there is still considerable interest from asset owners to ensure credit allocations are sustainable. We find that it is possible to incorporate (i) both static and dynamic exclusion screens, (ii) positive tilts toward more sustainable issuers, and (iii) economically meaningful reduction in carbon intensity, with minimal portfolio distortions. Thus, a well-implemented systematic approach has the potential to offer attractive risk-adjusted returns in a sustainable manner.

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Hypothetical performance results have many inherent limitations, some of which, but not all, are described herein. The hypothetical performance shown was derived from the retroactive application of a model developed with the benefit of hindsight.  Hypothetical performance results are presented for illustrative purposes only.


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AQR Capital Management is a global investment management firm, which may or may not apply similar investment techniques or methods of analysis as described herein. The views expressed here are those of the authors and not necessarily those of AQR.