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American Century Investments’ sixth global impact investing survey reveals gender gap

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Despite a growing share of women across five countries reporting impact investing appeals to them, the sixth impact investing survey by the USD218 billion global asset manager American Century Investments shows a gender gap persists. 

Overall, the appeal of impact investing continued to rise across countries, except for the US. Results go back to 2016 in the United States, 2019 in the UK, 2020 in Germany, 2021 in Australia and 2022 in Singapore.  

“The totality of our impact investing surveys shows the appeal has increased over the years across nations for men and women, baby boomers, Gen Xers and millennials,” says Sarah Bratton Hughes, senior vice president and head of sustainable investing for American Century Investments. “Even the populations whose interest lags other populations’ interest are making gains. This isn’t surprising, because the long-term drivers for sustainable investing remain strong, and that reaches all populations.” 

Gender gap persists internationally – recent sustainability “backlash” affects appetite for impact investing 

The 2022 survey showed women find impact investing more appealing than in prior years. Interest grew five points among US women since 2018, seven points among UK women since 2019, 16 points among German women since 2020, and two points among Australian women since 2021.  

However, as it has been each year, men’s interest in impact investing is higher than women’s. This gap is largest in Germany and Australia (12 points) and exists across all countries, including Singapore, where women’s interest (66 per cent) is higher than U.S. men (60 per cent) and German men (57 per cent) but lags Singaporean men (72 per cent). The gap has been relatively unchanged in the US (eight points) and UK (seven points). 

A question new to the survey this year reveals another gender gap: in all five countries, men were more likely than women to report the recent sustainability “backlash” impacted their appetite for impact investing. Yet the backlash’s impact on men was mixed: men in the UK, Australia and Germany reported a higher appeal in 2022 compared to 2021 while American men’s interest fell by three points. In Singapore, the recent sustainability backlash was more likely to affect men (57 per cent) than women (49 per cent) when it came to their appetite for impact investing in 2022.    

Geographic rankings shift with addition of Singapore and declining interest only in US. 

Overall, the interest in impact investing rose seven points in Germany, six points in Australia and two points in the UK but fell five points in the US since 2021. Singapore’s addition to the survey shifted comparative rankings in 2022 by taking the top spot (69 per cent). Displaced to number two (65 per cent), U.K. respondents find impact investing much more appealing than their U.S. (56 per cent) and German counterparts (51 per cent), who are much less likely to be familiar with impact investing. Notably, despite the strong interest and high familiarity with impact investing, nearly 60 per cent of UK respondents believe greenwashing has increased. 

“Despite a challenging global economy, an evolving regulatory environment, and political pushback over the last year, interest in sustainable investing not only endures, but has grown in most places,” says Bratton Hughes. “And even though the appeal in the US fell five points since 2021, it has increased 18 points since 2016.”  

Bratton Hughes also pointed out US (24 per cent) and German (24 per cent) respondents were the least likely to report the recent sustainability “backlash” impacted their appetite for impact investing, compared to Australia (26 per cent), the UK (31 per cent) and Singapore (53 per cent).  

“Despite the backlash, we largely see that people continue to show more interest in impact investing year after year,” says Bratton Hughes. “Integrating sustainability and ESG factors into the investment process is not, and should not be, politically motivated – it is focused on value creation, not values. We believe incorporating sustainability into our investment processes can lead to more informed decision-making and better long-term risk-adjusted returns for our clients.”  

Health care and disease prevention and cures remains a top cause  

For the sixth impact investing survey, health care and disease prevention and cures is the cause that matters the most in the US and Australia, and the second concern in the UK and Singapore after the environment.  

As an asset manager with an impact on global health, American Century Investments writes that it has a unique perspective on sustainable investing. More than 40 per cent of American Century dividends go to the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, a world-class biomedical research organisation with an equity stake in American Century. American Century Investments has generated nearly USD2 billion in dividends for the Stowers Institute since 2000.  

“We have a purpose-driven business model that sets us apart in the industry. Through our relationship with the Stowers Institute, we generate an impact on global health while helping clients achieve financial success. Our connection with the Stowers Institute, as well as their long-term view and commitment to research and innovation has helped to shape our culture and naturally aligns with integrating sustainability into our investment practices,” says Bratton Hughes.  

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