Morgan Stanley Survey Finds Investor Enthusiasm for Sustainable Investing at an All-Time High

More than eight in ten U.S. individual investors now express interest in sustainable investing, while half take part in at least one sustainable investing activity, according to a new survey published by the Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing. The third edition of the individual investor survey, Sustainable Signals, examines the attitudes, perceptions and behaviors of individual investors towards sustainable investing. Following two prior Sustainable Signals individual investor surveys, the findings show that interest and adoption of sustainable investing has grown steadily since 2015.

“These findings reaffirm that sustainable investing has entered the mainstream and is here to stay,” said Audrey Choi, Chief Sustainability Officer and Chief Marketing Officer at Morgan Stanley. “Increasingly, investors want to know what they own and want those holdings to reflect their values.”

Results from the survey reveals four central themes in the sustainable investing field:

  • Investor interest and adoption continues to rise; 85% are interested in sustainable investing.

    • 95% of millennials now express interest in sustainable investing.

    • This trend also extends to adoption: 52% of the general population and 67% of millennials take part in at least one sustainable investing activity, such as investing in companies or funds that target specific environmental or social outcomes.

  • Investors want products that match their interests; 84% want the ability to tailor their investments to their impact goals, 90% among millennials.

    • The survey also found strong interest among investors for tracking the impact return on their investments—84% wanted an impact report, 90% among millennials.

  • Investor conviction outweighs financial trade-off concerns; 86% believe that corporate ESG practices can potentially lead to higher profitability and may be better long-term investments.

    • 88% believe that it is possible to balance financial gains with a focus on social and environmental impact.

    • Nevertheless, perceptions of trade-offs linger, with 64% agreeing that investors must choose between financial gains and sustainability. Meanwhile, Morgan Stanley’s recent report, Sustainable Reality: Analyzing Risk and Returns of Sustainable Funds, shows that there is no financial trade-off in the returns of sustainable funds compared to traditional funds, and they demonstrate lower downside risk.

  • Investors want more product choices; 65% cited lack of available financial products as a barrier to including sustainable investing in their portfolios.

“Morgan Stanley has been a pioneer in the impact investing space since we launched our Global Sustainable Finance Group over a decade ago, and have since witnessed the rising interest and adoption in the market over time,” said Matt Slovik, Head of the Global Sustainable Finance Group at Morgan Stanley. “We’ve responded to this market demand by creating innovative products, such as the Morgan Stanley Impact Quotient, to empower our clients to participate in ESG investing and are focused on improving industry capabilities for portfolio customization and impact measurement.”

The survey polled 800 U.S. Individual Investors with minimum investable assets of $100,000. The survey also included an oversample of 200 Millennials, aged 18-37. This survey builds on a previous Morgan Stanley survey conducted in 2017 titled, Sustainable Signals: New Data from the Individual Investor.

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