Responsible investing – gender and generational differences

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Workplace Thought Leadership Team

August 30, 2022

3 mins read

More women and young people say they care about sustainability and investing responsibly, according to our responsible investing study.

Attitudes towards responsible investing appear to be more positive among women and younger people. This is both in terms of agreeing with the importance of addressing sustainability issues and seeing the financial sense in doing so.

These findings are from our annual customer responsible investing study1. This year saw a continuation of some trends, but also some surprises.

Women care more about sustainability

More women than men say they care about good corporate governance, the social responsibility of the companies invested in, and the impact of climate change (see Figure 1).

More women also say they would like to choose specific investments based on their values and ethics.

More women than men say corporate governance, social responsibility and climate change are important to them

As well as decisions about investments, concerns about sustainable issues carry into other areas of their lives. For instance, women say they are more likely than men to buy sustainable products, choose a sustainable diet and to avoid buying products linked to unsustainable practices. (see Figure 2).

More women say they adopt sustainable behaviours in everyday life

We consistently see lower levels of confidence and engagement among women when it comes to long-term financial planning. So could responsible investing be a way to help engage them in their pensions and improve understanding, confidence and ultimately outcomes?

Younger customers

More young customers also say they attach importance to excluding companies that have a negative impact, investing in a way that influences positive change and committing to net-zero targets (see Figure 3).

However, we've seen this fluctuate over recent years, with our own and external studies suggesting that aspects of responsible investing are becoming more important to all age groups.

More young people express interest in excluding certain companies, investing in positive changes and committing to net-zero

Returns matter to all

Overall, our youngest customers still ranked returns far above ESG (environmental, social and governance) factors when it came to decisions about where their money is invested (see Figure 4).

More than half (54%) of our customers aged 18-34 said that returns were an "extremely important" factor to consider when investing. This compared to 39% for climate change; and 33% for the impact on social responsibility of the companies invested in.

As we saw in Figure 1, returns and risk remain the priorities to all, though women rank the importance of risk more highly than men.

Investment return still appears to be the single most important factor to young people

Encouragingly, overall members are gradually becoming more aware of the financial sense in investing responsibly, alongside the moral reasons, such as helping to tackle climate change and human rights issues. Please note, these are personal views of our survey respondents only and not actual returns or a forecast of future returns.

Whether it's for moral or financial reasons, awareness of ESG issues is growing. Members will increasingly expect to see their pension provider manage the associated financial risks and opportunities, while also helping to support a sustainable future to retire into. It's perhaps no surprise that 78% of the customers in our study expect their pensions to be invested responsibly on their behalf.

This presents an opportunity to engage members in their pensions but also a challenge - how can you meet the needs and range of preferences of all your members, not to mention increasing ESG regulatory requirements? Find out in Responsible investing - meeting the needs and preferences of all your members.

The value of investments can go down as well as up and may be worth less than what was paid in.

The information here is based on the understanding of Standard Life in August 2022 and shouldn't be regarded as financial advice.

Find out more

Responsible investing - what members want and care most about

Responsible investing - meeting the needs and preferences of all your members

Or download our Top findings summary - how customers really feel about responsible investing

Find out more about how we invest pensions responsibly and the role of stewardship in driving improvement in ESG behaviours and practices.

1 Standard Life Customer Responsible Investing Research Report Q1 2022, comprising a random sample of customers, with 1,600 responding

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