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Sustainability news

Major awareness gap revealed as research finds only a third of UK retail investors have heard of responsible investing or ESG

  • 07 May 2024

  • AXA IM Select survey finds only 33% have heard of ‘responsible investing’ and just 32% of ‘ESG’
  • More investors (46%) had heard of ‘sustainable’ or ‘ethical’ investing (43%)
  • High-Net-Worth investors most likely to have heard of key terms like ‘ESG’ (58%)
  • AXA IM calls for more action to be taken to educate investors and improve financial literacy to help tackle confusion and knowledge gaps

Only a third of UK investors have heard the term ‘responsible investing’ or ‘ESG’, according to research by AXA IM Select.

In findings that expose a major awareness gap in the UK, just 33% of respondents in the survey of 840 investors had heard of responsible investing, and only 32% of ESG.

While a greater number of respondents were aware of ‘sustainable investing’ (46%) and ‘ethical investing’ (43%), less than a fifth (18%) had heard of ‘impact investing’.

Age and gender were found to have little bearing over investors’ awareness of terms such as ESG and responsible investing, although older investors were more likely to be familiar with ‘ethical investing’ and ‘green investing’.[1]

Investors with larger portfolios were the group found to have the most awareness of key terms. Almost two-thirds (63%) of High-Net-Worth investors[2] in the survey had heard of ‘sustainable investing’ while 59% had heard of ’ethical investing’ and 58% ‘ESG’.

Bertrand Penverne, Global Head of ESG at AXA IM Select, says the research exposes the vital need for education to drive forward the sustainable transition and ensure investors can fully align their portfolios with their values and goals.

“In this day and age it is easy to assume that everyday industry terms like responsible investing and ESG are widely known and understood by most investors, but the research shows this is far from the case,” Penverne says.

“At a time when there has never been a more pressing need to channel capital to the investments seeking to make a positive difference to the world, it is a huge concern that most investors are not even aware of the types of funds that do this.

“AXA Group recently began offering training on the challenges of climate change to its individual shareholders, through the AXA Climate School, as a way of educating as many people as possible on the environmental threats facing us all. And, at an industry level, organisations like Pensions for Purpose, of which AXA IM is a member, are going a long way to bridge gaps in knowledge in the realm of ESG, sustainability and impact. Additionally, AXA IM teams support underlying investors through RI educational training programmes.

“But is clear that we as an industry have much more to do to raise awareness and understanding of the various RI investment terms more broadly if we are to improve financial literacy and speed the transition to a low-carbon, virtuous world.”

Please find full survey results here: ESG Investing: A Global Investor Survey | AXA IM Corporate (axa-im.com)

[1] Ethical investing was known to 51% of investors aged 55+. Green investing was known to 48% of investors aged 55+

[2]Defined as those with £250,000+ of investment assets 

Notes to editors

AXA Climate School

AXA Group has trained 96% of its employees in the challenges of climate change through a program created by AXA Climate. In April, the Group announced that the AXA Climate School's training will also be offered to its individual shareholders and customers, with up to 6 million people taking part.

AXA Climate's Climate School has been produced with contributions from over 120 scientists, experts and researchers around the world and is the most comprehensive 100% digital micro-learning catalogue on environmental and sustainable transition issues, and investment related topics, to date.

See here for more information https://www.axa.com/en/press/press-releases/axa-trains-its-individual-shareholders-on-the%20challenges-of-climate-change

Pensions for Purpose Community 
AXA IM became a member of the Pensions for Purpose Community, which launched in December 2023, earlier in the year.

The Pensions for Purpose Community allows members to learn from leaders in the impact investment industry.

AXA IM, which has been a supporter of Pensions for Purpose for a number of years, was pleased to join the Community partnership to help influence and shape the sustainability journey of the pensions industry.

See here for more information https://www.pensionsforpurpose.com/Community/About.html

About AXA Investment Managers

AXA Investment Managers (AXA IM) is a leading global asset manager offering a diverse range of global investment opportunities in both alternative and traditional asset classes. Through our products we aim to diversify and grow portfolios, while delivering long-term investment performance and value for clients.


AXA IM manages approximately €844 billion in assets, of which €480 billion are categorised ESG-integrated, sustainable or impact, as at the end of December 2023. We are committed to reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 across all eligible assets, and to integrating ESG principles across our business, from stock selection to our corporate actions and culture.

Part of the AXA Group, a worldwide leader in insurance and asset management, AXA IM employed over 2,800 employees and operates from 23 offices in 18 countries globally at end of December 2023.

About AXA IM Select

AXA IM Select is a business unit of AXA IM. As a specialist multi-manager, it focuses on  dedicated offers for AXA clients and partners regarding Unit-Linked products as well as a wealth management offering. With assets under management of €32 billion* in Europe and Asia, we offer open architecture investment solutions, i.e. the selection of both external and Group UCIs (Undertakings for Collective Investments). We specialise in the creation of financial offers for a clientele of institutional and individual investors (investment advice, portfolio management on behalf of third parties and management of UCIs).

By combining agility and an entrepreneurial spirit, AXA IM Select benefits from the stability and opportunities provided by being part of the AXA Group, a world leader in insurance and asset management.

*March 31, 2024. Includes asset management and consulting for all of AXA IM Select’s activities. AXA IM Select operates through the following entities: Architas Multi-Manager Europe Limited, AXA IM Select France, AXA IM Select Belgium, AXA IM Select Asia Limited and PT AXA Investment Managers Indonesia. All are part of AXA Group, with the ultimate parent and controlling company being AXA S.A. (a company registered in France).


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