Earth-First Funds Are Soaring

Funds with sustainability in mind are super popular these days; these six are ready to deliver returns.

photo illustration green investing
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Green stocks weren’t the only investments that had a scorching year. Funds that invest with sustainability in mind sizzled, too. Some posted triple-digit returns over the past 12 months. Investors followed the money and poured more than $50 billion in 2020 into sustainable funds—mutual funds and exchange-traded funds that have a sustainability objective or that use environmental, social and governance measures as binding criteria for picking securities. That’s more than double the record set in 2019. And it represents 24% of overall inflows into U.S. stock and bond funds for the year.

In other words, sustainable investing hasn’t just arrived; it’s taking over. Though in 2020 investors pulled more money from U.S. stock funds than they put in, those outflows were offset by inflows into sustainable funds. “Investors pulled money from U.S. equity, sector-equity, international-equity and allocation funds in 2020, but added money to sustainable funds in each of those category groups,” says Jon Hale, head of sustainability research at Morningstar.

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Nellie S. Huang
Senior Associate Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Nellie joined Kiplinger in August 2011 after a seven-year stint in Hong Kong. There, she worked for the Wall Street Journal Asia, where as lifestyle editor, she launched and edited Scene Asia, an online guide to food, wine, entertainment and the arts in Asia. Prior to that, she was an editor at Weekend Journal, the Friday lifestyle section of the Wall Street Journal Asia. Kiplinger isn't Nellie's first foray into personal finance: She has also worked at SmartMoney (rising from fact-checker to senior writer), and she was a senior editor at Money.