Using big data to make sustainable investments

Big Data

Photo Credit: TheDigitalArtist via Pixabay
Photo Credit: TheDigitalArtist


Research teams from the City University of New York (CUNY), Harvard, and UBS Asset Management relied on advances in data gathering in several fields, including earth observation, epidemiology and public health, in identifying investments that will promote the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

This is just one example of how big data is being used by investors to gain more insight into sustainable issues, according to Mike Scott of Forbes.

The research teams are using big data to study the environmental and health impacts of a US$2.1 billion portfolio of public equities managed by UBS Asset Management for Dutch pension fund giant PGGM.

Another example is the acquisition of a Deloitte Netherlands analytics team by Dutch asset manager APG, which manages the Dutch civil service pension fund. APG will use the analytics team for sustainable investing and will be tasked with identifying listed companies that develop solutions for climate change, health care and education.

Institutional investors are under pressure to make sustainable investments, and to measure the positive environmental and social benefits of their portfolio.

The CUNY/Harvard research will help investors to make direct comparisons of the sustainable performance of various businesses. This is something hard to get done but is a crucial factor when looking for investments that benefit the environment and the society.

Its global effect is measured to be in trillions of US dollars because it can help forestall climate change, reduce pollution, improve human health and forestall the loss of ecosystem services.

It differs from other frameworks that measure corporate sustainability but have limited usefulness in evaluating their long-term effect.  

The SDGs are guidelines for eradicating global poverty, protect the environment, and ensure that people all over the world live prosperously and peacefully. The SDGs focus on 17 topics ranging from poverty to gender and income inequality, and water availability.