ETF sponsors perform well on diversity, equity and inclusion, study finds

Nearly 90% of exchange-traded fund sponsors received the highest score in Sage Advisory's study of ETF stewardship.

In an annual study of how exchange-traded fund sponsors perform their fiduciary duties on behalf of ETF investors, 15 of the 17 large and small exchange-traded fund sponsors surveyed received the highest possible score on diversity, equity and inclusion issues.

The study, conducted by Sage Advisory Services, an Austin, Texas-based firm that manages and advises on more than $16 billion in assets, assessed six core areas of ETF sponsor stewardship: voting practices, engagement, stewardship professionals, disclosure, climate initiatives, and diversity, equity and inclusion. This was the first year the latter issues were included in the survey, Sage said in a release.

The survey also found that the number of respondents who received a passing grade in voting practices — a key tenet in the practice of stewardship — increased from 64% last year to 71%.

In 2020, Sage found that although ETF sponsors claimed to value ESG issues, the voting records of many did not reflect that support. This year, many ETF sponsors focused on their voting records and showcased their commitment to supporting proposals that had a positive impact on ESG factors, especially climate voting proposals, Sage said.

The responding ETF sponsors manage $3.7 trillion in ETF assets, which represents about 58% of the U.S. ETF market and 86% of the U.S. ESG ETF market.

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