22. December 2022
5 minutes

Sustainable Investing with OLZ - More sustainability thanks to portfolio optimization

In the second part of our series «Sustainable Investing with OLZ», we looked at the criteria that a company must meet in order to be included in our equity funds. In the process, the original investment universe (e.g. MSCI World ex CH Index) is adjusted for those stocks whose sustainability profile falls short of the minimum requirements. In the third part of our blog series, we will now examine how sustainability is incorporated into portfolio construction. At OLZ, this is done through an optimization process that takes into account both financial and sustainability-related risk factors.

As outlined in the previous two posts, the definition of corporate sustainability is something very subjective. Some think primarily in terms of environmental impact, others more in terms of social issues or even corporate governance. Even within these topics, there are many different facets. In order to meet these diverse demands as far as possible, several factors come into play not only in the exclusion criteria, but also in portfolio optimization.


One indicator that covers the topic of sustainability relatively broadly is the so-called ESG Score (Environment, Social, Governance). As with the exclusion criteria, we base this on the work of MSCI ESG Research - a leading provider of sustainability research. Each company is evaluated in the individual areas and a weighted «score» is determined. The higher this score, the more sustainable the company. As part of the optimization process, the aim is not only to minimize portfolio risk, but also to improve the weighted ESG score compared with the benchmark. The extent of the improvement depends on the score of the benchmark index - the lower its score, the more we improve the sustainability profile of our equity portfolio. The example of the OLZ Equity World ex CH Optimized ESG fund shows that the ESG score as of rebalancing on November 16, 2022 is 0.6 points better than the benchmark thanks to our optimization. This is also reflected in the MSCI ESG rating, which is directly dependent on the score: Our fund receives the grade «AA», while the benchmark is rated one level lower («A»).

CO2 emissions

The environmental aspect is already taken into account in the «E» of the ESG score, but to give even more weight to the issue of global warming, a company's CO2 emissions are explicitly included in portfolio optimization. Thus, on average, companies with lower CO2 emissions are weighted more heavily than companies that have a high impact on the climate. As a result, our equity funds have a carbon footprint1 and a carbon intensity2 that are at least 30% lower than the respective market index. In the case of our example fund (World ex CH), both values have been reduced by significantly more than 30%. The CO2 footprint of the OLZ strategy is only half as large in comparison with the benchmark.

Sustainability without distorting the minimum risk characteristics

The core of OLZ portfolio optimization aims at reducing investment risk. This manifests itself in comparatively lower volatility and lower drawdowns in negative market phases. With the integration of sustainability objectives into the optimization, the legitimate question may arise whether these central characteristics are not diluted. The good news: No! We already came to the conclusion some time ago that compared to other factor strategies (e.g. value, momentum, etc.) our minimum risk approach harmonizes very well with sustainability (read more here). So the better sustainability profile comes without any restriction of the investment style.  You benefit from a sustainable, long-term better risk-return ratio. If this win-win situation has aroused your curiosity, our consulting team will be happy to help you.

1 Carbon footprint = CO2 emissions in tons / company value incl. liquidity, based on Scope 1 + 2 data (Scope 1 = direct emissions of a company / Scope 2 = indirect emissions from purchased energy)

2 Carbon intensity = CO2 emissions in metric tons / sales in million CHF, based on Scope 1 + 2 data

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