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ESG funds outperforming in pandemic; employees return to new normal in offices

The ESG Insider newsletter compiles news and insights on environmental, social and governance developments driving change in business and investment decisions. Subscribe to our ESG Insider newsletter, and listen to the latest ESG Insider podcast on SoundCloud, Spotify and iTunes.

Over the past two months, we've brought you stories about how COVID-19 is creating increased emphasis on the "S" in ESG. That is leading to shifts in the way companies run their businesses and treat their employees, and the way investors and consumers engage on ESG issues. That shift appears poised to endure over the long term, even as quarantine measures begin to ease in parts of the world.

"We're going to remember the wedding gown maker that is giving dresses to the healthcare workers, or the companies that are announcing job security or pay raises for essential workers," Catherine Banat, director of responsible investing at RBC Global Asset Management, said during a webinar last week about ESG and the impact of COVID-19.

"People want to be aligned with good companies. And COVID-19 has made it much more important for the consumer, for the employee, for the shareholder and even for the suppliers and vendors to feel that they're dealing with good companies," Banat said.

We're seeing evidence of this across the investment world. Our chart of the week shows how investment funds set up with environmental, social and governance criteria have remained relative safe havens during the coronavirus pandemic. Plus, we look at how companies are rethinking office spaces as they prepare to bring employees back to work in a new post-pandemic normal.

READ MORE: Sign up for our weekly coronavirus newsletter here, and read our latest coverage on the crisis here.

Chart of the week

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Top stories

ESG funds remain relative safe havens in coronavirus downturn

S&P Global Market Intelligence analyzed 17 exchange-traded and mutual funds with more than $250 million in assets under management that select stocks for investment based in part on ESG criteria. Of those funds, 14 lost less value in the year through May 15 than the S&P 500, up from 12 in April.

Office landlords brace for new normal in workspace demand

When white-collar employees finally return to the work spaces they left behind in March, the buildings they enter may have altogether different layouts and new safety features that suggest a possible paradigm shift in the corporate office market.

Iberdrola, other companies urge governments to plan green exit from COVID-19

Executives from more than 150 companies around the world that have a combined market capitalization of more than $2.4 trillion have signed a statement calling on governments to plan a green economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

Environmental

French financial regulator to evaluate banks' climate risk exposure

ECB to push banks to bake climate, environment risks into business strategy

Coronavirus deflecting attention from other big threats, says risk chief

Social

Coronavirus spotlights need to tailor drugs, vaccines for elderly, expert says

Facebook plans shift to more remote work

Azimut launches €1B Italian social infrastructure fund

Governance

Danone confirms 2019 dividend, says no share repurchases in 2020

Citigroup to launch ESG-focused investment banking group

Shell shareholders vote down climate change resolution

ESG indices

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Upcoming events

Responsible Investor Digital Festival: Summer 2020
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June 15-19
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Aug. 4-5
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Sept. 1-3
Calistoga, Calif.

ESG & Sustainability Forum
Infrastructure Investor
Oct. 12
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Sustainability Reporting and Communications Europe 2020
Ethical Corporation
Oct. 19-20
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Sustainable Returns: ESG Investing
Institutional Investor
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New York 2020: Sustainable Business and Finance
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Dec. 2-3
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Dec. 9
Amsterdam

Disruptive Sustainability Technologies
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August 2021
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Questions or suggestions? Contact S&P Global Market Intelligence's ESG News team at ESGNews@spglobal.com.