By Hugo Greenhalgh
LONDON, April 13 (Openly) - Tennis legend Martina Navratilova and the first openly gay U.S. Congressman Barney Frank have backed a new LGBT+ investment vehicle, as investors flock to ethically responsible funds.
The two gay icons are on the board of LGBTQ Loyalty Holdings, a financial methodology and media company that launched the LGBTQ100 ESG Index in 2019 to enable investment in top corporations that seek to advance LGBT+ equality.
The index is the first to include data from the LGBT+ community to construct a benchmark of the 100 companies most committed to equality out of the 500 largest U.S. firms.
As an ESG index, it also tracks the performance of companies with strong environmental, social and governance ratings, which are becoming increasingly popular.
"I've dedicated my life to advancing equality," nine-times Wimbledon singles champion Navratilova, said in a statement announcing the launch on May 18 of the LGBTQ+ ESG100 ETF on the U.S. stock exchange Nasdaq.
"Our belief in companies that align with those virtues is unwavering," said Navratilova, one of the first high-profile athletes to come out in 1981.
ETFs - or exchange-traded funds - seek to track the performance of a particular index and are often favoured because they have a low investment threshold, are easy to trade and offer a diverse range of investments.
Ethical investment is on the rise as COVID-19 has worsened global inequality and thrown millions into extreme poverty, while protests over racism and the climate crisis have shown a strong desire for change among millions of ordinary people.
Covering everything from how a company handles global warming to boardroom diversity, firms with a good ESG score saw strong demand in a turbulent 2020.
Total assets in sustainable funds hit a record of nearly $1.7 trillion at the end of 2020, industry tracker Morningstar reported, helped by a global push to transition to a low-carbon economy.
"Sometimes working for justice requires sacrifice," said Frank, who as a state legislator filed Massachusetts' first gay rights bills in 1972.
"But investing in a well-constructed ETF that advances important values is a chance to do well while doing good."
The LGBTQ100 ESG Index has outperformed the S&P 500, which measures the performance of the 500 largest U.S. companies, by more than 5% since its launch in 2019, LGBTQ Loyalty Holdings said.
(Reporting by Hugo Greenhalgh @hugo_greenhalgh; Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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