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Walking the talk: Understanding consumer demand for sustainable investing

22 October 2019 – This study, commissioned by the Investment Leaders Group (ILG), provides insight into how decision-making behaviour is influenced by the availability of information on the environmental and social impact of funds alongside standard financial data.

Download the report hereWalking the talk: Understanding consumer demand

This innovative study was designed to simulate real investment choices in order to help understand the extent to which savers value sustainability. The study analysed the decision-making of individual savers by inviting them to choose between pairs of differently specified funds. Based on clearly presented financial and sustainability information, participants were presented with pairs of funds and asked where they would prefer to invest. In order to incentivise real investment behaviour, participants were informed that they had a chance of receiving a significant investment in one of the funds they selected.

While the financial performance of funds is readily accessible to the public, their social and environmental impact remains largely opaque, making it difficult for savers to discriminate good sustainability performance. In order to simulate real-world investment experiences, the fund information presented to participants followed a typical fact sheet format with one exception: the addition of sustainability information. The sustainability information was based on the Investment Impact Framework – a set of six open-source metrics which investors can use as proxies for their progress towards the SDGs, which was developed by CISL for the ILG.

The study demonstrates that public interest in sustainability does influence investment preferences when suitable information is provided. Combined with increased policy and regulatory attention on sustainable finance, this points to an opportunity for financial institutions and intermediaries to consider how they can meet a large-scale (and latent) consumer demand for sustainable investment.

Citing this study

Please refer to this study as: University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (2019). Walking the talk: Understanding consumer demand for sustainable investing. Cambridge, UK: University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership.

 Download the study here and access more research from the ILG.


Published: October 2019

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Author and acknowledgements

This research was led by a University of Cambridge team comprising Dr David Stillwell, Academic Director of the Psychometrics Centre and Lecturer in big data analytics and quantitative social science at Judge Business School, Dr William Skylark, Senior Lecturer in human judgement and decision-making in the Department of Psychology, Dr Myrto Pantazi, Research Associate in the Department of Psychology, and Dr Jake Reynolds, Faty Dembele, Dr Ellen Quigley, Kajetan Czyz and Dr Nina Seega from CISL.

We are very grateful to the members of the Investment Leaders Group (ILG) for feedback and comment throughout the project. In particular, we would like to thank Aegon Asset Management, First State Investments and Zurich Insurance Group.


The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not represent an official position of their companies, CISL, the wider University of Cambridge or clients.