Positive Screening

Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

Reviewed by Subject Matter Experts

Updated on May 23, 2023

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What Is Positive Screening?

Positive screening is a process of selecting stocks or securities that meet certain predefined criteria, such as financial performance, ethical considerations, or social responsibility.

In investing, positive screening works by identifying companies that meet specific values or investment goals, rather than simply avoiding companies that do not.

Positive screening criteria may vary depending on the investor's individual values and investment goals, and can include financial metrics such as earnings growth, revenue growth, and dividend yield, sustainable business practices, diversity and inclusion, and community engagement.

By using positive screening, investors can potentially identify companies that align with their values and investment goals, leading to better investment returns over the long term.

Positive Screening vs Negative Screening

Positive Screening: A Proactive Approach

Positive screening actively seeks out companies that meet specific ESG criteria, focusing on firms with strong sustainability practices and responsible corporate behavior. This approach emphasizes investment in businesses that are contributing positively to society and the environment.

Negative Screening: An Exclusionary Approach

Negative screening, on the other hand, involves excluding companies that do not align with an investor's values or have poor ESG performance. This approach typically excludes industries such as tobacco, gambling, and fossil fuels, which are considered harmful or controversial.

Advantages of Positive Screening

Compared to negative screening, positive screening offers a more proactive and targeted approach to responsible investing.

It enables investors to actively support companies that are making a positive impact on society and the environment, thus driving change and encouraging responsible business practices.

Key Factors in Positive Screening

Environmental Considerations

Sustainable Practices

Companies with strong environmental performance demonstrate sustainable practices, such as efficient use of resources, waste reduction, and pollution prevention.

Climate Change Mitigation

Firms that actively work to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and support clean energy initiatives contribute to climate change mitigation efforts.

Conservation Efforts

Investing in companies that prioritize biodiversity and habitat conservation, as well as those that promote responsible land and water use, can help protect the environment for future generations.

Social Considerations

Human Rights and Labor Practices

Positive screening may include companies that uphold high standards of human rights and labor practices, such as fair wages, safe working conditions, and anti-discrimination policies.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Companies committed to fostering diverse, inclusive, and equitable work environments demonstrate strong social performance and are attractive to responsible investors.

Community Engagement and Philanthropy

Firms that actively engage with and contribute to their local communities through philanthropy and volunteer initiatives are considered socially responsible.

Governance Considerations

Board Diversity and Independence

Investing in companies with diverse and independent boards can lead to better decision-making and overall corporate governance.

Executive Compensation

Executive compensation structures that are transparent, fair, and linked to long-term company performance can minimize potential conflicts of interest and align the interests of management with those of shareholders.

Shareholder Rights and Engagement

Companies that prioritize shareholder rights and engagement, such as providing avenues for shareholder input and maintaining transparent communication, are considered to have strong governance practices.

Key Factors in Positive Screening

Positive Screening Methodologies

Best-In-Class Approach

The best-in-class approach involves selecting companies that outperform their peers in terms of ESG performance within a given industry or sector.

Thematic Investing

Thematic investing focuses on specific ESG-related themes, such as clean energy, water scarcity, or gender equality, and targets companies that contribute to solving these challenges.

Impact Investing

Impact investing emphasizes investments in companies that generate measurable positive social and environmental impact, alongside financial returns.

ESG Integration

ESG integration involves incorporating ESG criteria into traditional financial analysis and decision-making processes to enhance risk assessment and identify potential opportunities.

Positive Screening Methodologies

Benefits of Positive Screening

Potential for Higher Returns

Companies with strong ESG performance often exhibit lower risk profiles and are better positioned for long-term success, which may result in higher financial returns for investors.

Lower Risk Exposure

Investing in companies with robust ESG practices can help mitigate risks associated with poor governance environmental concerns, and social issues, thus protecting the investor's portfolio.

Aligning Investments With Personal Values

Positive screening allows investors to align their investments with their personal values and ethical beliefs, supporting companies that contribute positively to society and the environment.

Encouraging Responsible Business Practices

By investing in companies with strong ESG performance, investors can encourage responsible business practices, driving positive change and promoting sustainable development.

Challenges of Positive Screening

Lack of Standardized Criteria

One of the main challenges of positive screening is the lack of standardized criteria for measuring ESG performance, which can make it difficult to compare and evaluate companies.

Greenwashing

Some companies may engage in greenwashing, or the practice of making misleading claims about their environmental and social performance, which can hinder investors' ability to make informed decisions.

Limited Investment Options

Positive screening may result in a more limited pool of investment options, as companies that meet specific ESG criteria might be fewer in number compared to the broader market.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Positive Screening

Conclusion

The growing importance of positive screening in the world of investing reflects a shift in investor priorities and a heightened focus on sustainability and corporate responsibility.

By actively seeking out companies with strong ESG performance, investors can play a pivotal role in driving change and promoting sustainable development.

As the field of positive screening continues to evolve, investors will be better equipped to make informed decisions that align with their values and contribute to a better future for all.

Positive Screening FAQs

About the Author

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website or view his author profiles on Amazon, Nasdaq and Forbes.

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