Workers want elusive socially responsible investments in 401(k): Survey

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A polar bear is looking for food at the edge of the pack ice north of Svalbard, Norway.

If you’re looking in your 401(k) plan for investments that back clean energy or gender and racial diversity, you may have a tough time finding them.

A recent survey from Natixis Investment Managers finds that many workers would be more likely to save for retirement if their employer-sponsored retirement plan offered socially conscious investments.

Of the 1,000 workers surveyed, 61% of employees said they would start saving or increase their investments if that also meant doing social good. Millennials, 66%, were even more likely to agree with that statement.

At the same time, just 13% of workers surveyed said they have access to environmental, social and governance — or ESG — investments in their workplace retirement plan.

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That level of access to socially conscious investments is “not good enough,” according to Edward Farrington, executive vice president at Natixis Investment Managers.

That is because those kinds of investments offer key benefits, Farrington said, including higher-quality companies that can potentially withstand market fluctuations better.

Natixis and other financial firms are rolling out investment products that reflect these ideals.

But employers are slow to pick up these options. And experts say there are a couple of reasons why they are holding back.

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