Carbon Bias in Index Investing

Research output: Working paperDiscussion paperProfessional


This paper presents evidence of a bias towards carbon-intensive companies in popular value-weighted stock market indices that are tracked by index funds and ETFs and serve as benchmark for active equity strategies. The average carbon bias in the U.S. Russell 1000 is close to 70% and the bias in the MSCI Europe index is about 90%. This means that the carbon intensity of the U.S. and European market indices is 70% and 90% higher than that of the U.S. and European economy, respectively. The carbon bias arises because firms operating in carbon-intensive sectors, such as mining, manufacturing, and electricity, tend to be more capital intensive and more likely to be publicly listed. These companies therefore issue more equity than firms in low-carbon sectors and receive a larger weight in the value-weighted stock market index than in the real economy. The carbon bias is problematic because it exposes institutional investors such as pension funds to carbon-transition risks and is at odds with their drive towards sustainability. We therefore explore several strategies for investors to mitigate the carbon bias in their equity allocation.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherRotterdam School of Management (RSM), EUR
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Research programs

  • RSM F&A


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