Hills Sustainability
29 April 2024 Financial Analysts Journal Volume 80, Issue 3

3D Investing: Jointly Optimizing Return, Risk, and Sustainability

  1. David Blitz
  2. Mike Chen
  3. Clint Howard
  4. Harald Lohre
Mean–variance portfolio optimization focuses solely on risk and return, neglecting non-financial objectives, such as sustainability. We introduce mean–variance-sustainability optimization and demonstrate its efficacy empirically.
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Traditional mean–variance portfolio optimization is based on the premise that investors only care about risk and return. However, some investors also have non-financial objectives, such as sustainability goals. We show how the traditional approach can readily be extended to mean–variance-sustainability optimization and explain why this 3D investing approach is ex-ante Pareto-optimal. We illustrate its efficacy empirically in several studies, including carbon footprint and sustainable development goal objectives. Importantly, we highlight conditions under which a 3D optimization approach is superior to a naïve 2D approach augmented with sustainability constraints.

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