Skip to main content

Smart Savers Blog

Three Things to Know About: ESG Portfolios


While investing in socially and environmentally conscious companies is not a new concept, momentum for these types of impact investments has grown dramatically over the last few years. An ESG Portfolio can provide you with the social accountability and transparency you seek when choosing where to invest your funds.


What is ESG Investing? 

ESG investing measures how investments or companies perform in the categories of Environmental, Social, and Governance. The concept is intended to create investment options that offer competitive returns for customers while simultaneously pursuing a socially responsible or ethical investment strategy. 

ESG investing is sometimes used synonymously with “socially responsible investing,” or SRI. Historically, SRI investing has used an approach that filtered out investments deemed to have negative social effects (for example, a poor environmental record or labor practices compared to peers). ESG follows a similar template, but also seeks to include companies that are judged to have positive social effects.


What are the criteria for an ESG Portfolio? 

Specific ESG criteria varies between different organizations. The Invest529 ESG Core Equity Portfolio invests entirely in the Parnassus Core Equity Fund. The fund invests in companies with attractive long-term performance expectations, while taking ESG factors into account. The key criteria the investment team looks for in its company–specific investment process are: 

  • future relevancy of a company’s products or services 
  • sustainable competitive advantages 
  • quality management 
  • attractive valuation. 


How have ESG Portfolios performed? 

ESG funds are still growing, but so far have performed in line with more traditional investments. For example, a S&P Global Market Intelligence analysis of ESG funds found that most of the funds surveyed beat out the S&P 500 (the stock market index that tracks the stocks of the 500 largest U.S. companies—the benchmark of the overall market) over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many shareholders internationally are demanding to have more social and environmental action taken by the companies they invest in, resulting in a rise in popularity for ESG investing.


Key Takeaways:

  • ESG investing offers competitive returns for customers while pursuing a socially responsible or ethical investment strategy. 
  • Key ESG criteria–future relevancy of a company’s products or services, sustainable competitive advantages, quality management, and attractive valuation. 
  • ESG funds outperformed the S&P 500 in 2020-21.


Review Invest529’s ESG Core Equity Portfolio


Low fees, tax advantages and diverse investment options are reasons Invest529 is consistently ranked among the top 529 plans by independent sources.

The examples above are provided for illustrative purposes only and are not intended to reflect or predict the actual performance of any specific investment. Virginia529 cannot and will not provide legal, financial, or tax advice, and nothing herein or in any other written materials shall be construed as such.

For more information on Virginia529’s college savings options, visit or call 1-888-567-0540 to obtain program materials. These include information on Virginia529 programs, investment objectives, risks, charges, expenses and other important information; read and consider them carefully before investing. Virginia529 encourages prospective participants to seek the advice of a professional concerning any financial, tax or legal implications related to opening an account. For residents of states other than Virginia: before investing, you should consider whether your or the beneficiary’s home state offers any state tax or other state benefits such as financial aid, scholarship funds, and protections from creditors that are only available for investments in that state’s qualified tuition program. ©2021 Virginia College Savings Plan. All Rights Reserved.

Resources to help you learn

Frequently Asked Questions

Find answers to the most common questions about 529 plans.

Smart Savers Academy

Tune in to a live episode and ask questions of the presenter, or watch a previously recorded webinar below.

Invest529 Portfolio Performance

Review and compare historical returns of Invest529 portfolios.