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Now there’s a vegan ETF that addresses the ‘concerns of animal lovers’

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Exchange-traded funds, the millennials of the investing world, are staying on-trend. The latest? Going vegan.

Beyond Advisors of St. Helier, Jersey, off the coast of France, has registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission to start trading the U.S. Vegan Climate ETF. The fund seeks “to address the concerns of vegans, animal lovers and environmentalists by avoiding investments in companies whose activities directly contribute to animal suffering, destruction of the natural environment and climate change,” according to its prospectus.

The fund’s underlying index, which was built by excluding companies from the Solactive U.S. Large Cap Index, cuts out about 40 per cent of the market capitalization of the benchmark. The gauge was created by three European vegan finance professionals from Beyond Advisors, the research arm of impact investing platform Beyond Investing, according to a company press release.

Through its screening, the U.S. Vegan Climate Index participates in no business activity that harms animals. “As compared with an exposure to the Solactive U.S. Large Cap index, an investor in this new index will avoid funding the slaughter of 13 animals a year for every US$1,000 invested,” the company said in the release.

Investors will have to pay handsomely for the privilege of buying in. The fund is charging a management fee of 60 basis points, or US$6 for every US$1,000 invested, which is “triple the asset-weighted average ETF fee,” said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Eric Balchunas.

There’s more than US$6 billion tied up in funds focused on environmental, social and governance issues, a strategy known as ESG, Bloomberg data show. That’s five times the amount from five years ago, but still a drop in the bucket of the more than US$3.5 trillion ETF industry.

“Clearly the ESG label isn’t doing the trick,” Balchunas said. “So it is no surprise that issuers are trying a different tact in being more clear and specific in the names of the products in an effort to excite certain types of investors.”

Vanguard, the second largest ETF issuer in the world, recently rolled out the cheapest ESG fund available, and it’s now seen as something of a bellwether for the strategy. The Vanguard ESG U.S. Stock ETF, or ESGV, charges just US$1.20 per US$1,000 invested. If it doesn’t gain traction in a year or two, it would demonstrate the limited potential for ESG ETFs in the U.S., Balchunas said.

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