Sustainable funds in U.S. suffer outflows in 2023

By James Langton | January 18, 2024 | Last updated on January 18, 2024
2 min read
woman's hand with a tree she is planting
iStock / Thanakorn Lappattaranan

Between performance issues, greenwashing concerns and politicization, U.S. sustainable funds suffered outflows in 2023, according to research from Morningstar Inc.

In a new report, Morningstar reported that investors pulled $5 billion (all figures in U.S. dollars) from U.S.-based sustainable funds in the fourth quarter, pushing annual outflows to $13 billion.

The bulk of the outflows came in a single fund, the iShares ESG Aware MSCI USA ETF, which saw more than $9 billion in withdrawals during the year.

At the same time, investors chilled on sustainable funds generally last year, the report said, as flows lagged the rest of the industry.

For instance, in the fourth quarter, net redemptions from sustainable funds amounted to 1.7% of fund assets at a time when funds overall recorded net inflows reaching 0.2% of assets, Morningstar reported.

“This marked the fifth consecutive quarter where investor appetite for U.S. sustainable funds was weaker than for their conventional counterparts,” it said.

This investor reticence came as sustainable equity fund performance lagged. The median return for a sustainable large-blend equity fund in 2023 came in at 20.8%, compared with 23.9% for the category overall, Morningstar reported.

“Some of the macroeconomic pressures that contributed to their underperformance — such as high interest rates and supply chain disruptions — continue to feature in market outlooks for 2024,” it said.

At the same time, the firm pointed to other factors — including persistent greenwashing concerns and political scrutiny of sustainable and ESG investing — as contributing to “a chilling effect on demand for these funds.”

Nevertheless, market gains boosted sustainable fund assets in 2023, which finished the year at $323 billion, up by 18% from the third quarter of 2022.

Subscribe to our newsletters

James Langton headshot

James Langton

James is a senior reporter for and its sister publication, Investment Executive. He has been reporting on regulation, securities law, industry news and more since 1994.