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As interest in responsible investing (RI) continues, the Responsible Investment Association’s (RIA) fifth annual Investor Opinion Survey reveals some industry improvements.

In both 2020 and 2019, 72% of respondents said they’re very interested or somewhat interested in the RI approach, said a report from the RIA released on Thursday. That compared with 5% who weren’t sure and 22% who weren’t interested (2020).

More respondents said in 2020 that they own such investments (33%, up from 26%), and more reported that they’ve been asked about RI by their financial services providers (28%, up from 23%).

The report and its findings are based on an online poll of 1,000 Canadian investors that was conducted between Sept. 3 and Sept. 7, 2020. Investors were defined as individuals who currently owned investments such as mutual funds, ETFs, stocks, bonds or other securities.

In a further breakdown, the report noted that the vast majority of respondents in the 18–34 age range (83%) were interested in RI, and that 50% currently owned RI investments. In comparison, 59% of those aged 55+ were interested, and 20% of that cohort owned such investments.

From a traditional gender point of view, a significant percentage of both women (75%) and men (70%) were interested in RI. “Both groups saw increases from 2018, when 64% of women and 57% of men reported interest in RI,” the report said.

Nearly half (45%) of all those polled said they’re more likely to choose RI than a year ago — and this trend was also led by the 18–34 group, at 59%, compared with university graduates at 51% and households with kids at 58%.

“These figures may be attributable to the pandemic and racial injustice reckoning of 2020, which have led to a greater focus on societal challenges,” the report said.

One hurdle for investors — and where advisors can likely help — is a significant and persistent lack of knowledge about RI. Only 25% of those polled said they knew “a fair bit” or “a lot” about RI, compared with nearly half (46%) who said they knew “little/nothing about them” or haven’t heard of them (29%).

Demographic factors seem to play a part in how much investors know about RI.

For example, “respondents reporting higher RI knowledge were men (29% vs. 23% of women), in the 18–34 age group (31% vs. 17% of those 55+), with a university education or higher (28% vs. 17% those with high school or less), or have kids (39% vs. 21% without),” the report said, even while noting that “demographic stratification” was less prominent in 2018.

Given increased social and racial pressures in 2020, the survey also assessed people’s views on diversity and inclusion in corporate leadership.

The vast majority of those polled (89%) said companies need to create discrimination-free workplaces. Similarly, 85% said women and people of diverse backgrounds need more leadership opportunities, with 76% suggesting diversity goals within leadership.

A significant percentage (72%) want their fund managers to encourage diversity, and 66% want fund companies to take action “if a company was known to have a culture of discrimination.”