Goldman Sachs’ Imprint Deal Shows ESG’s Potential

When John Goldstein sold his Imprint Capital to Goldman Sachs Asset Management in 2015, he took it as a sign that his 8 years in the trenches of the ESG investment world helped lead a quiet revolution in do-good portfolio management. The bulge bracket was not only listening to the big institutional investor, but also to independent advisors who were increasingly finding clients inquiring about so-called impact investing. One way to make a difference in this world is to invest in companies with good environmental and social policies, and overall good corporate governance. ESG has gone mainstream.

“We started with a small set of clients trying to get our arms around ESG,” says Goldstein, now a managing director at Goldman. He founded Imprint with Taylor Jordan around 2007 as a pure ESG specialist shop. “We had large institutional investors as clients, like universities, and they demanded a lot of depth in research about the companies they were invested in. Goldman was just a client. And one day they said, “let’s do this together.”

Goldstein discussed the motives and goals behind the Goldman-Imprint Capital deal with RIA Channel founder and CEO Julie Cooling.

Many investors want to invest today in companies that are good stewards of the environment, and abide by strong labor practices worldwide, not just at home. This particular investor class became the pioneers of ESG funds, which later branched off to high net worth individuals managed by independent advisors. Retail investors can access these strategies in ETFs and mutual funds, whereas they used to be tailor made a few years back.

ESG is also known as impact investing. Impact investing is private investment that has a measurable impact on society and the environment.

“The further development of our ESG and impact investing platform through the acquisition of Imprint’s business is critical to address the needs of our clients,” Hugh Lawson, global head of ESG Investing for the Investment Management Division, said two years ago in a Goldman press release about the deal. “Our investing clients are interested in deploying their assets in a way that amplifies their broader values.”