Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Fund has an average Morningstar Sustainability Rating of 3 globes, indicating that the ESG risk of holdings in its portfolio is similar to that of its peers in the US Fixed Income category. Funds with 4 or 5 globes tend to hold securities that are less exposed to ESG risk. ESG risk measures the degree to which material environmental, social, and governance issues, such as climate change, biodiversity, human capital, as well as bribery and corruption, could affect valuations. ESG risk differs from impact, which is about driving positive environmental and social outcomes for society’s benefit.
One key area of strength for Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Fund is its low Morningstar Portfolio Carbon Risk Score of 5.82 and very low fossil fuel exposure over the past 12 months, which earns it the Morningstar Low Carbon Designation. Thus, the companies held in the portfolio are in general alignment with the transition to a low-carbon economy.
One potential issue for a sustainability-focused investor is that Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Fund doesn’t have an ESG-focused mandate. A fund with an ESG-focused mandate would have a higher probability to drive positive ESG outcomes.
The fund exhibits moderate exposure (5.57%) to companies with high or severe controversies. Controversies are incidents that have a negative impact on stakeholders or the environment, which create some degree of financial risk for the company. Examples of types of controversies include bribery and corruption scandals, workplace discrimination and environmental incidents. Severe and high controversies can have significant financial repercussions, ranging from legal penalties to consumer boycotts. Such controversies can also damage the reputation of both companies themselves and their shareholders.