The Top 10 Socially Conscious Funds

By Emily ChasanEmily Chasan

Funds that bet on companies that perform better on environmental, social or good-governance criteria are one of the fastest-growing asset classes in the U.S. More than 140 ESG funds have launched globally this year, with overall U.S. assets in the space growing to nearly $12 trillion—more than a quarter of all U.S. assets under management.

The category has grown so fast that few funds have a five-year track record. But in Bloomberg's ranking of those that do, some have delivered strong positive returns, a marked contrast to most investable assets in negative territory this year.

Circles sized by assets:

$100M

$1B

$4B

Total return for S&P 500

1-year total return

Total return

12%

Calvert Equity CSIEX

10

Brown Advisory BIAWX

8

Ave Maria Growth AVEGX

Ave Maria Rising AVEDX

Neuberger Berman NBSRX

6

Vanguard VFTSX

Calvert U.S. Large Cap

CSXAX

4

Putnam PNOPX

Green Century GCEQX

2

0

Iman IMANX

3-year total return

BIAWX

AVEGX

12%

PNOPX

IMANX

CSIEX

VFTSX

10

AVEDX

GCEQX

CSXAX

NBSRX

8

5-year total return

BIAWX

12%

PNOPX

VFTSX

CSIEX

IMANX

10

CSXAX

AVEGX

GCEQX

NBSRX

8

AVEDX

Circles sized by assets:

$100M

$1B

$4B

Total return for S&P 500

Total return

0%

2%

4%

6%

8%

10%

12%

Iman

IMANX

Green Century

GCEQX

Putnam

PNOPX

Vanguard

VFTSX

Ave Maria

Rising

AVEDX

Brown Advisory

BIAWX

1-year

total return

Calvert U.S.

Large Cap

CSXAX

Neuberger

Berman

NBSRX

Ave Maria

Growth

AVEGX

Calvert Equity

CSIEX

CSXAX

AVEDX

CSIEX

PNOPX

BIAWX

3-year

total return

NBSRX

VFTSX

IMANX

AVEGX

GCEQX

AVEDX

GCEQX

CSXAX

CSIEX

PNOPX

BIAWX

5-year

total return

NBSRX

AVEGX

IMANX

VFTSX

Circles sized by assets:

$100M

$1B

$4B

Total return for S&P 500

Total return

0%

2%

4%

6%

8%

10%

12%

Iman

IMANX

Green Century

GCEQX

Putnam

PNOPX

Vanguard

VFTSX

Ave Maria Rising

AVEDX

Brown Advisory

BIAWX

Calvert Equity

CSIEX

1-year

total return

Calvert U.S.

Large Cap

CSXAX

Neuberger

Berman

NBSRX

Ave Maria

Growth

AVEGX

CSXAX

AVEDX

CSIEX

PNOPX

BIAWX

3-year

total return

NBSRX

VFTSX

IMANX

AVEGX

GCEQX

AVEDX

GCEQX

CSXAX

CSIEX

PNOPX

BIAWX

5-year

total return

NBSRX

AVEGX

IMANX

VFTSX

Circles sized by assets:

$100M

$1B

$4B

Total return for S&P 500

1-year

total return

3-year

total return

5-year

total return

Total

return

BIAWX

BIAWX

AVEGX

12%

PNOPX

PNOPX

IMANX

CSIEX

Calvert Equity CSIEX

VFTSX

VFTSX

CSIEX

IMANX

10

CSXAX

AVEDX

GCEQX

AVEGX

CSXAX

NBSRX

GCEQX

Brown Advisory BIAWX

NBSRX

8

AVEDX

Ave Maria Growth

AVEGX

Ave Maria Rising AVEDX

Neuberger Berman

NBSRX

6

Vanguard VFTSX

Calvert U.S. Large Cap

CSXAX

4

Putnam PNOPX

Green Century GCEQX

2

0

Iman IMANX

Our top ranked socially-conscious fund this year, Brown Advisory's Sustainable Growth Fund, bet on companies that ended up helping it avoid the recent market downturn, including Red Hat and American Tower, up 48 percent and 16 percent year-to-date respectively. The fund invests in “companies that are playing offense and are becoming better because they have sustainable business advantages,” said portfolio manager Karina Funk. The fund's bet that Red Hat was operating more efficiently than its peers might have been something that IBM also saw when it offered a 54 percent premium for Red Hat in October, Funk said.

For growth-focused Calvert Equity, credit card company Visa was a key driver of momentum in its portfolio with 23 percent return year-to-date, according to portfolio manager Joe Hudepohl. The fund selected the company partially for its good governance, a meaningful investment in data protection and higher-than-average female representation on its board, he said.

ESG Funds With the Highest Score

*The score takes into consideration one-year, three-year and five-year annualized returns, weighted equally. Scores range from zero to 100.