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Social responsibility and mean-variance portfolio selection


  • Bastien Drut


In theory, investors choosing to invest only in socially responsible entities restrict their investment universe and should thus be penalized in a mean-variance framework. When computed, this penalty is usually viewed as valid for all socially responsible investors. This paper shows however that the additional cost for responsible investing depends essentially on the investors’ risk aversion. Social ratings are introduced in mean-variance optimization through linear constraints to explore the implications of considering a social responsibility (SR) threshold in the traditional Markowitz (1952) portfolio selection setting. We consider optimal portfolios both with and without a risk-free asset. The SR-efficient frontier may take four different forms depending on the level of the SR threshold: a) identical to the non-SR frontier (i.e. no cost), b) only the left portion is penalized (i.e. a cost for high-risk-aversion investors only), c) only the right portion is penalized (i.e. a cost for low-risk aversion investors only) and d) the whole frontier is penalized (i.e. a positive cost for all the investors). By precisely delineating under which circumstances SRI is costly, those results help elucidate the apparent contradiction found in the literature about whether or not SRI harms diversification.

Suggested Citation

  • Bastien Drut, 2010. "Social responsibility and mean-variance portfolio selection," Working Papers CEB 10-002.RS, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  • Handle: RePEc:sol:wpaper:10-002

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Best, Michael J. & Grauer, Robert R., 1990. "The efficient set mathematics when mean-variance problems are subject to general linear constraints," Journal of Economics and Business, Elsevier, vol. 42(2), pages 105-120, May.
    2. Nijman, T.E. & de Roon, F.A., 2001. "Testing for mean-variance spanning : A survey," Other publications TiSEM 0159f80a-c61b-4519-b004-a, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
    3. Renneboog, Luc & Ter Horst, Jenke & Zhang, Chendi, 2008. "Socially responsible investments: Institutional aspects, performance, and investor behavior," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 32(9), pages 1723-1742, September.
    4. DeRoon, Frans A. & Nijman, Theo E., 2001. "Testing for mean-variance spanning: a survey," Journal of Empirical Finance, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 111-155, May.
    5. Bastien Drut, 2009. "Nice but cautious guys: The cost of responsible investing in the bond markets," Working Papers CEB 09-034.RS, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
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    Cited by:

    1. Brière, Marie & Szafarz, Ariane, 2015. "Does Commercial Microfinance Belong to the Financial Sector? Lessons from the Stock Market," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 67(C), pages 110-125.
    2. repec:dau:papers:123456789/14039 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. repec:dau:papers:123456789/7858 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Amelia Bilbao-Terol & Mar Arenas-Parra & Verónica Cañal-Fernández & Mariano Jiménez, 2016. "A sequential goal programming model with fuzzy hierarchies to sustainable and responsible portfolio selection problem," Journal of the Operational Research Society, Palgrave Macmillan;The OR Society, vol. 67(10), pages 1259-1273, October.
    5. Marie Briere & Ariane Szafarz, 2011. "Investment in Microfinance Equity: Risk, Return, and Diversification Benefits," Working Papers CEB 11-050, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    6. Amelia Bilbao-Terol & Mar Arenas-Parra & Verónica Cañal-Fernández & Celia Bilbao-Terol, 2013. "Selection of Socially Responsible Portfolios Using Hedonic Prices," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 115(3), pages 515-529, July.

    More about this item


    Socially Responsible Investment; Portfolio Selection; Mean-variance Optimization; Linear Constraint; Socially Responsible Ratings.;

    JEL classification:

    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions
    • G14 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Information and Market Efficiency; Event Studies; Insider Trading
    • G20 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - General

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