Seven out of ten professionals working in the UK financial services industry are not confident in the commitment to ESG and ethical finance of the firms they work for, according to a survey from the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment (CISI).

When 563 respondents were asked how confident they were that their firm is "committed to the adoption and execution of ethical finance policies and ESG principles as regards lending, investing, wealth management and fund management activities," 70% responded they were "not confident", while a further 10% said they were "neutral", leaving only 20% of professionals answering that they were confident in their firms' commitment.

Of those who were confident, respondents cited the development of ESG versions of model portfolios and a group level project to deliver ESG products and services.

For those who were not confident, factors included the challenge of gaining traction with senior management, "too many ESG ratings agencies" and "poor data declaration" from investee firms.

One respondent specifically cited they worked for an American firm which had a bad attitude towards "anything other than making money: mental health, charity, social, environment all not important".

Another professional commented the owner of their business was sceptical regarding ESG funds and had argued that government bonds were unethical as "most governments invest in arms, nuclear power and weapons".

Simon Culhane, CISI CEO, said: "Climate-related risks and the deterioration of the world's natural capital assets are the most significant issues of our time. Support across firms for ESG and ethical finance is therefore critical for future sustainability and stewardship of our world.

"Our survey shows that some firms are making good progress but we still have a long way to go as a profession to prove our ESG credentials."

"ESG assets were reported last year to have out-performed their peers across major equity markets. However, the recent Common Wealth report found a third of low-carbon funds were investing in oil and gas.

"As one of our survey respondents has noted, we now need a universally agreed benchmark, common set of standards and ratings across the ESG universe which will ultimately provide the confidence and trust investors need to further support this rapidly expanding and important ethical finance area."

This article was first published by our sister title Investment Week