The 5 Worst Performing ESG ETFs

The 5 Worst Performing ESG ETFs

ESG investing has been in and out of favor over the past few years, but some strategies are struggling more than others.

Wealth Management Editor
Reviewed by: Staff
Edited by: Kent Thune
Worst ESG ETFs Cover
Worst ESG ETF - KGRN - China
Worst ESG ETF - Rays

Worst Performing ESG ETFs

Exchange-traded funds investing in companies that meet various environmental, social and governance factors have produced a mixed bag of results over the past few decades, and more recently the ESG moniker has become a political football


Beyond politics, performance numbers are what they are, and it is clear some strategies are more out of favor than others.  


As a follow-up to our list of the best performing ESG ETFs, this list represents the worst-performing non-leveraged ESG ETFs over the past 12 months through April 23. For context, the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY) gained 24.5% over the trailing 12 months and is up 6.7% from the start of the year. 


The following list of ETF performance is based on data from 

KraneShares MSCI China Clean Technology Index ETF

The KraneShares MSCI China Clean Technology Index ETF (KGRN) tracks the MSCI China Environment Index, which identifies and invests in companies in China that are involved in the clean technology and environmental solutions sectors. 


The KraneShares MSCI China Environment ETF aims to provide investors with exposure to the rapidly growing clean technology industry in China, which has become the world's largest renewable energy market. The ETF invests in a variety of companies, including those involved in solar and wind energy, energy efficiency, pollution control, and water treatment.


  • 1 year return: -25.7% 
  • Year to date return: -15.5% 
  • Assets: $55.6 million 
  • Expense ratio: 0.79% 
  • Inception: October 2017 
  • Issuer: CICC 

Global X Wind Energy ETF

The Global X Wind Energy ETF (WNDY) tracks the Solactive Wind Energy Index and invests in companies positioned to benefit from the growth of the wind energy industry. This includes companies involved in wind turbine technology production, integrating wind energy into existing power grids, and the development and manufacturing of wind turbines. 


In essence, WNDY offers exposure to stocks that will ideally profit from the advancement of wind energy technology.


  • 1 year return: -30.6% 
  • Year to date return: -16% 
  • Assets: $2.4 million 
  • Expense ratio: 0.51% 
  • Inception: September 2021 
  • Issuer: Global X ETFs 

iShares Global Clean Energy

The iShares Global Clean Energy (ICLN) tracks the S&P Global Clean Energy Index, which is composed of global equities in the clean energy sector. 


The index is comprised of companies representing the solar, wind, biofuel, geothermal and hydroelectric industries, and includes companies that produce clean energy, as well as those that develop the technology and equipment used in the process.


  • 1 year return: -32.7% 
  • Year to date return: -15.7% 
  • Assets: $2.2 billion 
  • Expense ratio: 0.41% 
  • Inception: June 2008 
  • Issuer: BlackRock 

Fidelity Clean Energy

The Fidelity Clean Energy (FRNW) tracks the performance the Fidelity Clean Energy Index that is made up of companies involved in the clean energy and environmental solutions sectors, including companies in involved in areas like solar, wind, energy efficiency, pollution control and water treatment.


The index, which rebalances monthly, is constructed based on thematic relevancy scores established by searching publicly available company documents. Companies are then further screened for specific ESG factors and ultimately are included in the index on a market-capitalization weighted basis.


  • 1 year return: -36.4% 
  • Year to date return: -19.4% 
  • Assets: $24.1 million 
  • Expense ratio: 0.39% 
  • Inception: October 2021 
  • Issuer: Fidelity Investments 

Global X Solar ETF

The Global X Solar ETF (RAYS) tracks the Solactive Global Solar Energy Index, which focuses on stocks positioned to benefit from the advancement of solar technology. Examples of industries included in the index are solar power production companies, companies integrating solar energy into existing power grids and companies that develop and manufacture solar technologies such as solar panels and generators.


RAYS is a global ETF, and the majority of the holdings are non-U.S. companies.


  • 1 year return: -47.6% 
  • Year to date return: -19.6% 
  • Assets: $6 million 
  • Expense ratio: 0.5% 
  • Inception: September 2021 
  • Issuer: Global X ETFs 

Jeff Benjamin is the wealth management editor at, responsible for coverage related to the financial planning industry. This includes writing, hosting podcasts, webinars, video interviews and presenting at in-person events.

Jeff is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years’ experience covering the financial markets. He has won more than two dozen national and regional awards for his reporting. He most recently worked as a senior columnist at InvestmentNews where he wrote about investment products and strategies, as well as the broader financial planning industry. Prior to that, Jeff worked as an analyst at Cerulli Associates where he researched and wrote reports on the alternative investments industry. Jeff also worked as a money management reporter at Dow Jones Newswires, where he covered the mutual fund industry.

Based in North Carolina, Jeff is a former Marine and has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Central Michigan University.