DAVOS, Switzerland, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Investor interest in environmental, social and governance (ESG) matters has held steady despite a backlash from conservative U.S. politicians, according to the CEO of global investment manager Nuveen .

Corporate clients, customers and employees remain concerned about issues like climate change, and in response, companies continue to post "stewardship" sections on their websites, Nuveen CEO Jose Minaya told the Reuters Global Markets Forum (GMF) in an interview in Davos, Switzerland on Wednesday.

"Tell me what company is doing something different?" Minaya said about the continued interest in ESG issues, adding that "people care about this."

Minaya spoke after a year in which various U.S. Republican politicians made a concerted push against the use of ESG considerations in investing, saying executives were distracted from the goal of making money.

But they often failed to change state laws, amid concerns from companies and local pension officials that proposed harsh restrictions for major asset managers would hurt investment returns.

Meanwhile, investors continued adding money to sustainable funds in 2023, albeit more slowly than in 2022, as strong gains in technology company shares helped their performance.

Nuveen has some $1 trillion under management and is a unit of TIAA, whose client base includes many university professors whose views tend to run more liberal.

Minaya conceded that the criticism may be forcing more regulatory scrutiny of ESG products, which he said was not a bad thing.

Minaya said Nuveen has seen increased demand for investments in areas like wind and solar energy, and has embraced the shift. As an investment firm, he said, "you can get higher returns because these aren't areas that have tremendous access to capital."

Minaya also said policymakers deserve credit for taming inflation and engineering what he expects will be a soft economic landing. But he said he still expects a mild recession this year, and that the U.S. Federal Reserve may not cut rates as quickly as markets expect. (Join GMF, a chat room hosted on LSEG Messenger: https://tinyurl.com/yyr3x6pu) (Reporting by Divya Chowdhury in Davos, Ross Kerber in Boston and Lisa Mattackal in Bengaluru; Editing by Jamie Freed)