مركز سمت للدراسات Is Sustainable Finance More Hype Than Hope? | مركز سمت للدراسات

Is Sustainable Finance More Hype Than Hope?

Date & time : Monday, 9 May 2022

 

Sustainable finance is in fashion as it’s seen as a tool for slowing down the impact of climate change. But is it more of a catchword than a clear framework?

In recent years, and even more in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become evident that finance must contribute to the development of a more sustainable economy. However, the current sustainable finance landscape is characterized by heterogeneous concepts, definitions, and industry and policy standards, which tend to undermine the credibility of this nascent market and open the door to greenwashing.

One of the challenges is to decide where to draw the line between sustainable and “normal” investments, and how to subdivide the universe of sustainable finance. The lack of clear rules on what can be labeled “sustainable” opens the door to unscrupulous companies and fund managers trumpeting their environmental, social and governance rating ratings — known as ESG — while simply relabeling existing funds without changing neither the underlying strategies nor the portfolio composition. As a result, some observers are concerned that “the overall prevailing mechanism is based on short-term maximization of financial returns, and [that] ESG is still essentially an idea.”

Thus, the first step to improve the situation, according to Domingo Sugranyes of the Pablo VI Foundation, is to create “an accepted framework of definitions and metrics” at regional or global levels to identify high-level standards and align the actions undertaken by political authorities around the world. But it is also important to act on the other side of ESG, which is direct financing as opposed to the stock market. For example, the European Commission has adopted several regulations to support and improve the flow of money toward sustainable activities.

In addition, Archana Sinha of the Indian Social Institute suggests that broader structural reforms may be necessary “to fully integrate climate-aligned structural change with economic recovery.” Not only should the legal framework be changed so “that emissions generate costs,” says economist Ladislau Dowbor, but “international financial transactions must be taxed, so that they leave a trail, shedding light on tax havens while generating resources for sustainable practices.” Other measures, Etienne Perrot says, may include “central bank rediscount policy favoring sectors that do not use fossil fuels; active and pugnacious mobilization of the shareholders most aware of the ecological crisis; [and] monitoring of speculative drifts.”

If sustainable finance is to become real hope instead of hype, then we will also need governments to step in to fix the rules, with a view to make any financial activity “sustainable by default,” says Eelco Fiole, an investment governance expert. Otherwise, Perrot warns, “the present enthusiasm around sustainable finance may well be short-lived.”

Source: fairobserver

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