Demand growing for clear definitions in Germany's “green” finance push
While Germany’s federal government has welcomed the increase in “green investment”, the country’s central bank remains unsatisfied with the term and is calling for a clearer definition of what constitutes “green” and “sustainable” finance, according to a Handelsblatt report by Ruth Berschens, Ingo Narat, Yasmin Osman and Donata Riedel. The German finance sector is becoming increasingly greener as demand from private and institutional investors for investments that meet ecological and social criteria continues to rise, says Asoka Wöhrmann, CEO of Deutsche Bank asset management unit DWS. The market value of green bonds in the European Union alone skyrocketed from 700 million euros in 2013 to 72.9 billion euros at the end of 2018. The Federal Ministry of Finance (BMF) supports the development, according to state secretary Jörg Kukies, who recently presented first steps of the German government's sustainable finance strategy aimed at better aligning financial policies with climate targets and ensuring the country takes a more proactive role in the green finance sector.
While the Deutsche Bundesbank acknowledges that the need for investment in sustainable projects is enormous, it stresses that more is needed for a sustainable orientation of the financial system, such as clear criteria that define “green” and “sustainable” finance.
In a separate interview, Ingo Speich, head of sustainability and corporate governance at Deka Investment, a subsidiary of Germany’s Sparkassen-Finanzgruppe, says sustainability is already established in the marketplace as consideration of environmental and social goals as well as good corporate governance, but adds that specific criteria are lacking on how the term can be more precisely applied to investments. “It’s crucial that basic guard rails are set, but room must remain for investors,” Speich says. A framework that is too broad would encourage wild growth, but one that is too narrow would stifle investment, he adds. The European Commission is developing a framework, or taxonomy, to facilitate sustainable investment by providing an EU classification system for environmentally sustainable economic activities (summarised in its 18 June report). Speich says the EU taxonomy makes sense. While not binding, the taxonomy is nevertheless moving the issue forward. Pressure is mounting and changes in legislation could lead to future consumer protection regulations that would require a preference for sustainability in investment advice provided to private customers, he adds. New guidelines issued by Germany’s Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (Bafin) are expected to affect the entire business process among asset managers, banks and insurers. The new requirements could become binding and enforced EU-wide under a German-led EU presidency in 2020, Speich notes.