Sustainability Made in Germany: Finance behind #DNP11
By: Haris Odobasic, Datamaran
Hollywood has the Oscars and sustainability has the Deutscher Nachhaltigkeitspreis 2018 (German Sustainability Awards, #DNP11). The previous article about #DNP11 addressed the urgent call for decarbonization. This articles addresses finance. The finance sector places a special role in financing decarbonization and all developments towards a sustainable future. In Germany the finance sector is lacking behind in sustainable finance and non-financial reporting compared to the European average.
On the move: sustainable finance
The global banking industry is stepping up to the sustainability challenge. I’m optimistic we’ll see a realignment of business practice – one that embraces the fact that green and socially responsible business is the best business.”
~ Satya Tripathi, Assistant Secretary-General, UN Environment
The Six UNEP FI Responsible Banking Principles consultation has launched in November 2018 in Paris. The implications for the entire banking industry are enormous – 28 global banks, representing over USD 17 trillion in combined assets, have already committed to the Principles. And this number is set to increase very shortly, with the European Banking Federation’s entire membership base expected to sign up in early 2019. On the 31 January 2019, Datamaran is hosting a Webinar about UNEP’s Principles for Responsible Banking and what it means for business - register here.
During the COP24 in Katowice, Poland, another important signal came from the finance community. The The Katowice Commitment was signed by five banks: BBVA, BNP Paribas, ING, Société Générale and Standard Chartered. In an open letter these banks pledge to adopt their lending portfolio along the Sustainable Development Goals.
Banking in transformation: What are German banks doing?
Not a single German bank was involved in the founding of the two previous initiatives.
Compared to other European countries the German finance market is lacking behind. On the one side, green products and sustainable finance is behind. On the other side, Germany is behind in non-financial reporting. The chart below shows a surge in the rise of the awareness of green and climate bonds, of which half are from Europe. German financial institution faces the risk to miss an important trend.
Link to the green and climate bonds disclosure infographic.
One thing is for sure, business will go with the financial institutions that can help them. A recent example is that Henkel is the first German company to conclude a syndicated ‘Green Loan’ valued at €1.5 billion. This innovative product has a maturity of up to seven years. The interest rate of the new credit facility is linked to Henkel’s performance in three independent sustainability ratings. This ‘green loan’ has a higher volume than some German bank offer in ‘green bonds’. Interesting.
Non-financial information behind
Investors and other stakeholder are lacking relevant information for Environment, Social & Governance (ESG) issues. In Germany such non-financial information are scarce. Yvonne Zwick, Deputy Secretary General & Head of the Sustainability Code Office, from the Der Rat für Nachhaltige Entwicklung, a body that advises the German government in sustainability, argued that Germany can learn a lot from other European countries.
It is clear that the finance industry needs to catch-up with the European and international competition but they also have to protect their raison d'être. As Michael Schneider, Co-CEO and Co-Founder Econnext, said: “Non-financial information is actually more financial than you think.” Some regulations have disclosure requirements that are connected to fines and there is clear rise in the amount of regulation concerning non-financial information. Datamaran’s recent Global Insights Report provides with an overview of the global ESG regulations.
Sustainable Finance Made in Germany: Warming up
There have always been some leading financial institutions in Germany but the average is behind and improvements are only slowly on the way. The CSR-Richtlinie-Umsetzungsgesetz (CSR-RUG), the German version of the EU Directive on non-financial reporting, made more companies reporting on non-financial issues. For some of them it was for the first time. Similarly, in the banking sector more banks are starting to offer sustainable finance product. It is clear that these efforts are not enough to make Germany a sustainable finance leader but slowly the urgency is getting recognized.