“Sustainable finance, a fad or a springboard for tomorrow’s economy”.

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Article originally published on the AMF website on 15 November 2019. You will find the link to the original page at the end of the article.

Speech by Robert Ophèle, Chairman of the AMF – Les Entretiens de l’AMF 2019: “Sustainable finance, a fad or a springboard for tomorrow’s economy” – Thursday 14 November 2019 – Pavillon Cambon

Last year our interviews were dedicated to digital finance, this year they are dedicated to sustainable finance. These two issues are profoundly transforming the financial industry and its relationship with its environment, but it must be acknowledged that the stakes of sustainable finance are of a different order from those of digital finance since, to a certain extent, the very future of our civilisation is at stake.

Financing the transition of our economies towards a development model that is more respectful of our environment and populations has become a challenge that we are now aware of the urgency of taking up and which must therefore mobilise all our energies.

The energies are first and foremost those of companies, which must reorient their production apparatus; those of savers, who must be able to take ESG criteria into account in their investment choices; and those of the entire financial intermediation ecosystem, which must effectively support intermediation between issuers and final investors.

There is still a great deal of confusion in these areas.

As highlighted in the report that we published this morning on the social, societal and environmental responsibility of listed companies, companies, the largest of which must now publish an Extra-Financial Performance Statement (EFPS), are finding it difficult to report on their ESG strategies and results within a sufficiently standardised framework. As a result, they are faced with many questions, and even contradictory analyses, from consulting and rating agencies, NGOs and major institutional investors. Clearly, some standardisation of extra-financial reporting is necessary and this standardisation should be carried out at least at the European level to ensure comparability between issuers. This is the thrust of Patrick de Cambourg’s recent report.

With regard to retail investors, the survey conducted last June by Audirep on behalf of the AMF (you will also find it on our website) showed that 53% of respondents said that they take sustainable development issues into account in their investment choices – beyond an interest in principle – beyond this interest in principle, The survey reveals a lack of precise knowledge of the investments in question and reveals very limited investor confidence in the real impact of the investments made and in the relevance of the labels, which are available, not transparent enough, unclear in their governance principles and increasingly numerous.

Finally, the report that we are finalising on sustainable finance in collective management highlights the need for a doctrine on the authorisation of funds whose investment policy is based on extra-financial criteria. At a time when “responsible” assets under management are increasing very rapidly and when commercial discourse is increasingly ambitious, even aggressive, in this area, it is essential to be able to rely on a corpus of minimum standards in order to avoid the deviation of the very notion of ESG, in short to avoid a greenwashing that would be disastrous in every respect.

In a financial Europe based on the freedom to provide services, it is clear that labels and standards are intended to be established at EU level, and we know that Europe is working on this. However, there is an urgent need for action because national supervisors cannot accept the marketing in their countries of financial products which, despite sometimes identical references to ESG criteria and similar headings, would in fact be profoundly different.

As you can see, supporting and encouraging the development of sustainable finance is at the heart of the AMF’s actions. I note that the Pacte Act has now added to our fundamental missions the monitoring of “the quality of information provided by management companies for the management of collective investments on their investment strategy and their management of risks related to the effects of climate change”.

I am pleased to emphasise that in carrying out these missions, we can rely on the entire market, as I believe today’s discussions illustrate and as the composition of our new Climate and Sustainable Finance Committee, set up in September under the chairmanship of Thierry Philipponnat, also demonstrates. I believe that this committee is already contributing to the relevance of our action.

Over and above the involvement of the national players, I have stressed the indispensable nature of rapid European standardisation; at a time when we are again talking about a Union of capital markets, this standardisation is a decisive test of the credibility of the project and it is therefore quite natural that we have asked a prominent Member of the European Parliament, who has been a member of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs for more than 10 years now, to open these debates; I thank Sven Giegold for having accepted our invitation; Sven, Sie haben das Wort.

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