The European Union wants to be climate-neutral by 2050 at the latest. In order to achieve this goal, private investments must also be directed towards sustainable projects and activities. But does everyone involved have the same understanding of sustainability? The EU taxonomy is intended to provide clarity here. It represents a common classification system for sustainable economic activities and is intended to avoid greenwashing.
As of yet, however, European asset managers and asset owners have made little use of the EU taxonomy for sustainable activities to control and demonstrate the sustainability of their financial products. One reason, according to the study, is that the investment strategies of asset managers and owners are often much broader than the taxonomy currently covers. They are confident that the taxonomy will be used more widely in the future. However, the lack of usable data and experience as well as the uncertainty regarding the “correct” handling of the taxonomy are obstacles to this.
Risk of reputation loss
For these reasons, the surveyed asset managers and asset owners are dampening the expectations of their customers and legislators. Up to this point, it has not been easy to invest in a taxonomy-compliant manner. According to the respondents, if the required taxonomy indicators of investment objects were available at all, there was often a lack of explanation. This made them difficult to interpret and compare.
Using incomplete and unreliable data creates a reputational risk for many asset managers and owners. For example, one of the respondents said: “Nothing is more dangerous than overpromising and then not delivering.” Another stated: “We compared our results to those of the competition and were shocked at how difficult it is to actually compare them.”
Better data quality foreseeable
However, the asset managers and owners surveyed are confident that the quality of the data will improve over time. On the one hand, by introducing new reporting standards for companies at EU and international level. On the other, because data providers and companies learn from each other and orientate themselves towards the results that are most in demand on the market.
Some asset managers and owners would like more support, such as training, guidelines or templates, so that the taxonomy can be used to a greater extent. “We would like to see significantly more support from those who developed the taxonomy. This includes people we can turn to if we have questions,” one respondent stated. The complexity of the taxonomy assessments and reports creates difficulties, especially for smaller asset management companies.
Majority is against nuclear and gas
Most respondents seem to agree: gas and nuclear energy should not be included in the taxonomy. At the same time, the market impact of classifying these technologies as “sustainable” would likely be limited – many of the properties surveyed are likely to simply continue with their existing sustainability strategies.
Overall, the survey shows that asset managers and asset owners are currently in a learning process. They see the EU taxonomy as more than just a pure reporting tool, but are still undecided about its further use. However, even if the EU taxonomy is still a long way from being the key tool for asset managers and owners for sustainable investments, it is obvious that it has shaken up the market. It brings sustainability concerns to the forefront of political discussions and onto the desks of board members.
The European Sustainable Finance Survey is an annual survey commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment (BMUV) on the topics of sustainable finance and EU taxonomy. It is carried out by adelphi in cooperation with various partners. The most recent survey involved 21 European asset managers, asset owners and associations and analysed more than 200 funds set up under Articles 8 and 9.
The report and full survey results can be accessed here.
Contact: Annica Cochu, Senior Advisor