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Essay / Lecture

Investing for the common good: a sustainable finance framework

Traditional finance focuses solely on financial return and risk. By contrast, sustainable finance considers financial, social and environmental returns in combination. This essay provides a new framework for sustainable finance highlighting the move from the narrow shareholder model to the broader stakeholder model, aimed at long-term value creation for the wider community. Major obstacles to sustainable finance are short-termism and insufficient private efforts. To overcome these obstacles, this essay develops guidelines for governing sustainable finance.

By: Date: July 11, 2017 Topic: Energy & Climate

The issue of sustainable development has multiple aspects, all of which need to be considered if sustainability is to be guaranteed. On the environmental front, climate change and depletion of natural resources are two factors that are threatening the earth’s ability to regenerate. On the economic front, development that does not pay sufficient attention to income inequality and provision of basic needs to all is a process in danger of imploding. This essay explores the role that finance can play to ensure that investment protects the environment and promotes economic systems that are internally sustainable.

Dirk Schoenmaker argues that seeing the role of finance as one of allocating funding to productive investments in a narrow sense is no longer appropriate. What constitutes ‘productive’ cannot be independent of a project’s environmental and socio-economic impact because there are often trade-offs between short-term profits and long-term impact. What might appear to be a profitable project over a given time period could have negative impacts that might only become apparent in the longer term. This essay discusses these trade-offs in the context of the conflicting objectives of shareholders and other stakeholders: the motivation of the former to generate profits might at times jeopardise the long-term interests of the latter. This essay shows how that is a consequence of short-termism and a failure to act with the collective interest in mind. But if sustainability is paramount, as it should be, then the shareholders’ and stakeholders’ motives need to be better aligned.

This essay provides a framework for moving in this direction and offers guidelines to counter short-termism, with an emphasis on incentive-compatible measures for all. Moving from traditional to sustainable finance means having to counter attitudes that are embedded in the ways our economic systems are organised. Shifting away from them requires both new ways of operating but, importantly, new underlying principles that put sustainability centre stage to guide our thinking. It is important that we put this process in motion, and the earlier the better.

Maria Demertzis, Deputy Director of Bruegel
Brussels, July 2017

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Podcast

Podcast

How to reform European transport and tackle rising emissions

The transport sector is the Europe's biggest obstacle to meeting its climate-change targets. But there are several ways in which the EU can take the initiative and lead both its citizens and its automotive industry in a cleaner direction. Bruegel fellows Simone Tagliapietra and Georg Zachmann discuss their research and policy conclusions in this episode of 'The Sound of Economics'

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: Energy & Climate Date: April 24, 2018
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Upcoming Event

May
3
12:30

Cleaning up Europe's transport sector: which strategies?

Over the last decade, EU’s greenhouse gas emissions have decreased significantly in all sectors with the only exception of transport. This sector is thus becoming a key obstacle to EU decarbonisation and more aggressive policies are needed to decarbonise it. This event will discuss the potential strategies to structurally address this issue, also on the basis of Bruegel’s new policy proposal in the field.

Speakers: Maria Demertzis, Francesco Starace and Simone Tagliapietra Topic: Energy & Climate Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels
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Blog Post

Global income inequality is declining – largely thanks to China and India

Income inequality among citizens of 146 continues to fall, though at a somewhat reduced pace, according to the updated Bruegel dataset. Income convergence of China and India accounts for the bulk of the decline in global income inequality from 1988-2015.

By: Zsolt Darvas Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: April 19, 2018
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Book/Special report

Developing the EU long term climate strategy

To ensure that EU climate policy is in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement, and takes into account substantial recent shifts in the technical and political framework, the EU needs a new long-term climate strategy that will supersede the 2050 Roadmap that was issued in 2011.

By: Georg Zachmann and Andrei Marcu Topic: Energy & Climate Date: April 18, 2018
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Policy Brief

Addressing Europe’s failure to clean up the transport sector

The European Union has the long-term vision to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95 percent by 2050 compared to 1990 and it adopted in 2014 a binding 40 percent emissions reduction target to be achieved by 2030. Transport is therefore set to become the main obstacle to the achievement of the EU’s decarbonisation goals.

By: Simone Tagliapietra and Georg Zachmann Topic: Energy & Climate Date: April 9, 2018
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Opinion

Greece must capitalise on its growth momentum

Better-than-expected growth performance reflects the underlying positive changes in the Greek economy – but net investment is in fact negative, while Greece has various institutional weaknesses. Further improvements must be made regarding Greece’s attractiveness to foreign direct investment. A new (at least precautionary) financial assistance programme would improve trust in continued reforms and also address eventual public debt financing difficulties.

By: Zsolt Darvas Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: March 26, 2018
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External Publication

Why is it so hard to reach the EU’s poverty target?

Why is it so hard to reach the Europe 2020 ‘poverty’ target? What does the poverty indicator actually measure? Why was the Lisbon strategy goal of tackling poverty a failure? Zsolt Darvas analyse the data to show how the Europe 2020 strategy’s poverty indicator essentially measures income inequality, not poverty.

By: Zsolt Darvas Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: March 12, 2018
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Opinion

China's “matryoshka” approach for debt-to-equity swaps could be good for banks, but bad for investors

The Chinese banking sector has enhanced its clean-up mechanism by introducing debt-to-equity swaps for the resolution of problem loans. While this allows banks to offload their stressed assets at a very low cost, it does not prevent banks’ exposure when we look closer at the so-called "state-owned funds" who are shareholders in the debt-to-equity swaps.

By: Alicia García-Herrero and Gary Ng Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation Date: March 8, 2018
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Blog Post

Green bonds: who is to certify ‘sustainability’?

Poland’s issue of a green bond earlier this month was the country’s second financing of this type, and the first ever repeat issue by a sovereign. It has revived the debate as to whether there should be a single regulatory standard to certify the environmental quality of financial assets. This will be a key issue for the EU’s sustainable finance strategy which is due to be released shortly.

By: Alexander Lehmann Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation Date: February 19, 2018
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Opinion

Climate policies risk increasing social inequality

The aggressive political interventions needed to effectively counteract climate change will make the rich richer and the poor poorer, if social concerns are not given greater prominence in policy debates.

By: Georg Zachmann Topic: Energy & Climate Date: February 8, 2018
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Blog Post

Climate change adds to risk for banks, but EU lending proposals will do more harm than good

Climate change is a relevant risk factor for the banking sector, but the European Commission's plan to lower capital requirements for greener investments is irresponsible in encouraging banks to forego proper risk management.

By: Arnoud Boot and Dirk Schoenmaker Topic: Energy & Climate Date: January 16, 2018
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Blog Post

A few good (wo)men – on the representation of women in economics

Last week, the American Economics Association Annual Meetings held a session on Gender Issues in Economics and later announced that a new code of professional conduct is in the pipeline. In this blogs review we revise the recent contributions on female representation and perception in economics.

By: Inês Goncalves Raposo Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: January 15, 2018
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