The FCA has asked us what our members want in terms of UK regulation against the background of the EU’s moves in sustainable finance. Ben Nelmes sets out the background before we outline how we will seek member input.

Ben Nelmes, UKSIF Head of public policy:

“The UK’s exit from the EU this year comes at a time when the EU is pressing ahead with its sustainable finance agenda. The EU is creating a new body of sustainable finance policy and law, with the laudable aim of making all of finance sustainable. Last year, the EU passed a major new law to make all asset managers, asset owners and financial advisers consider sustainability issues and risks in the course of their business. This Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR) establishes a framework for how sustainable finance will be conducted the European Union.

In the EU considering financially material risks from environmental, social, or governance factors will no longer be optional – all must do it, and all must publish how they do it. But more significantly, SFDR introduces strong   and requirements for large firms (with more than 500 employees) to consider the impact of their investment decisions on sustainability factors. Those who do this face extensive and technical disclosure requirements, and must publish how investee companies fare on issues such as their gender pay gap, their carbon intensity, and various other measures of environmental, social and governance impacts. In short, SFDR requires investors to think about the non-financial performance of companies in a way that has never been mandated by regulation before. These regulations will affect UK member firms selling into the .

Significantly for UKSIF members, the SFDR contains additional requirements that only apply to firms which offer a product that is marketed as a sustainable investment. Firms that do this must make extra disclosures showing that they have rigorous methodologies to back up their claims, and that they are using appropriate benchmarks.

SFDR applies from 10 March 2021. The European Supervisory Authorities are consulting on regulatory technical standards which put the detailed flesh on the bones of SFDR. UKSIF will respond to this consultation and we encourage members to get in touch with their views about the EU’s proposals (see below).

In the UK, there is some question about whether the rules will apply, since they come into force after the end of the Brexit transition period. But in terms of UK ambition, the UK government has a commitment (using language UKSIF suggested) to ‘at least match the ambition’ of the EU’s sustainable finance agenda. The new development, and the reason for this piece, is that the UK government and financial regulators are starting to think about how the UK will go about doing this.”

– What are these? Lower disclosure if they do it or something else?

It’s basically a kind of enhanced comply or explain. Either you do it, in which case you have to do a lot of reporting on how. Or you don’t do it, in which case you have to publish quite a long explanation of why you don’t consider impacts on sustainability factors. And for firms with more than 500 employees, you don’t get a choice, you have to do it.

UKSIF’s mission to grow UK sustainable finance benefits members. Shaping regulation such that society and the environment gain, and so that our members –the leaders- grow by doing right is central to our work. There are great opportunities and threats for the world and for members as this regulatory process plays out. Done well we will see rapid growth in sustainable finance and the best –our members- will do best, done badly and we will see missed opportunities in the real world and a loss of momentum, innovation and quite possible existing excellence in UK responsible finance.

We are determined that in leaving the EU the UK does not fall behind, but we know that not everything the EU is proposing is favoured by all members. We now need to decide what we want and how we want it delivered in the UK.

 The FCA has asked for our initial thoughts to help shape their programme and a lot more work will follow in that programme, – but we will be working with the outcomes for longer.

 So we need your views. Our plan is for an initial webinar in June to explore these issues in more depth. Currently we see the following as key questions but we welcome your thoughts:

  • Which parts of the EU action plan are most likely to effectively drive up standards in the EU and UK markets?
  • Are there are other actions the UK should consider implementing?
  • What, if any, parts of EU sustainable finance legislation pose the biggest practical challenges for UK practitioners?
  • Are any parts of the EU sustainable finance legislation likely to have deleterious effects on the UK market?
  • What are the challenges that different sizes and types of firms would face when adapting to the EU sustainable finance legislation if it were replicated in the UK?
  • In which areas of the legislation are UKSIF members keen to see alignment between UK and EU sustainable finance legislation? Is alignment likely to bring practical benefits?

Please send any thoughts to Ben.Nelmes@uksif.org and keep an eye out for the webinar invitation

* 54% of investors want their investments to have a positive impact

* Over one in three adults (32%) want ‘fossil free’ investment option

* ‘Bribery and corruption’, ‘tax’ and ‘data protection’ now investors’ top three issues

London, 19 October 2015 – Annual research for ‘Good Money Week’ has found that 54% of British investors want their investments to have a positive impact, beyond just making money. A record high since polling began in 2009*.  In a sign that the sustainable investment market has shed its image as a niche market, the top three issues for investors now include corporate governance matters such as ‘tax avoidance’ and ‘data protection’, rather than the traditional environmental causes usually associated with ethical investment.

Headline findings from today’s research of the British public show:

  • 54% of Brits who hold investments, a record high, want their pensions or savings to have some positive impact on the world beyond just making money.
  • When asked to select three issues most important for the companies they invest in to behave responsibly on, ‘Bribery and corruption’ (40%), tax avoidance’ (37%) and data protection’ (31%) topped the list.
  • Almost a third (32%) of all adults want a fossil free option for their savings or investments, rising to 46% among under-35s.
  • 47% of those with investments would be interested in annual updates from their investors on their environmental/social impact, rising to 58% of under-35s.
  • 39% think large pension funds should be required to measure and if necessary, reduce the carbon footprint of their investments.

The research was conducted by YouGov for Good Money Week, which starts today and aims to raise awareness among individuals, financial advisers, pension funds and charities of all types of sustainable investing and finance in the UK. Close to 50 activities will be held across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as part of the Week.

Simon Howard, Chief Executive of UKSIF, the body coordinating Good Money Week said,

“The clear message from the public to the finance sector is: Make our money count. This rising demand for sustainable investment lays down a real challenge to the industry. So far it has responded well with a diverse range of sustainable options from energy efficiency and blue bonds to sustainable investment funds and community crowdfunding – but more needs to be done. In particular the idea of ‘carbon footprints’ seems to have caught the British public’s imagination and one action any fund manager or pension provider can take this Good Money Week is to open discussions with beneficiaries on how best they want environmental and social impacts to be reported.” 

Read the full press release here.

Three new Board Members elected at UKSIF’s 24th AGM

At UKSIF’s 2015 AGM on 16th September three new directors were elected to join the Board.  They are John Jarrett, Deputy Head, FTSE Russell ESG; Melissa McDonald, Global Head of Equity Product and Responsible Investment, HSBC Global Asset Management and Alexia Zavos, Head of Responsible Investment, Cazenove Capital. UKSIF’s Board is now made up of five women (including the Chair Lesley Alexander) and three men – all experts in mainstream and sustainable finance.

John Jarrett said:

“I am delighted to have been appointed to the UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association Board. This comes as my colleague at FTSE Russell, David Harris, steps down as Vice-Chair after having served two terms on the Board. As the market momentum to integrate environmental, social and governance issues into investments grows, UKSIF’s work in catalysing leadership and industry collaboration in this area becomes ever more important.  I look forward to supporting the industry as it moves into this next stage of development.”

Melissa McDonald said:

“I am pleased and honoured to be joining the UKSIF Board. Responsible Investing has been an increasingly important focus for me during my 25 years in the asset management industry. I hope this experience may be of some value in supporting UKSIF’s influential work with and for its members.”

Alexia Zavos said: 

“I am delighted to be joining the UKSIF Board to represent the high net worth and charity sectors at a time when these markets are showing signs of strong growth.  Having spent 13 years working in the space, I hope that my network and experience will bring an in depth understanding of the issues facing the sector and help the Board and its members continue to develop their strategy in this space.”

Simon Howard, Chief Executive at UKSIF, said:

“We are delighted to have such experienced and talented new directors elected to the board. We look forward to welcoming their energy, perspectives and expertise as we continue our work to develop a truly sustainable economy particularly in this important year leading up to COP 21.”

Notes to Editors

For more information please contact Charlene Cranny, Programme Manager on 020 7749 9953 or at charlene.cranny@uksif.org.

UKSIF directors serve in a personal capacity. Organisational affiliations are given for information only.

About UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association (UKSIF)

The UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association (UKSIF) promotes responsible investment and other forms of finance that supports sustainable economic development, enhance quality of life and safeguard the environment. Founded in 1991, UKSIF has approximately 240 members including pension funds, asset managers, research providers, financial advisers, banks and non-governmental organisations. www.uksif.org.

About John Jarrett

John joined FTSE Russell in April 2015 as Deputy Head of ESG. He has previously been Global Research Director and COO at GovernanceMetrics International (GMI) and has a wealth of experience assisting international businesses and intergovernmental organisations on corporate governance and ESG factors.

About Melissa McDonald

Melissa has 26 years’ experience in the fund management industry across a variety of roles and locations. Melissa joined HSBC Global Asset Management in 2010 as Global Head of Product – Equities and Head of Responsible Investment.  Previously she held a number of positions within AXA Investment Managers, including Head of Business Development Asia Pacific and Global Head of Responsible Investment. At HSBC, Melissa is responsible for our equity capability globally including developing our passive and ETF business. She oversees our responsible investment strategy across all asset classes and works with clients across all segments to ensure we meet their specific needs.  Melissa is also a Director on the HSBC ETF Plc Board.

About Alexia Zavos

Alexia is the Head of Responsible Investment (RI) and a Portfolio Director at Cazenove Capital, the wealth management and charity investment business of Schroders.  She focuses on RI policy implementation for private clients and charities and chairs the Ethical Asset Class Committee.  Alexia has also worked at J M Finn and HSBC Investment Management. Alexia graduated from Edinburgh University with an MA in Geography. She has 13 years’ investment experience and is a member of the Securities Institute (diploma).

WeConvene Extel and the UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association (UKSIF) announced the results of the 13th annual WeConvene Extel/UKSIF SRI & Sustainability Survey at an event hosted by Newton Investment Management in London.

The SRI component of Extel 2015 represents the views of over 350 investment professionals from 25 countries, making it the most extensive assessment of socially responsible investing (SRI) in the European investment community. Voting was conducted from 23rd March to 30th April 2015. It reflects a contribution from 168 buyside firms and 15 brokerage firms/research houses.

Key highlights from the 2015 WeConvene Extel/UKSIF Survey include:

  • Thematic reviews & ideas continue to be most critical SRI/ESG research service as far as the buyside are concerned

  • Nearly half of asset managers believe sustainability issues have an important influence on stock prices

  • Buyside believes only a third of companies take sustainability issues truly seriously in how they operate, and in how they treat investors

Click here to read the full press release, including key rankings from the survey.

 

 

The UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association (UKSIF) today welcomed aspects of the Government response to the Kay Review, which outlined its commitment to promoting a long-term outlook in UK financial markets and enabling UK companies to deliver sustainable economic growth.

Caroline Escott, UKSIF Head of Government Relations, said:

The financial crisis in 2007 clearly demonstrated the need for a radical reshaping of capital markets and better investment practices that support long-term economic growth.

 We’re pleased to see that in its response, the Government recognises the significant steps already taken by the industry to promote and boost long-termism across the investment chain. 

 We also welcome the Government’s encouraging comments on the need for greater asset owner sign-up to the Stewardship Code – an important issue that UKSIF and its members have raised with policymakers and regulators as a priority issue.

 However, it’s a shame that this response misses the opportunity to more explicitly highlight the need for consideration of environmental, social and governance factors by both asset owners and managers in order to fulfil their stewardship responsibilities. 

 We’ll continue to engage with the Government, the FRC, the FCA and other investor organisations on these issues to ensure that UK capital markets fully enable companies and savers to work together in a world of environmental limits and social change with trust and confidence”.

Read the press release in full here.

London, 16 August 2013 – The UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association (UKSIF) has today published “The Future of Investment: Impact Investing” report which highlights the rise and opportunities in Impact Investing.

The report brings together insights from leading UK impact investment specialists drawn from UKSIF’s membership, and presents expert insight to demonstrate UK global leadership in this fast developing sector.

Read the full press release here.

Read the full report here.

London, 25 July 2013 – The UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association (UKSIF) welcomed today’s call from the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee for the Stewardship Code to better take into account environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors.  UKSIF was also pleased with the Committee’s recommendation that the Government actively follow through on the recommendations of the Kay Review into Equity Markets and Long-Term Decision Making.

Read the full press release

London, 17 June 2013 – UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association (UKSIF) today welcomed the focus on the themes of “social impact investing” and “tax, trade and transparency” of this year’s G8 summit, and urged attendees to use the event to make progress in breaking down barriers to long-term responsible investment.

Read the full press release

London, 3 June 2013 – Two of the UK’s leading business and investor associations have stated that a 2030 decarbonisation target for the power sector is essential to stimulate new growth in the economy on the eve of a crucial vote in Parliament. The current lack of certainty is damaging critical investment in the UK’s energy infrastructure.

Read the full press release

London, 25 April 2013 – The UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association (UKSIF) welcomed today’s call from the Work and Pensions Select Committee for a more ‘joined-up’ approach to pension scheme regulation and governance in their report “Improving Governance and Best Practice in Workplace Pensions”. However, UKSIF was disappointed that the Committee did not highlight the need for long-term responsible investment and stewardship to ensure good member outcomes.

Read the full press release