Matt Christensen comments on the HLEG final report

Matt Christensen, Global Head of Responsible Investment (RI) at AXA Investment Managers (AXA IM), comments on the recommendations in the final report by the High-Level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance (HLEG) welcoming their suggestions and seeing these as a solid foundation for the European Commission’s (EC) Action Plan on Sustainable Finance to firmly push ESG (environmental, social and governance factors) into the mainstream of investment management in Europe and globally.

“The final report published yesterday importantly clarifies investor duties. We hope this will lead to a greater focus on sustainability issues over a longer term horizon, as the current focus on short term goals when it comes to sustainable finance is ultimately not doing enough to counter the ever increasing threats of climate change. We believe that the recommendation for an European Union (EU) omnibus proposal is highly significant and would ensure that the changes recommended by the HLEG take place across the entire investment chain in Europe.

“Regarding the recommendations on disclosure rules, we believe that the reforms on disclosure rules as discussed in the report are necessary particularly in helping to foster climate scenario analysis and planning for larger companies in key sectors exposed to energy transition risks, including the financial sector. There is an opportunity now for the European Commission to play a significant role in strengthening Europe’s disclosure rules to make climate change risks and opportunities much more transparent for investors.

“What is more, the recommendation for the EC to endorse and implement the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures’ (TCFD) recommendations on climate disclosure at the EU level puts Europe once again firmly at the forefront on disclosure rules to spearhead raising the standards globally. It simultaneously allows European investors to benefit from better information on how large companies are aligned with global goals on sustainable development.

“As the report highlights, we agree that the current use of ESG benchmarks is a key driver of short-termism in the market. Hence, we are fully aligned with the view that the EC should use its influence to draw more attention to the possible limitations of established ESG indices and benchmarks. Calling for greater transparency and guidance on benchmarks will hopefully lead to better use and selection of benchmarks which can in turn help drive more capital towards truly green and sustainable investments.

“An important point to note with the EU’s lead on these issues is ensuring that the European industry is not unduly affected by what could be viewed as unfair competition from other constituencies that remain less engaged with climate change. We therefore believe that it will be important for the EU to use its size and influence to push the sustainable finance agenda forward at all levels including with the United Nations, G7, G20, bi-laterally and multi-laterally.”


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