A label for sustainable funds launched in Belgium

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(More Bank)

And one more label, one. Belgium has just acquired a label to distinguish sustainable financial products.

It was designed by the association of the Belgian banking sector Febelfin in consultation with banks, asset managers and civil society with the aim of establishing "a quality standard for sustainable financial products, such as investment funds, "according to a statement.

"If these products meet the standard, they can get a sustainability seal, and with this standard, Febelfin wants to make customers more transparent and make the financial sector more accountable for climate issues," the organization says.

Febelfin estimates that the volume of sustainable investments in Belgium tripled between 2013 and 2017, rising from € 7.7 billion to € 24.1 billion. The number of products is also up and stood at 364 for the year 2017 against 267 the year before.

However, according to the Belgian Association of Asset Managers, SRI funds represent only 6.34% of funds distributed publicly in Belgium.

"Thanks to the quality standard and especially the sustainability label, consumers can rest assured that they will not invest in damaging activities, but only in companies with an explicit sustainability strategy and a transparent policy. on issues that are the subject of public debate, such as nuclear energy, "says Febelfin.

An independent organization will check if the product is in compliance with the standard and deserves the label. Febelfin emphasizes that the implementation of the standard is not intended to create a specialized product "but rather a product that can be offered to all types of investors".

"The climate impact of companies in the energy sector, among others, is the focus of attention, which is why companies are committed to moving towards alternatives that are less harmful to the environment or the environment. renewable energy can be given a place among sustainable financial products, companies that are still too committed to the most harmful fossil fuels, such as coal, will be excluded, so the financial sector oriented towards companies that want to enhance their positive impact, "says Febelfin.

The association adds that it is still possible to invest in energy companies based on shale gas until 2020 but in this case, the product "will then be awarded an appropriate label."

The standard will be regularly reviewed and adapted to societal needs and customer expectations, says Febelfin. A first revision is planned for 2020. Febelfin adds that the first labels are expected in the autumn of 2019. Nearly a hundred products could be labeled according to Karel & # 8200; Van Eetveldt, CEO of Febelfin, quoted in the daily L 'Echo.

The label already criticized

The reactions of Belgian asset managers are mixed. This is demonstrated by the CEO of Triodos Bank Belgium for whom "the new sustainability label for financial products and services sets the bar much too low". Triodos Bank will not adhere to the "Quality Standard" defined by Febelfin.

"The label does not exclude oil or gas.A company that derives 60% of its oil revenues can still benefit from a fund bearing the new label.Some companies that exploit shale gas and sand deposits bitumen can, despite applying certain restrictions, claim a sustainable fund, "denounces Thomas Van Craen on the website of Triodos Bank.

The company intends to "trigger a movement that will affect the entire sector instead of the 5 to 10% market share that the new label currently covers." Thomas Van Craen believes that from a technical point of view, the standard gives "the tools and structures necessary to integrate ecological and social considerations into financial decisions".

"But from a societal point of view and in essence, the bar is not placed where it is needed, that is, the financing of a socially just and climate – neutral economy. "he concludes.

On the side of BNP Paribas Fortis and BNP Paribas Asset Management, the creation of the new Febelfin label is welcomed as "an important milestone on the path of sustainability of the company."

By the end of 2018, more than 180,000 BNP Paribas Fortis customers had invested more than € 11 billion in socially responsible investment products, of which 9 are managed by BNP Paribas Asset Management.