Your guide to the European Commission’s Sustainable Finance Action Plan

Keep track of the regulatory developments of the European Commission’s Sustainable Finance Action Plan.

Context

About the Sustainable Finance Action Plan

Scope of the Sustainable Finance Action Plan

EU Taxonomy Regulation

Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD)

Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR)

Low-carbon benchmark regulation

Industry implications of the European Commission’s Sustainable Finance Action Plan

BNP Paribas Securities Services’ view

Key dates

Context

In 2015, the adoption of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris agreement marked a significant shift in global attitudes towards climate change and sustainability.

On 8 March 2018, the European Commission published a first Sustainable Finance Action Plan to channel more funding to environmentally sustainable economic activities, particularly towards activities that can play a critical role in reaching a carbon-neutral and climate-resilient economy by 2050.

Sustainable finance: a renewed strategy for the European Commission

In July 2021, the Commission published its renewed sustainable finance strategy, which particularly focuses on:

  • Financing economic activities that further the transition to sustainable objectives
  • Improving the financial sector’s resilience to sustainable risks
  • Examining the desirability of a social taxonomy and improving opportunities for SMEs and individuals to access sustainable finance

About the Sustainable Finance Action Plan

The first action plan on sustainable finance has so far mainly resulted in regulatory initiatives, which:

  • Define what environmentally sustainable economic activities are, in particular economic activities that contribute significantly to mitigate climate change or adapt to climate change
  • Introduce transparency obligations for financial products and companies on whether and how they consider sustainability risks borne by investments or resulting from the economic activity carried out as well as on whether and how they consider and mitigate adverse impacts on environmental and social matters resulting from investments or from the exercise of an economic activity

Scope of the Sustainable Finance Action Plan

EU Taxonomy Regulation

The EU Taxonomy Regulation entered into a phased-in application as of January 2022.

The EU Taxonomy Regulation establishes a taxonomy of sustainable economic activities for each EU environmental objective – namely, climate change mitigation, climate change adaptation, pollution prevention, circular economy, protection of marine resources, healthy ecosystems – which (i) contribute significantly to reach at least one of the objectives (ii) without harming significantly any of the 5 other objectives (iii) while meeting minimum social and governance safeguards.

The EU Taxonomy Regulation also introduces transparency requirements:

  • On the proportion of investments in environmentally sustainable economic activities for financial products in the scope of SFDR with environmental characteristics or sustainable investment as an objective and,
  • On KPIs showing the alignment of activities carried out by companies subject to the Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD) (EU public interest companies with staff over 500 people, covering approximately 11 700 companies and groups) with economic activities listed in the EU taxonomy.
Back to top

Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD)

On 21 April 2021, the European Commission published a proposal for a Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) that amends the Non-Financial Reporting Directive in order to:

  • Extend the scope of NFRD to all large companies and all EU or non-EU companies listed on regulated markets (except listed micro-enterprises)
  • Require the audit (assurance) of reported information
  • Introduce more detailed reporting requirements, and a requirement to report according to mandatory EU sustainability reporting standards
  • Require companies to digitally ‘tag’ the reported information so that they may be machine readable and feed into the European single access point (ESPA) that will be implemented as of 2024

On 23 February 2022, the Commission published a proposal for a Directive on corporate sustainability due diligence.

  • Large EU companies and Non EU-companies active in the EU that have a turnover above a certain threshold would have to identify, bring to an end, prevent, mitigate and account for negative human rights and environmental impacts in the company’s own operations, their subsidiaries and their value chains.
  • In addition, certain large companies would need to have a plan to ensure that their business strategy is compatible with limiting global warming to 1.5 °C in line with the Paris Agreement.
Back to top

Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation

The Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation – SFDR – entered into a phased-in application on 10 March 2021. SFDR applies to financial products (IORPs and private pensions, managed portfolios, UCITS, AIFs, insurance-based products) marketed in the EU, and to their manufacturers and financial advisers, by introducing transparency requirements:

  • On consideration of sustainability risks borne by financial products
  • On policies considering adverse impacts on environmental and social matters and associated indicators for manufacturers of financial products in the scope of application of NFRD, financial products manufactured by them and for financial products with environmentally sustainable investments as objectives

For a better understanding of the regulatory requirements of SFDR and how to apply them, download your copy of our SFDR Decision Trees.

  • On the description of ESG characteristics or sustainable investments as objective in pre-contractual documents and on their attainment in periodic reports
Back to top
Regulation

Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR) – regulation memo

SFDR aims to provide greater transparency on the degree of sustainability of financial products.

Low-carbon
benchmark regulation

The low-carbon benchmark regulation:

  • Defines two new EU voluntary standards, namely the EU climate transition benchmark and the Paris-aligned benchmark, for EU low-carbon benchmarks that are on a decarbonisation trajectory;
  • Introduces new transparency requirements on consideration of sustainability factors by benchmarks (with the exception of interest and currency rate benchmarks).
Back to top

Amendments to
other regulations

Amendments to the UCITS Directive, AIFMD, MiFID II, Solvency II align the risk management process and due diligences process with new transparency requirements under the sustainability-risk disclosure regulation.

Amendments to MiFID II and the Insurance Distribution Directive (IDD) define which categories of financial products can be advised for clients who express sustainability preferences when asked the question as required by suitability assessment.

Back to top

Industry implications of the European Commission’s Sustainable Finance Action Plan

Although institutional investors and banks welcome the Sustainable Finance Action Plan, they are faced with difficulties in collecting granular and reliable data on sustainability to meet their transparency obligations.

The obligation for financial products to disclose the quantitative degree of alignment of their portfolio with the EU taxonomy entered into application in January 2022 under SFDR. The transparency obligation for non-financial undertakings on the alignment of their activities with the EU Taxonomy will only start as of January 2023.

BNP Paribas Securities Services’ view

The CSRD proposal, which is proposed by the European Commission to enter into application as of January 2024 but could be delayed in the final text by one year as a result of negotiations with the EU Council and Parliament, will be part of the data gap solution by requiring in-scope companies to disclose standardised sustainability reporting.

The following actions, which are part of the renewed sustainable finance action plan, will also help to solve the data issues:

  • Enhancing the quality of data providers on ESG research and ratings
  • Promoting sustainable finance globally

Key dates of the European Commission’s Sustainable Finance Action Plan

1 January 2022

  • Financial products: periodic reports for financial products with ESG characteristics must comply with SFDR & EU Taxonomy requirements of level 1 texts
  • EU Taxonomy: companies must comply with simplified disclosure obligations

2 August 2022

  • Entry into application of AIFMD, UCITS, MiFID II amendments

31 October 2022

  • CSRD – expected adoption by the European Commission of delegated acts to provide for sustainability reporting standards with the exception of sector-specific standards

Q3- Q4 2022

  • EU Taxonomy: publication by the European Commission of the list of economic activities and associated screening criteria for pollution prevention, circular economy, protection of marine resources, healthy ecosystems

1 January 2023:

  • Financial products: periodic reports for financial products with ESG characteristics will have to comply with the SFDR & EU Taxonomy detailed requirements of the Regulatory Technical Standards (RTS)
  • EU taxonomy: non-financial undertakings will have to comply with the detailed disclosure obligation
  • SFDR: the European Commission to review SFDR with regards to the disclosure of the principal adverse impacts on social considerations by financial products and their manufacturers

October 2023

  • CSRD: expected adoption by the European commission of a delegated act specifying sector-specific standards

June 2023:

  • SFDR: large product manufacturers must disclose principal adverse impact indicators on sustainability factors

October 2023:

  • CSRD: expected adoption of the delegated act on the first set of EU sustainability reporting standards

1 January 2024:

  • EU Taxonomy: Financial undertakings will have to meet the detaileddisclosure obligation
  • CSRD: large companies would have to disclose standardised sustainability reporting but this could be delayed by one year as a result of negotiations with the EU Council and EU Parliament 
Regulation

Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR) – regulation memo

SFDR aims to provide greater transparency on the degree of sustainability of financial products. Read our regulation memo for more information.

Regulation

Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation – Decision Trees

For a better understanding of the regulatory requirements of SFDR and how to apply them, download your copy of our SFDR Decision Trees.

Sustainability

How open servicing is helping solve the ESG data challenge

Open servicing platforms can help tackle issues with ESG data quality and consistency, while connecting investors with a wider range of providers.