Wood pile. Copyright by Umweltzeichen_JB

Green money for green investments. The challenges of EU taxonomy for the Austrian Ecolabel

Since 2018, when the European Commission published the EU Action Plan on Financing Sustainable Growth, a lot has changed in the financial sector.

It is about nothing less than redirecting capital flows towards sustainable development. As is known, the action plan comprises a total of ten bundles of measures, of which some regulations have already been launched, such as the Disclosure Regulation or the Taxonomy Regulation. With the EU Taxonomy Regulation, uniform criteria were defined for the first time at European level in order to be able to classify economic activities as (ecologically) sustainable. The individual regulations with the corresponding regulatory provisions are partly in a very tight time frame, which has led to many ambiguities and thus also uncertainties in the industry. The Austrian Ecolabel for sustainable financial products has been the standard for sustainable financial products since 2004. It offers orientation for (sustainable) investors. In the meantime, more than 200 financial products have been certified with the Ecolabel.

Against this background, ÖGUT, on behalf of the Ministry of Climate Protection and in cooperation with VKI, invited to a webinar to discuss the current requirements from the EU taxonomy for providers of sustainable financial products.

As is known, in the future it must be disclosed for each sustainable financial product how and to what extent the taxonomy is applied and to which environmental goal(s) the investments contribute. In addition, the share of sustainable investments must be stated as a percentage of the investment, fund or portfolio based on the criteria of the EU taxonomy. This poses great challenges for the providers of financial products. Where does the sector stand at the moment? What are the current challenges and problems? Are there already good practices in the market?

Georg Lehecka from the Financial Market Authority gave an insight into the regulatory environment and the requirements that arise for financial product providers within the framework of the EU taxonomy. In his presentation, he stated that sustainability criteria are already taken into account to a large extent in asset and risk management in Austria. He spoke about the future need for transparency in financial products in the various documents for investors and the time frame envisaged for this. Barbara Flor from the Association of Austrian Investment Companies spoke about the challenges of implementation from the perspective of the Austrian fund industry. She stated that one major challenge is that there is currently no consensus on the entry into force or the applicability of the interlocking EU regulations. Another challenge for her is the lack of concretisation of the legal requirements. She believes that implementation should follow the best effort principle and with principle-based information and that "good practices" will soon emerge. Raphael Fink from the Association for Consumer Information (VKI) as the third speaker then reported on the current draft of the EU Ecolabel Directive, the discussions in connection with this label at the European level and the challenges for the Austrian Ecolabel.

This online event was aimed at a selected group of addressees and thus explicitly at the licensees of the Austrian Ecolabel for sustainable financial products. The organisers were pleased about the lively participation of around 60 participants.