Blooming apricot tree (Copyright: Umweltzeichen)

Review: Green Loans and the new requirements in UZ49

The Austrian Ecolabel for sustainable financial products has been the standard for sustainable financial products in Austria since 2004. The Ecolabel thus provides guidance for (sustainable) investors. 

More than 360 financial products have already been certified with the ecolabel. The guidelines were revised in the previous year with the involvement of numerous stakeholders. For example, the exclusion criteria for the Ecolabel were expanded and tightened. A new product group was also included in the guidelines: Since January 1, 2024, Green Loans - Green Loans can also be awarded the Ecolabel.

Green Loans

A green loan is a form of financing that enables borrowers to use the proceeds exclusively to finance "green" projects. Green loans are therefore an important financing instrument when it comes to mobilizing sufficient capital for sustainable activities and projects. In the past, green loans were often based on the Green Loan Principles of the International Capital Market Association (ICMA). These stipulate that all proceeds should be used exclusively for green activities. The UZ49 Ecolabel Directive now also provides criteria for green loan financing - as it has done since 2020 for green bonds and sustainable current and savings accounts.

For this reason, the webinar from the "Green money for green investments" series on March 5, 2024 was dedicated to the new requirements in the Ecolabel Directive on the one hand and the new certifiable product group, green loans, on the other.

The Webinar on 05/03/2024

In the first contribution to the webinar, Katharina Muner-Sammer, Sustainable Finance Expert at ÖGUT, outlined the topic of "Green Loans" with the most important terms and definitions. She contrasted green loans with sustainability linked loans and reported on the recommendation of the European Banking Authority (EBA) on the introduction of a voluntary EU label for green loans based on a common EU definition. Raphael Fink, responsible for the UZ 49 Directive at VKI - Verein für Konsumenteninformation, then addressed the question "What's NEW with the eco-label for sustainable financial products?" The sustainability expert explained the main changes in the directive. For example, the exclusion criteria for fossil fuels have been extensively expanded. New exclusion criteria for corruption and financial sanctions were also defined in the area of states, and the criteria for climate and species protection and nuclear energy were expanded, to name just a few examples of the changes. Raphael Fink also presented the new requirements for the certification of green loans. The new guidelines are available for download on the Ecolabel website:

Claudia Mikes and Maximilian Eliskases, rating and ESG experts at Hypo Niederösterreich Landesbank, gave a practical insight into the bank's ESG strategy before presenting green financing for corporate and private investment projects in detail. Further attention was paid to the specific lending process before Mr. Eliskases explained the individual verification steps in accordance with UZ 49, which Hypo Niederösterreich is currently engaged in. The second practical insight into green financing was provided by Michael Kammerer, member of the board at the Environmental Center of Raiffeisenbank Gunskirchen. Michael Kammerer presented the "money cycle with environmental guarantee" and explained the list of criteria for the financing eligibility of projects and companies at the bank.

After the respective presentations, the numerous webinar participants had the opportunity to ask questions. At the end of the event, Josef Behofsics, Ministry of Climate Action, thanked the speakers for their exciting presentations and all participants for their questions and contributions. Susanne Hasenhüttl, ÖGUT, who moderated the webinar, concluded the event by saying that the presentations will be made available on the ÖGUT website later this week.

The webinar was organized by ÖGUT on behalf of the Ministry of Climate Protection and in cooperation with VKI/Umweltzeichen. The individual presentations are already available for download on the ÖGUT website:

Author: Sabine Hasenhüttl (ÖGUT)