The Sustainability Revolution in Finance

STOCKHOLM – A quiet revolution is taking place in the financial industry. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, sustainable development is increasingly being integrated into financial decision-making.

The European Union has been rather passive so far in this transformation, but financial regulators in a number of countries are leading the charge. France recently introduced the world’s first mandatory climate disclosure requirements for institutional investors. Norway is divesting its sovereign wealth fund from coal. South Africa has embedded sustainable development into listing requirements on its stock exchange.

Likewise, Brazil’s banking regulations now require accounting for environmental risk. And the Swedish government is pushing an ambitious sustainability agenda featuring a series of proposals aimed at improving information for investors and determining which climate-related risks regulators and financial firms must address.

Private industry is also moving rapidly. The world’s largest asset manager, Blackrock, is launching a fossil-fuel-free index, and Axa, one of the world's largest insurance companies, has pledged to divest from coal. Meanwhile, the divestment movement is snowballing, with faith-based communities, municipalities, celebrities, trade unions, universities, and institutional investors all pledging to unload their fossil-fuel assets. Altogether, institutions worth more than $2.6 trillion have committed to divest from fossil fuels.