Progress and Notions of Progress in Sustainable Finance
Journal of Sustainable Finance & Investment (2022), available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/20430795.2022.2148816
25 Pages Posted: 31 May 2022 Last revised: 13 Dec 2022
Date Written: May 12, 2022
The sustainable finance industry has boomed in the face of uncertainties ranging from its justification as a viable financial product to its impact in terms of sustainability outcomes. This article seeks to characterize the conditions of the present phase and to provide insights on its present direction of travel and how future progress might best occur through two lenses. First, it reviews elements of progress in sustainable finance over the past half century as characterized by interactions between three primary factors. Second, it presents a study of recent green bond issuances that examines the strength of the connection between sustainable finance and sustainability objectives. Analysis suggests markets do not demand rigorous design standards or accountability and are focussed on product sector growth over sustainability outcomes. Classification of finance as sustainable often lacks appropriate validation from independent verification and due diligence, post investment assessment of outcomes, and an oversight regime assuring information integrity. The notion that allocating capital to sustainability-labelled financial products contributes to desired outcomes may be an illusion that is distracting from, and so delaying, a more demanding approach to directionally positive capital allocation. Lessons for newer sustainability linked products are considered. Suggested reforms require firmer public governance oversight regulation if acts undertaken in the debt capital markets are to meaningfully contribute to urgent sustainability challenges.
Keywords: green bonds, sustainable finance, greenwashing, ESG, SDG, public governance, EU taxonomy
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