Finance Must Become a Tool for Health, Economic and Social Development

The actions of investors, bankers and other financial actors are just as important to the welfare of the planet as conservationists and green energy developers. The financial sector must become conscious of its environmental impact and work towards creating a more sustainable model.

There are no healthy people on a polluted planet. In particular, deforestation, the proximity between urban zones and wilderness, and the scarcity of certain animal species, are determining factors in the development of diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans. As such, at a time of a pandemic requiring the confinement of half of humanity, it is appropriate to analyse this crisis through the lens of the 17 sustainable development goals of the United-Nations, which guide international efforts for a better and sustainable future for all.

Faced with the challenge of protecting the planet, and the effects of climate change in particular, it is essential to develop projects to restore and protect natural ecosystems. The goal is to rethink activities in the logic of a circular economy, to limit their negative impact on nature and to create sustainable wealth. The emergence of sustainable finance is vital for the transformation of the economy towards a low-carbon and inclusive model. Finance must become a tool for health, economic and social development. But how? Finance Monthly hears from Catherine Karyotis, Professor of Finance at France’s NEOMA Business School and Anne-Claire Roux, Managing Director of Finance for Tomorrow.

Financial actors must re-invent their activity to support the projects and sectors of the ecological transition, serve the real economy, and preserve biodiversity for a sustainable planet. They must apply best practices to both anticipate transition risks and protect the value of assets, face new risks linked to the physical impacts of climate change, and adapt to regulatory changes. Ultimately, they must enable the transition of the economy to a low-carbon and inclusive model.

The ethics of an investor, a banker, a fund manager, or an insurer go beyond compliance: they have to know how to place their mission of in the present and future contexts, taking into account all economic, financial and ecological dimensions. They can take the opportunity to create wealth, or rather value. To this end, they must identify new sustainable opportunities and put a long-term perspective at the heart of their financing and investment strategies.

Financial actors must re-invent their activity to support the projects and sectors of the ecological transition, serve the real economy, and preserve biodiversity for a sustainable planet.

Already, the entire sector is developing its offers, practices and trade products. Actors are mobilising, initiatives are multiplying, and new professions specialised in sustainable finance are emerging within organizations. However, this paradigm shift will not be possible without expertise and new skills.

A financial analyst must master the accounting and extra-accounting instruments and documents to carry out a joint financial and extra-financial analysis, connecting one to the other and enabling financial policy decisions to be taken in the long term.

A risk manager must know how to assess financial risks in all their dimensions, ranging from credit risk to climate risk to health risk, to then cover them by using derivative markets for this objective, not aiming for speculative short-term gains.

As an asset manager must know how to “price” a bond. Why not do so for bonds labeled “green” or “sustainable”? Likewise, beyond socially responsible investing, how can ESG criteria be introduced into passive management, and how can we revise models by developing a green beta? If we talk about alternative investments, we can also integrate “green” or “adaptation” labels, as well as “green value” into wealth management and into particular real estate investments.

France is at the forefront of green and sustainable finance. French financial players – whether private or public issuers, arrangers, or even extra-financial rating agencies – are the greatest specialists in “green bonds”. They are pioneers in carbon accounting and the financing of natural capital. Collectively, the French financial sector constitutes a driving force for the development of sustainable finance internationally, through initiatives such as ‘Finance for Tomorrow’ and the ‘Climate Finance Day’, the ‘One Planet Summit’, or the ‘Network of Central Banks and Supervisors for Greening the Financial System’ (NGFS).

To strengthen this expertise and pass it on to the next generation of financial professionals, it is necessary to reinforce skills in sustainable finance. From an educational perspective, it is up to teachers and professionals in activity, to transmit to students the tools, which will allow them to reinvent the financial system for a secure, sustainable future.

In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic more than ever, sustainable finance must become a tool for recovery and our students must become the future decision makers of a finance serving the real economy, society and the planet.

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