Sustainability is no longer in the eye of the beholder: an overview of the Taxonomy Regulation

Funds that took due account of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors in their investment strategies generally outperformed their conventional counterparts during the Corona pandemic (FT, 3 April 2020). At the same time there is an omnipresent call to align the economic recovery in Europe with the ‘green transition’ (FT, 18 June 2020). In sharp contrast to this emphasis on the importance for investors to take ESG factors on board when making investment decisions stands the uncertainty about the requirements an investment must meet to be actually sustainable.

On 18 June 2020 the European Parliament decided to remedy the lack of clarity by adopting the Taxonomy Regulation[1] which defines an environmentally sustainable economic activity. More specifically, it sets out the broader framework within which the European Commission will have to come up with the technical criteria an economic activity must adhere to in order to be considered environmentally sustainable. This contribution will give an overview of the key changes brought by the Taxonomy Regulation.

The definition of what makes an economic activity sustainable will lie at the center of an emerging legal framework for sustainable finance. Creating  such a legal framework pioneered as a priority in the Action Plan on Building a Capital Markets Union of 2015 and was translated in more concrete policy in the Action Plan: Financing Sustainable Growth of 2018 based on a blueprint designed by the High-Level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance. In particular the latter Action Plan’s goal to reorient capital flows towards sustainable investments justified the adoption of a detailed EU classification system – or taxonomy – to make it clear for investors which activities qualify as ‘green’ or ‘sustainable’.[2] Continue reading “Sustainability is no longer in the eye of the beholder: an overview of the Taxonomy Regulation”