The European Union High Level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance (HLEG) launched its final report in Brussels on 31 January. Under the leadership of UNEP FI Co-Chair Christian Thimann, Group Head of Regulation, Sustainability and Insurance Foresight at AXA Group, it aims to put achieving a sustainable financial system at the heart of financial reform in the EU. The final report is a comprehensive document, and stands alongside China’s work as perhaps the most comprehensive effort to date globally to make sustainability part of core financial architecture.

The report proposes:

  • a classification system, or ‘taxonomy’, to provide market clarity on what is ‘sustainable’
  • clarifying the duties of investors’ when it comes to achieving a more sustainable financial system
  • improving disclosure by financial institutions and companies on how sustainability is factored into their decision-making
  • an EU-wide label for green investment funds
  • making sustainability part of the mandates of the European Supervisory Authorities (ESAs)
  • a European standard for green bonds.


The recommendation on clarifying investor duties references findings from the Fiduciary Duty in the 21st Century project, a collaboration between UNEP FI, the PRI and The Generation Foundation. The HLEG also advised the European Commission to propose an EU Omnibus Directive on investors’ duties and sustainable finance. Regulation such as this would be a key milestone in the transition to a sustainable financial system.

The Commission is already heeding the advice of the HLEG; following the interim report’s recommendations last November, the European Commission launched a public consultation on institutional investors’ and asset managers’ duties regarding sustainability. During French President Emmanuel Macron’s One Planet Summit in Paris last December, Valdis Dombrovskis, the European Commission’s vice-president for financial services said, “We will propose to integrate sustainability factors into investment mandates. This means these criteria will be reflected in the duties that asset managers and institutional investors have towards those whose money they manage. This would clarify their legal obligation to factor sustainability risks into capital allocation decisions.”

Access the HLEG Final Report here.

Learn more about Fiduciary Duty in the 21st Century here.


Image: Alex Mihis