Stockholm (NordSIP) – The Platform on Sustainable Finance (PSF) brings together world-leading sustainability experts from the private and public sectors, all contributing with their different perspectives and skillsets to designing and developing the comprehensive and ground-breaking classification system, the EU Taxonomy.
On 8 February, the European Commission announced the second round of the PSF and published the list of members and observers for the new mandate. Under the leadership of newly appointed Chair Helena Viñes Fiestas, Commissioner of the Spanish Financial Markets Authority and a member of the UN High-Level Expert Group on Net Zero Pledges, this renewed crew will be instrumental in shaping the European sustainable finance landscape in the coming years. As PSF 2.0 is taking off, the message is loud and clear: going forward, the focus should be on usability.
NordSIP reached out to Marie Baumgarts, Partner and Sustainability Expert at KPMG, who has just been selected to join the key advisory body, a tribute to her environmental and sustainable finance expertise. “It is a great honour, and I humbly accept the assignment,” comments the newly appointed PSF member, one of the few Nordic representatives among the 28 experts on the platform.
For Baumgarts, it was an obvious and logical decision to answer the Commission’s call for applications in November last year. “We all need to contribute, not only for sustainable finance – but for future generations and a sustainable society as a whole,” she says. “We work with these very important topics every day – it is our mission – and I see it as a team effort where everyone is needed. All contributions, particularly those connected to usability, implementation and assurance by advisors and auditors, will help the Platform fulfil its mission,” she adds.
The onus on Baumgarts is heavier still, she explains, as she is currently the only member on the platform representing a “common interest” by supporting the needs behind sustainability accounting and reporting standards. The members on the Platform are appointed either as representatives of a relevant commercial or non-profit organisation (Type C members), in a personal capacity (Type A members), or, as in Baumgarts’s case, representing a common interest shared by stakeholders in a particular policy area (Type B members). In addition, seven permanent members among EU agencies and bodies are appointed directly (Type E members).
Baumgarts has already started preparing for the initial rounds of PSF discussions scheduled in early March. “The EU Taxonomy is like a dictionary, but in combination with the whole sustainable finance agenda, the structure gets really complex,” she says. “At the same time, it is paramount to get it right.” Given the breadth and complexity of the issues, she will eventually seek the help of so-called “sherpas”, who can assist her in her new mission.
Talking about her priorities, she sounds certain that the need for better sustainability accounting standards will be one of them. Apart from that, she hopes to be able to drive forward the harmonisation of the Taxonomy with the traditional financial frameworks. “We need to get to a point where we demand the same stringent data quality on sustainability as on other fundamental data,” she says.
Announcing the launch of the second round of PSF, Mairead McGuinness, Commissioner for Financial Stability, Financial Services and the Capital Markets Union was adamant that “the Platform will focus on usability to improve the implementation of our ambitious sustainable finance agenda.” Baumgarts agrees wholeheartedly with this course of action. The goal is to ensure that the Taxonomy and the whole sustainable finance framework work effectively to help the real economy in the transition.
 It is customary for the handful of expert members of the platform to appoint co-workers to help them carry the heavy burden. The term ‘Sherpa’ in this context derives from the way G7 summits are organised. During the preliminary preparatory process which takes place in advance of a G7 summit, the leader of a G7 host country conventionally invites the other G7 participants to send representatives known as ‘Sherpas’ to develop the agenda topics and other matters.