Sticking Up for Sustainability at a Time of Green Hushing

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    Stockholm (NordSIP) – On the occasion of his recent visit to Stockholm at the end of April, NordSIP had the opportunity to meet with Roger Miners (Pictured), Head of Distribution for Europe at BNP Paribas Asset Management, and peak behind the scenes.

    According to Miners, sustainable finance is a once-in-a-generation historical shift that deserves more appreciation. Meanwhile, with increased regulatory requirements being imposed on sustainable fund managers in the EU, economic recession and ESG pushback from the USA, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to use sustainability as a cheap marketing tool, Miners told NordSIP.

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    A Historical Moment

    “From about sustainable investing in a historical perspective, I think that there are parallels with previous momentous changes in the way we do business. Thinking back to the 1930s, the aftermath of the Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression led to the development of accounting standards. Prior to that, businesses could declare their profits whichever way they wanted,” Miners argues.

    “The parallel development now, coming out of the pandemic, is that for the first time we have a revolution with the creation of non-financial environmental, social and governance measurements and expectations. I think we don’t make enough of it. These are revolutionary changes in the way finance works, and they are not going away, since there is clear support for them within society at large as well as from businesses and regulators,” Miners adds.

    “The revolution in our industry is that for the first time we are not just measuring risk and reward. We are also measuring impact. It is a privilege for those of us working in this industry to witness and participate in these changes. You can work a whole career in an industry and never see a revolution. It is a unique moment in history,” Miners says.

    Sticking Up for Sustainability

    “BNP Paribas AM has a unique perspective with sustainability at the core of our vision and positioning. It is a part of our DNA. That is very different from the rest of our financial ecosystem. Positioning the whole company, for better or for worse with that intention was not an evident decision five years ago. We stood out,” Miners tells NordSIP.

    “It was easy to stand out as a sustainable investor at first. Then, as everyone hopped onto the bandwagon, the market became very crowded and everyone wanted to talk about sustainability. Now, we have gone full cycle, and people are not as keen on talking about ESG again,” Miners continues.

    “The last 6 months have seen important work on fighting greenwashing. The industry has had to deal with some very uncomfortable headlines in the news,” he says. These developments include inroads into banning ESG that some sectors of the republican party have made recently. “That is what I was alluding to. There’s some pushback and it puts managers on the spot. Some asset managers are trying to be everything for everyone, but in so doing they end up not being anything to anyone. That is not our position. We are like a leopard. We are not going to change our spots,” Miners adds.

    Resisting Green Hushing

    As the industry takes a subdued approach to ESG, Miners argues that BNP Paribas AM stands prepared to fill the commitment gap that asset owners are starting to perceive. “Asset managers such as ourselves, with a strong ESG conviction, can stand out in a market where others have entered a ‘green hushing’ mode, unwilling to use the words ‘sustainability’ or ‘ESG’ for fear they may upset some of their clients. The question does pose itself for us,” Miners argues.

    “That puts pressure on us. When you stand for something people want to take a closer look, which is fair, right and proper. We are not perfect, but we are committed to our position. Oddly though it may seem, I feel more comfortable in this environment than some years ago, when sustainability was just emerging and everyone was jumping onboard,” Miners adds.

    “Our steadfast commitment to our belief has paid dividends. For example, we won two large mandates this year, not because the manager was performing badly but because the investor was unsatisfied with their underlying positioning from a sustainability perspective. Our understanding and moved the assets over to us because of our position,” Miners concludes.

    Image courtesy of LIONEL DERIMAIS
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