New research from InfluenceMap has tracked intensive lobbying by EU trade associations representing finance and industry, on the taxonomy process. The aim of this lobbying has been to water down this key pillar of the European Union’s sustainable finance policy, which is designed to establish a framework for classifying sustainable investment. This may jeopardize the European Commission's plan to fight false and misleading sustainability claims by the private sector, at a time when genuine impact is needed from finance on key issues like climate change.
InfluenceMap's research also assessed 50 of the largest financial groups in Europe, finding only a small group of companies (led by Aviva, Groupe BPCE, BNP Paribas, BBVA, AXA and Allianz) to have actively and transparently supported the taxonomy. Most companies (37 out of 50) have either not engaged directly with the taxonomy or have not engaged with the taxonomy transparently. 15 of these financial groups made only ‘top-line’ supportive statements. Despite this, nearly all (49 out of 50) retain memberships to EU trade associations that have lobbied against a progressive or stringent approach to the taxonomy.
InfluenceMap’s analysis of the taxonomy lobbying process involved the examination of publicly available disclosures across seven data categories (websites and position papers, social media, CDP disclosures, regulatory disclosures (i.e. consultations), media reporting, CEO communications and financial disclosures). It is possible that companies and trade associations will have engaged in ways that cannot be captured by such disclosures. However, the assessment of the 72 entities involved the scoring of hundreds of evidence pieces, logged online, and aggregated using an algorithm to derive metrics indicative of corporate and trade association behavior towards the taxonomy process.
EU trade associations representing the finance sector, led by the European Fund and Asset Management Association (EFAMA), the Association for Financial Markets in Europe (AFME), the European Banking Federation (EBF) and EuropeanIssuers, have pushed for a voluntary approach to the taxonomy, restricted only to products marketed as sustainable. While opposing a ‘brown’ taxonomy, financial sector lobby groups have pushed against a strict classification approach for green investments, instead advocating for potentially less stringent methods for assessing sustainability based on relative market performance or ‘in-transition’ activities.
The taxonomy has also faced heavy lobbying by EU trade associations representing industry - particularly the gas and nuclear sectors - keen to ensure their products are classified as green. Oil and gas sector groups Eurogas, GasNaturally, the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers and FuelsEurope, have all lobbied the policy, pushing to weaken climate criteria to include economic activities like unabated natural gas combustion. In November 2019, financial sector trade associations AFME and EBF aligned themselves with the gas sector's positions, advocating for weaker climate criteria for electricity production to ensure the inclusion of natural gas under a ‘green’ taxonomy.
The policy has also seen opposition from international business trade associations, seemingly concerned at the global implications of an ambitious EU taxonomy. The Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) released a highly oppositional position paper in September 2019 suggesting the taxonomy could “(destabilize) international financial markets.” International financial trade association, the Institute of International Finance (IFF), has also engaged with the European Commission, arguing against what it calls "very ambitious and potentially unrealistic criteria… particularly for the production of electricity from hydropower and gas combustion.”