Federal Council discusses sustainable finance and sets out next steps

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During its meeting on 26 June 2019, the Federal Council held a discussion on a sustainable Swiss financial centre. It sees great opportunities for innovation and competitiveness in this area and has decided to set up a working group to carry out various investigations.

Since 2016, the primacy of market-based, long-term approaches and the subsidiarity of government action have already been regarded as principles. The aim is to specifically promote transparency and voluntary participation in the inclusion of environmental aspects and social issues in the financial sector.[1] The Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) and the State Secretariat for International Finance (SIF) are again offering free climate compatibility tests in 2020, which are now open to banks and asset managers as well as pension funds and insurance companies. They will show to what extent progress has been made compared to the first tests in 2017.

During its discussion on a sustainable financial market, the Federal Council gained an overview of current developments and initiatives as well as Switzerland’s commitment at the international level. In particular, Switzerland has entered into international commitments within the framework of the Paris Convention on Climate Change and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

A new working group headed by SIF, in close cooperation with the FOEN and other interested authorities, will carry out various tasks. Among other things, assessment bases for clarifying Switzerland’s participation in international initiatives - such as the Coalition of Finance Ministers for Climate Action launched by Chile and Finland - should be submitted as quickly as possible. In addition, the impact of developments in the EU in the area of the action plan for sustainable financial investments on the Swiss financial centre will be examined. By spring 2020 at the latest, a working group report should be available containing the results of this review and proposals for the Swiss financial market. The Federal Council intends to hold further discussions by the end of the year on the issue of whether and how the financial market should be regulated. The basic aim is to determine the framework conditions that will enable the Swiss financial centre to be competitive in the area of sustainable finance.

Finally, the working group should work towards the conclusion of industry agreements with financial market players. In particular, these should lead to an increase in transparency and a voluntary commitment on the part of the sectors to a representative participation in the aforementioned climate compatibility test with a view to achieving specific targets. The aim is to strengthen competitiveness, so that customers and investors can be offered clear information and thus decision-making options. Dialogue with the industry will be intensified to this end.

[1] Cf. press release dated 24 February 2016 (International financial bodies discuss sustainability issues: Federal Council defines Switzerland’s role)