When it comes to climate action and sustainable investing, France is a country of contradictions.
On the one hand, the French focus on these issues has been strong and predates the raft of ESG reporting legislation emanating from the EU in recent years. Way back in 2001, the country launched fonds solidaires, which dedicate 5-10% of assets to enterprises with positive environmental and/ or social impact. Workplace pension schemes and employee share plans must offer one of these funds as an option. France was also the first country to introduce mandatory climate risk and wider ESG reporting for institutional investors and was early to introduce ESG-friendly fund labels such as the ‘Greenfin’ label.
On the other, wider efforts to curb climate change have been met with heavy resistance. Rural France in particular erupted in anger when President Macron increased fuel duty on diesel a few years ago. The climate law passed in mid-2021 was a far watered-down version of the provisions initially proposed and seems to have less ambitious aims than the European Commission’s ‘Fit for 55’ plan for cutting carbon emissions by 55% over the next eight years.
In our European Fund Selector Study (EuroFSS), a divergence of opinion on sustainable investing is evident in the French results. Most French fund selectors surveyed report that their firm offers a dedicated sustainable investing service that is tailored to the client’s preferences; over two fifths offer a sustainable model portfolio service. Yet few report that that ESG considerations are part and parcel of their doing business – it has the flavour of an optional extra.
The collective view of this band of portfolio managers, financial advisers, family office folk and CIOs perhaps speak to a larger truth: whilst the notion of socially responsible investing is very familiar in France, there is a long road ahead before ESG considerations are truly embedded in wealth management and banking businesses. And for a while, cars on that road may well be fuelled by diesel – at least outside of the new low emissions zones being created in cities!
Options exist to purchase this inaugural wave as well as the opportunity to become a full syndicate member for the next wave in Q3 2022. This provides access to a range of brand performance metrics, including use, consideration, positive associations and client service ratings.