While the idea might seem new, sustainable finance has been around for more than two decades. In recent years, it has gained considerable ground because it upholds values that society insists on. 

Nuria wants to get more out of her savings and is thinking about investing in a company that shares her ethical and environmental values. Such “socially responsible” investment is just one of many components of sustainable finance.

What is sustainable finance?

The economy plays a pivotal role in society and, therefore, must align with its needs. Sustainability is one of mankind’s biggest challenges. That means growing constantly without harm to the planet; reducing the devastation of climate change; and, in future generations, bridging the gap with more vulnerable groups.

To get where we need to be, the public and private sectors must work together, and we must all act responsibly. Banks are aware of the situation and have 

From an ethical standpoint, sustainable finance means taking social and environmental factors into account in investment. Banking industry players have created products based on ESG criteria to meet the needs of customers who wish to invest more sustainably and help push society towards more responsible development. 

ESG criteria refer to how companies operate. The initials mean: 

  • E for Environment: An organization’s actions that have a direct or indirect impact on the environment. This includes greenhouse gas emissions, preservation of biodiversity, renewable energy and energy efficiency.
  • S for Social: Business practices that affect society. This is where we delve into companies’ values and compliance: employee rights, salaries, diversity and inclusion and customer satisfaction.
  • G for Good Governance: Companies’ management, transparency and criteria for drawing up internal regulations and procedures. Things to look out for include goals to bridge the salary gap, break the glass ceiling and eradicate discrimination on the grounds of gender, age, religion, sexual orientation and disability.

Types of sustainable finance

Many financial products meet ESG criteria, so we can be sure they safeguard society’s interests and promote sustainable growth and development:

  • Sustainable investment funds: Investments that fulfil our wish to put our money towards projects that uphold our ethical values. We can find opportunities in companies that work to innovate and improve energy efficiency and social conditions. 
  • Green and social bonds: Debt instruments issued by organizations that fund socially responsible projects.
  • Social venture capital: Investment in companies whose purpose is to solve social and environmental issues. Investors expect returns and sustainability.
  • Green loans: To finance the purchase of efficient domestic appliances, low-emissions vehicles and other eco-friendly items.

Want to find out more about sustainable finance? Read this article (in Spanish) by Finanzas para Mortales (Finance for Mortals). 

Technician working on solar panels.

Why invest in sustainable finance?

Banks are transforming to address society’s needs and concerns. Initiatives like the Net Zero Banking Alliance (NZBA), of which Santander is a founder member, are helping banks drive this change and shift their portfolios towards more sustainable products to reach net zero emissions.

The EU and government agencies have reinforced their commitment through policies that are based on fighting climate change and the inclusion of vulnerable groups.

Investors are not willing to compromise their ethical and environmental values. They prefer their portfolios include businesses with economic models that look out for the environment and society.

Studies show that people are demanding more sustainable finance. The Otro consumo para un futuro mejor (“Alternative consumption for a brighter future”) report by Nueva Economía e Innovación Social (NESI) and the Organización de Consumidores y Usuarios (OCU) concluded that, in countries like Spain, 73% of the population make financial decisions based on sustainability criteria

Investments in sustainable finance pave the way to making a positive impact on the planet and society. They help businesses that are in favour of renewable energy and more solid and responsible economic models. To find out more about sustainable investment, check out this Openbank article (in Spanish).

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