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“As human beings we want to create better societies, also with the help of financial instruments”

That was the consensus opinion of the participants of the fifth Sustainable Finance Summit at SEB in Frankfurt. Sustainability is one of the most pressing topics of our time, practically for most parts of society and especially for companies and institutions.

Hans Beyer, Head of Financial Institutions Coverage at SEB and lead on the sustainability work in the division Large Corporates and Financial Institutions, and Christopher Flensborg, Head of Climate and Sustainable Finance at SEB, welcomed the 60 participants and speakers who came from renowned institutions and companies such as European Banking Authority, Stockholm Exergi, Green and Sustainable Finance Cluster Germany, Bundesbank, Allianz Global Investors, KfW, Puro/Fortum, Stadtwerke München, DKB, EnBW, bayernets, KLP Norway, Union Investment.

To make the summit a carbon neutral conference, SEB decided to purchase CO2 removal certificates (CORCs) with the help of the marketplace www.puro.earth which is the result of an initiative made by a group of Nordic companies and led by the Finnish energy company Fortum. SEB acts as an advisor and is the only bank to participate in the initiative. The marketplace consists of sellers, that for example develop technology to remove and bind carbon dioxide, and buyers, that would like to offset CO2 emissions. This takes place in three areas: encapsulation of carbon dioxide in concrete without cement, use of wood in construction structures, and by creating biochar.

"Priority for SEB is to use video conferences and other digital communication channels more frequently to reduce our CO2 emissions. For events like the Sustainable Finance Summit bringing together experts from different countries where it is important to build a network, CORCS are a good alternative to offset the carbon output in our industry", says Stefan Pletzer, Head of Financial Institutions, SEB Germany.

The summit offered high-caliber key note speeches as well as interactive panel discussions. The first panel dealt with laws, guidelines and directives and is summarized by the moderator, Stefan Pletzer: "The attention by regulators, central banks and politicians increased over the past 12 months significantly. All initiatives and workgroups have ambitioned goals and time schedules. It is quite impressive how quickly conclusions and first actions within the workgroups are taken. There is strong support for the overall goal, and the targets agreed on. There is still a common question - how many regulations are needed and healthy to make sustainable finance mainstream."

A focus was led on the guidelines of the Technical Expert Group on Sustainable Finance (TEG). Among other panelists, Marie Baumgarts, Head of SEB Group Sustainability and SEB delegate elected to the TEG, reported from a participant's point of view. Experts see the activities as a real game changer as they increase the overall transparency within the market and define hard key figures for the industry and investors. Moderator Juliane Barella, Senior Client Executive Large Corporates Coverage at SEB, summarises the second panel about the new regulatory environment as follows: "The TEG members on the panel gave deep insight into the discussions and proposals of the expert group to support the EU commission's action plan on sustainable finance. Particularly interesting were the reflections about the involvement of the real economy for the action plan to unfold its full potential."

How corporates already implement sustainable finance was presented in the third panel. Alexandra Graf, Senior Analysist Industry and Corporate Analysis, who moderated the session: "The role of the financial sector is to initiate and steer the discussion about the importance of sustainability issues in credit and investment decisions. The actual transition of the relevant asset base and the subsequent project execution takes place in the energy sector. It is very impressive to see how professionally this is being handled by our customers, especially considering the lack of clarity in several aspects of the regulatory framework."

As well the investor's perspective about how to implement and integrate ESG across portfolios was a relevant topic of the discussions. Sascha Köhler, Head of FICC Sales at SEB, Markets Frankfurt, explains: „The investor base has a very strong focus on ESG and integrated advanced processes to run respective portfolios. The EU taxonomy might accelerate the process and move away from exclusion to an inclusive way of supporting the transition. Institutional Investors need to convince CEO's and CFO's of companies in investor meetings to push the transition proactively rather than wait too long and become stranded assets. Overall the investment industry is still facing data quality issues, mainstreaming might require more automation and last but not least more disclosure is needed to meet sustainability targets the latest by 2050."

In the end memebers of SEB's management thanked all speakers and the participants for a successful and fruitful dialogue. Here you can find the detailled agenda and list of speakers.