Transition through Transparency : Assessing ESG Reporting and the EU Taxonomy for Sustainable Finance
Abstract: Insufficient ESG information has been identified as a barrier in the transition towards a climate-neutral economy. This topic recently gained new interest, with the EU Commission implementing an action plan to finance sustainable growth. For the first time, the EU Commission has introduced a taxonomy that classifies whether or not an economic activity is sustainable - a potentially substantial addition to the field of ESG reporting. Financial market participants are initially targeted by the demands of disclosing taxonomy alignment of all affected activities. Due to the significant mandate that financiers hold as intermediates, their perspective on ESG disclosure is key to sorting out the complexity of non-financial transparency. The purpose of this thesis is to identify financiers’ current challenges within ESG reporting, and to indicate how the EU taxonomy will impact this context. A qualitative study was carried out with an aim to gather the perspectives of Swedish banks that provide portfolio management. 20 interviews with industry professionals were held, in order to illuminate internal obstacles and viewpoints in the banks’ operative businesses. The empirical data was thematically analyzed and discussed in regard to the Swedish finance industry as a whole. The findings present that the current challenges with ESG reporting firstly lie in a lack of comparability and clarity in the disclosure process. Secondly, there are difficulties with integration due to the tensions that underlie the financial purposes of most businesses. Despite the fact that shorter-term challenges are expected to remain with the taxonomy, mainly in the form of access to data and communication, the taxonomy is generally received as a long-awaited common language. The taxonomy contributes with standardization and structure to this setting and shows promise of integrational effects due to its activity-centered focus. Although the satisfaction of information needs will not entail change in itself, it is deemed necessary to obtain transparency in order for a subsequent environmental transition to take place.
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