Sustainability: the banks are on track

What does the Swiss population think about environmental sustainability in the banking sector? A representative survey shows that the Swiss are satisfied with the banks but they also have clear expectations.

A few days ago, the Swiss Parliament adopted the revised CO2 Act. With this revision, Parliament aims to make a significant contribution to achieving the goals set out in the Paris Agreement. Greater protection of the environment is also what the young pro-climate demonstrators on the Bundesplatz in Bern have called for. The role that the financial centre has to play was also under discussion, both during the parliamentary debate and on the Bundesplatz.

Widespread satisfaction with the banks

But what part does the Swiss population think the banks should play and how do the Swiss feel about sustainability in the banking sector? On behalf of the Swiss Bankers Association (SBA), gfs.bern conducted a representative survey on this topic. The survey shows that three-quarters of the respondents, and therefore a very large majority, agree with the goals set out in the Paris Agreement. The high level of acceptance of these environmental goals mirrors the population’s concerns: climate change is considered one of the biggest worries (after health care and retirement provision). With regard to the banking sector, the survey reveals that two-thirds of the respondents – i.e. the majority of the Swiss population – are satisfied with the environmental sustainability of banks. Customers are well acquainted with the offerings and products for sustainable construction and investing. The general satisfaction of respondents is a positive sign and indicates that banks are on the right track.

Customers expect information and transparency

At the same time, however, the Swiss have expectations of banks and politicians. For example, they express a wish for banks to always give information about sustainability aspects in their portfolios when providing advisory services. A significant majority of the population is also in favour of greater transparency with regard to sustainability aspects, as well as better framework conditions for sustainable investments and products.

Sustainable finance is a top priority for the SBA. Following the SBA’s publication in the summer of guidelines on integrating sustainability into the advisory process for private clients, the Association is now focusing on three areas: disclosure, classification (taxonomy) and measurability. The SBA is working together with the federal government, the authorities and the banking sector to define the requirements for the disclosure of climate-related financial risks. The SBA supports efforts to develop a uniform and harmonised classification system and meaningful methods of measurement. These prerequisites must be in place to enable transparency and comparability as well as allowing reliable statements to be made regarding the effectiveness of different measures.

Sustainable investments are in demand

The sector needs to remain resolutely committed to attractive, market-based framework conditions that further foster and facilitate growth in the area of sustainable investments. According to the Swiss Sustainable Investment Market Study 2020 published by Swiss Sustainable Finance, CHF 1,163 billion of assets are currently invested sustainably, accounting for around one-third of domestically managed assets. This corresponds to growth of over 60 percent compared to the previous year and highlights the strong increase in sustainably invested assets in recent years. We must continue to build on this momentum.

InsightSustainable finance


Silvan Lipp
Former Head of Communications & Public Affairs - Member of the Executive Board
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