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Sustainable finance reporting (SFR): a catalyst for transformation in Europe

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By Constance d’Aspremont

· 8 min read

Sustainable finance reporting (SFR) is emerging as a key driver of transformation in Europe's financial system and economy. In an era defined by the urgency of addressing climate change and navigating sustainability challenges, SFR serves as a crucial tool for guiding both financial institutions and corporations toward making informed decisions, enhancing transparency and accountability, and attracting new investments.

What is SFR and why is it important?

At its core, SFR involves the disclosure of information on a company's environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance. This disclosure becomes a valuable resource for investors, lenders, and other stakeholders, enabling them to assess a company's sustainability risks and opportunities.

SFR holds significance on multiple fronts. Firstly, it aids companies in identifying and managing their sustainability risks. Secondly, it fosters transparency and accountability, essential elements for building trust with investors and stakeholders. Lastly, SFR acts as a catalyst for companies to attract new investments and potentially reduce their cost of capital.

How is SFR transforming Europe's financial system and economy?

SFR is instigating transformative changes in Europe, contributing to the evolution of a more sustainable financial system:

  1. Creating a more sustainable financial system:
    • By offering investors insights into companies' ESG performance, SFR facilitates more sustainable investment decisions. This not only aligns with broader sustainability goals but also positions financial institutions as key contributors to a resilient financial system.
  2. Promoting innovation in the financial sector:
    • Financial institutions are responding to the demands of sustainable investors by innovating in product and service offerings. This innovation not only meets the evolving needs of investors but also propels the financial sector toward more sustainable practices.
  3. Raising public awareness of ESG issues:
    • SFR plays a role beyond the financial realm by contributing to heightened awareness of ESG issues. It acts as a catalyst for encouraging individuals and businesses to make more sustainable choices, thus influencing behaviors beyond the financial sector.

Benefits of SFR for financial institutions

SFR extends a multitude of benefits to financial institutions:

  1. Improved risk management:
    • Through comprehensive ESG data, financial institutions enhance their risk management capabilities. This includes identifying and assessing risks like climate and social impacts, allowing for more informed decision-making.
  2. Enhanced transparency and accountability:
    • SFR gives investors a transparent view of a financial institution's ESG performance. This transparency is foundational for building trust and attracting new investments, critical elements in the sustainable finance landscape.
  3. Access to new markets and investment opportunities:
    • Demonstrating a strong commitment to sustainability through SFR can open doors to new markets and funding opportunities. Investors seeking sustainable projects are more likely to be drawn to institutions with a robust sustainability profile.
  4. Supporting the transition to a more sustainable economy:
    • Financial institutions play a key role in supporting the broader transition to a sustainable economy. SFR, by promoting transparency and accountability, helps build trust in the financial system, attracting essential investments for the transition to a more sustainable economy.

Benefits of SFR for corporates

In addition to its advantages for financial institutions, SFR also delivers substantial benefits for corporates:

  1. Reduced cost of capital:
    • Companies exhibiting strong ESG performance tend to enjoy a lower cost of capital. Investors are increasingly inclined to invest in businesses perceived as sustainable and well-managed, reflecting a broader shift toward sustainable investing.
  2. Improved access to finance:
    • Companies with favorable ESG performance find it easier to access finance from banks, other lenders and investors. Lenders and investors view such companies as less risky, emphasizing the financial benefits of robust sustainability practices.
  3. Enhanced reputation and brand value:
    • A positive ESG performance contributes to a better corporate reputation and increased brand value. In a landscape where consumers and stakeholders actively seek to support sustainable businesses, a strong ESG profile becomes a valuable asset.
  4. Attracting and retaining top talent:
    • Corporates with a commitment to ESG excellence are more likely to attract and retain top talent. In an increasingly competitive job market, employees are drawn to organizations that demonstrate a genuine dedication to sustainability.
  5. Supporting long-term business success:
    • Good ESG performance equips companies to achieve sustained success. Businesses with robust ESG practices are better positioned to manage risks effectively and adapt to changing circumstances, contributing to long-term viability.

Challenges of SFR

While SFR brings about transformative benefits, it is not without its challenges. Addressing these challenges is crucial for the effective implementation of SFR:

  1. Data collection and management costs:
    • Implementing SFR requires meticulous data collection and management, presenting a significant cost for both financial institutions and corporates. The scale of data, ranging from carbon emissions to social impact, necessitates substantial investments in technology and infrastructure.
  2. Compliance complexity:
    • The dynamic nature of SFR regulations, such as the EU Taxonomy, CSRD, and SFDR, introduces ongoing compliance challenges. Financial institutions and corporates must remain agile to navigate the evolving reporting requirements, requiring robust governance practices.
  3. Lack of expertise and resources:
    • Meeting the demands of SFR necessitates a skilled workforce well-versed in the intricacies of the frameworks. The scarcity of professionals with expertise in ESG matters poses a challenge, requiring institutions to build internal capabilities comprehensively.

Overcoming the challenges of SFR

To fully harness the benefits of SFR, proactive steps must be taken to overcome its challenges:

  1. Integrating ESG into governance and processes:
    • Beyond being a reporting exercise, SFR demands a fundamental shift in organizational thinking. Integrating ESG into governance at all levels, from the boardroom to daily operations, ensures a holistic approach to managing sustainability risks and opportunities.
  2. Leveraging technology:
    • Technology, including automation tools and AI-driven solutions, emerges as a pivotal enabler for efficient and cost-effective data collection and management. Policymakers can play a role by encouraging the adoption of such technologies.
  3. Promoting collaboration:
    • Collaboration among stakeholders, including financial institutions, corporates, industry groups, and academic institutions, can mitigate the compliance burden and duplication of efforts. Policymakers are encouraged to facilitate a collaborative environment, especially for smaller entities.
  4. Investing in training and development:
    • Building internal expertise through training and development is essential. Policymakers can incentivize this by providing financial support, such as tax breaks or grants, encouraging organizations to invest in preparing their workforce for SFR compliance.
  5. Shifting taxes for sustainable economy:
    • As a potential benefit not only for individual organizations but for the broader economy, policymakers could explore the strategic shift from income taxes to sustainability-driven taxes. This transition not only accelerates the shift towards a sustainable future but also enhances the competitiveness of the country's economy in the long run.
  6. Strengthening enforcement:
    • Policymakers should focus on strengthening the enforcement of SFR regulations to ensure widespread compliance. Clear rules and penalties can incentivize accurate and transparent reporting, essential for the integrity of sustainable finance practices.

By taking these steps, organizations and policymakers can collaboratively address the challenges of SFR, unlocking its full potential and contributing to a more sustainable financial system and economy.


SFR is proving to be a catalyst for transformation, shaping the contours of Europe's future economy. Far beyond a mere regulatory box to tick, SFR emerges as a strategic opportunity for financial institutions and corporations alike.

From bolstering risk management to fostering transparency and gaining access to new markets and funding, the benefits of SFR are manifold. While challenges exist, the collaborative synergy between organizations and policymakers is key to unlocking the transformative potential embedded in SFR.

Integrating ESG into governance and processes is not just a requisite; it's a fundamental strategic shift that enables organizations to navigate sustainability risks and opportunities. The role of technology, with its automation tools and AI-driven solutions, can play a pivotal role in reducing the burden of SFR and avoiding duplication of work. 

Collaboration remains a linchpin, especially for smaller entities grappling with the complexities of SFR. By promoting a collaborative environment – and solutions, policymakers contribute to mitigating the compliance burden and fostering shared best practices.

Investment in training and development is imperative, considering the current lack of expertise and the need to integrate sustainability into long-term strategic decisions. 

Beyond the individual benefits for organizations, policymakers could explore a strategic shift from income taxes to sustainability-driven taxes. This would not only propel the transition to a sustainable future but would also enhance the long-term competitiveness of the country's economy. Strengthening enforcement is also pivotal to reap its benefits. Policymakers must focus on clear rules and penalties, ensuring widespread compliance and upholding the integrity of sustainable finance practices.

In navigating the complexities of SFR regulations, Europe positions itself not just as a compliant region but as a leader in sustainable finance. This journey marks a trajectory toward a future characterized by sustainability, innovation, and economic resilience.

illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.


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About the author

Constance d’Aspremont is a board member at Banque Transatlantique Belgium, and the CBDO of Greenomy a company helping businesses navigate sustainable finance regulations through digitalisation and AI. She holds an MBA from Insead and leverages 20+ years in finance, strategy, sustainability, and digitalisation

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