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Sustainable saving and investing: update until 2017

Issue 30-11-2018This report shows that both the range and the volume of sustainable investments are growing significantly.

The current public interest in sustainability appears to be reflected in the financial markets. Sustainable finance is booming. Interest picked up in 2017 and appears to be continuing in 2018. 2017 might well be looked back on as a pivotal year in a period of continued growth.

This is one of the findings in a new MIRA report (Flanders Environment Report) compiled in collaboration between the Flanders Environment Agency, the University of Antwerp and Forum Ethibel. The report dwells on the evolution of sustainable saving and investing, and then presents an overview of trends and insights for those interested in investing sustainably.

Sustainable investment in Belgium

Both the number of investment products and the total invested volume went up in 2017. The period of accelerated growth in sustainably invested volumes, which started in 2013, thus continued in 2017. The volume tripled from €7.7 billion in 2013 to €24.1 billion at the end of 2017. Similarly, the SRI index, or the ratio of the volume of sustainably invested assets to total invested assets in investment funds, rose to a new record high of 12.38 %. 

Volume sustainable investments

The number of sustainable investment products also increased in 2017 as compared to 2016. A total of 364 products were on offer, against 267 in 2016. 

Number of sustainable investments

Sustainable savings in Belgium

Whereas the Belgian volume of sustainable investments keeps growing year by year, solidary and sustainable savings have fallen for the third year in a row. With a savings volume of just above €3 billion in 2017, this represents a decline of slightly less than €100 million compared with 2016. The 2014 record level of €3.7 billion therefore seems to be increasingly out of reach. As Belgian savings volumes continue to rise, this also means that the sustainable level of the savings volume declined, more specifically from 1.08 % in 2016 to 1.04 % in 2017. The continued low interest rates on savings accounts can play a role in this. In fact, low interest rates lower the psychological barrier to making higher risk investments with potentially higher returns than savings accounts.

Sustainable savings

Private Banking in Belgium

Sustainable investments via private banking services (financial services to wealthy private individuals) were also examined. Based on these data, total assets of €15.91 billion were invested sustainably in 2017. A part of the investments in these financial services was invested in investment products that are also included in the statistics of the total invested volumes in sustainable investment products. However, the breakdown of these investments provides a better insight into the volume of sustainable private banking in Belgium.

Insight into sustainable investments

The study also discusses a number of ‘trends’ in sustainable investing. On the one hand, these trends are the result of top-down expectations (European regulations, search for a Belgian label for sustainable financial products, etc.) while, on the other hand, investors also want to make bottom-up decisions in line with their vision and values.

Thus, there is growing interest in more environmentally friendly investments, and impact investing and SDG investing (Sustainable Development Goals) are gaining a higher profile. In 2018, the first sustainable pension savings fund was launched and the European Commission finalised its strategy to support sustainable development and financing.

Read the English summary of the Dutch report ‘Sustainable saving and investing: update until 2017’

Study commissioned by MIRA, Flanders Environment Report

researchers: Ro Van den broeck, Laura Uwase, Quentin Tran, Kenny Frederickx (Forum Ethibel vzw); Luc Van Liedekerke (University of Antwerp)

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