• As local and regional banks – with 58.000 branches and 209 million clients across the EU - co-operative banks play a key role in financing the energy transition, by promoting within their networks the distribution of investment or savings products in favour of sustainable development; through their expertise in project financing in accompanying energy transition; through their green financing geared to SMEs and energy efficiency financing of private and public buildings. Some co-operative banks are leaders in green bonds.
• Beyond that, co-operative banks are engaged in long-term relationships with their members, their private and corporate clients and the communities where they reside. They reinvest significant portions of their available profits back into the community by supporting social and cultural projects. Thus they contribute to sustainable financing.
• However, the current complexity and continuous motion of the regulatory framework is heavily affecting the local co-operative banks and their capacity to finance the real economy.
• Additionally, there is a risk that regulation will lead to a less diverse banking environment that would undermine the sustainability and stability of the financial framework in Europe . Those are key issues to address in the debate on sustainable finance.
• This is why from a co-operative, retail and locally focused institutions' point of view, we think that it is important to highlight the fact that "sustainable" finance is already being carried out in Europe through banks' balance sheets, mostly putting deposits at work for the benefit of the real economy.
• In this light, we suggest that at European and international level a greater emphasis is put on the retail side of green financing by promoting tools and policy measures that are conducive of regional green growth via SMEs, households and local actors.
• Since the EU Commission’s HLEG is mainly composed of experts in asset management and insurance sector but no retail bankers, a priority shall be to correct this deficit by integrating the local financing dimension in the final recommendations and in the further steps undertaken by the European Institutions. Co-operative banks shall be closely involved.
The full document provides a summary of the EACB reply to the High Level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance interim report and questionnaire.