EACB Members have collected information in order to better understand clients needs about the green transition, in terms of how they are acting, what do they see as challenges, opportunities and expectations. The information is summarised as follows:
Adaptation of business: opportunities and challenges
- Several SMEs clients indicate that they take actions to enable the transition of their business by investing in sustainable products and processes and adapting via digital transformation. They also put efforts in training their employees on this topic. At the same time many companies do not seem to recognise climate change as a challenge that can directly impact their business continuity. By consequence they are not yet, or in any case not fully, integrating sustainable considerations in their strategic planning for the next years.
- In general the high degree of interdependencies between the different initiatives of the EU Commission regarding the Green Deal is perceived as very challenging for smaller clients. They expect consequences of sustainable finance and taxonomy on their own business, such as less access to finance or higher costs, but some of them also see new green business opportunities, and the are developing sustainable products and services.
- Larger clients and large, stock market-oriented companies have more means to develop Sustainable Business expertise than SME’s. The majority of the large customers surveyed are currently planning to undertake measures and explore possibilities for improving their sustainability performance since they recognise that climate transition affects their business model and strategy.
- It also emerges that sustainability issues have been taken more into account in company strategies after the pandemic. Companies' environmental commitments are reinforced together with gradual integration for social and societal commitments. However, there is also the perception that these developments are related to the strict requirements imposed by regulatory obligations, and/or pressure from consumers.
- Companies which take action on sustainability often mention the following sustainable development objectives:
- the low-carbon transition;
- the implementation of the principles of the circular economy;
- the reduction of air and water pollution.
This is followed by relatively positive capacities for action in the areas of:
- improving the well-being of the population;
- improving mobility.
- Objectives such as reduction of inequalities and protection of biodiversity are mentioned less often. A possible explanation is that there are less so within the reach of companies.
Expectations about how cooperative banks will, or possibly should, respond to challenges
- In general clients, small and large, have keen interest in promotion & development of sustainable solutions(e.g. "green" credit card, e-mobility or investment products) and in support services for advises on sustainability aspects - this applies to both smaller and larger cooperative banks.
- Smaller enterprises indicate that they would welcome more information from their local bank about sustainable finance and expect that banks will finance projects for green transition.
- Some companies express concerns whether and to what extent financing depends on assessments based on sustainability criteria and that it will involve red tape, increases in verification and documentation requirements. These SMEs also believe it should be avoided that entrepreneurial activity is negatively affected by overlapping legal regulations or excessive bureaucracy. This message is oriented towards government.
- Clients expect that strengthening the idea of sustainability should be sought in dialogue with companies across the economic spectrum as they seem concerned on the impact on their growth efficiency and employments.
- SME’s indicate that technical and economic possibilities must be taken into account SME’s recognise the importance to develop the right skills with new professional competencies.
- The transition should be supported with financial incentives, both incentives by banks (as well as by government (taxes, subsidies).
- In particular in the area of financial regulation, several companies suggested that capital requirements could be adjusted to finance more green activities. Some also indicated that financial institutions should be supported with public incentives and a degree of co-responsibility is needed.
- There could also be a reflection that some companies expect attractive rates to reward sustainability efforts - this could also mean that in some cases companies might accept higher rates if their sustainable performance is below average in their industry.
- SME’s ask for the set-up of clear rules with regard to data, standards, models and requirements for transparency and traceable disclosures.
 Countries: Germany, Spain, Netherlands, Luxembourg, France. In some countries data are based on internal surveys, in others on published national surveys.