Guidelines indicate when asset managers may legitimately use ESG or sustainability-related terms in their fund names.

By Nicola Higgs, Laura Ferrell, and Charlotte Collins

On 14 May 2024, ESMA published its final Guidelines on funds’ names using ESG- or sustainability-related terms. The Guidelines aim to address the risk of funds’ names misleading investors by ensuring that their names can be supported in a material way by evidence of sustainability characteristics or objectives that are reflected fairly and consistently in the fund’s investment objectives and policy.

ESMA originally consulted on the Guidelines in November 2022 (see this blog post), but finalisation has been delayed while reviews of the AIFMD and UCITS Directive were completed. Notably, ESMA received substantive feedback on the consultation and made several amendments to the Guidelines accordingly.

The final guidance clarifies the scope and application date of the rule, and answers questions around good practice and accessing third-party data.

By Nicola Higgs and Jaime Martin

On 23 April 2024, the FCA published its final guidance (FG23/4) on its new anti-greenwashing rule, which comes into force on 31 May 2024. The anti-greenwashing rule will require all authorised firms to ensure that any reference they make to the sustainability characteristics of their financial products and services are

The European Parliament and the Council of the EU have made some significant changes to the European Commission’s proposal.

On 5 February 2024, the European Parliament and Council of the EU announced that they had reached a provisional political agreement on the text of the ESG Ratings Regulation (the Regulation). The agreed text was subsequently published on 14 February 2024. The Regulation was initially proposed by the Commission in June 2023, and seeks to introduce a new regulatory regime for ESG ratings providers “operating in the Union”. Refer to this Latham blog post for previous commentary on the proposal.

Benchmark administrators should review the quality of their ESG benchmark disclosures ahead of a review by EU regulators during 2024.

By Nicola HiggsBecky Critchley, Anne Mainwaring, Ella McGinn, and Charlotte Collins

On 13 December 2023, the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA), the EU’s financial markets regulator and supervisor, announced its plans to launch a Common Supervisory Action (CSA). Along with National Competent Authorities (NCAs), ESMA plans to review the mandatory disclosures of benchmark administrators providing benchmarks that pursue ESG objectives under the EU Benchmarks Regulation (EU BMR).

The CSA is the first that ESMA will conduct since it assumed its direct supervisory role under the EU BMR. As part of the CSA, ESMA and the NCAs will share knowledge and experience to harmonise how they supervise ESG disclosure requirements for benchmark administrators.

The FCA has set out good and poor practices for asset managers to consider in relation to funds with ESG or sustainable characteristics.

By Nicola Higgs, Anne Mainwaring, and Charlotte Collins

On 16 November 2023, the FCA published the findings from its review of how asset managers have been embedding current regulatory expectations regarding the design, delivery, and disclosure of funds marketed as having ESG or sustainable characteristics.

With the FCA yet to finalise its Sustainability Disclosure Requirements (SDR) and investment labelling regime, it reviewed authorised fund managers’ (AFMs’) compliance with existing regulatory requirements, including the Guiding Principles set out in the Dear Chair letter issued in July 2021 (see this Latham blog post). The recently implemented Consumer Duty has added an extra dimension for AFMs to consider since the Guiding Principles were issued. The FCA highlights that the consumer understanding outcome is particularly relevant for AFMs providing ESG or sustainable funds; under this outcome, firms need to provide investors with the information they need at the right time and present it in a suitable way.

The EU regulators are reviewing the Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation introduced in 2021, exploring the need for potential additional adjustments.

By Paul A. Davies, Nicola Higgs, Michael D. Green, James Bee, and Anne Mainwaring

On 14 September 2023, the European Commission initiated a consultation on its sustainable financial disclosure practices, seeking feedback on Regulation (EU) 2019/2088 — the Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR). The consultation surveys stakeholders’ experiences during the implementation of the SFDR and, in particular, solicits feedback on its interactions with the broader EU sustainable finance framework.

An evolving landscape of reforms in the ESG ratings sector continues to pose challenges to providers of ratings and scores.

By Paul A. DaviesNicola HiggsRob Moulton, Michael D. GreenBecky Critchley, Anne Mainwaring, and Charlotte Collins

International momentum to regulate ESG ratings continues as the European Commission released a consultation on 13 June 2023 to create a new regulatory regime for ESG ratings providers. This consultation follows a Call for Evidence that the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) issued on 4 April 2022.

The Commission has clarified requirements for financial product classifications and the definition of “sustainable investment” under the SFDR.

By Paul A. DaviesNicola HiggsMichael D. GreenAnne Mainwaring, and James Bee

In April 2023, the European Commission (Commission) published a series of answers to questions that the European Supervisory Agencies (ESAs) had raised in September 2022 on the legal interpretation of certain aspects of the Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR). The answers seek to clarify outstanding questions from stakeholders, including in relation to the definition of “sustainable investment” under the SFDR. Previous uncertainty with respect to this definition contributed to considerable market movement in the form of product re-classifications in the latter half of 2022.

The government published a new document outlining its existing and proposed objectives to develop the UK’s sustainable economy.

By Paul A. DaviesMichael D. Green, and James Bee

On 30 March 2023, the UK government published an updated version of its Green Finance Strategy (the Strategy), titled “Mobilising Green Investment”. The Strategy is part of the UK government’s series of announcements for its Green Day (see this blog post for more on the broader Green Day announcements).

The Commission is also consulting on proposed targeted amendments to the Taxonomy Climate Delegated Act and on the Taxonomy Disclosures Delegated Act.

By Paul A. DaviesMichael D. Green, and James Bee

On 5 April 2023 the European Commission opened a consultation on its proposal for four additional environmental objectives under the EU Taxonomy Regulation[1] (the Taxonomy), including: (i) sustainable use and protection of water and marine resources; (ii) transition to a circular economy; (iii) pollution prevention and control; and (iv) protection and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems.

The Commission is seeking feedback on technical screening criteria (TSC) for economic activities that may substantially contribute to one or more of those four environmental objectives. The TSC do not only identify the technical requirements that an activity must meet to be considered to make a substantial contribution to one of these areas, they also specify the conditions by which the activities can be considered to not do any significant harm to the remaining areas.

The Commission has already adopted TSC related to the economic activities of two other environmental objectives: climate change mitigation and climate change adaptation.

The Commission is also proposing amendments to the Taxonomy Climate Delegated Act, introducing additional activities that may be considered to substantially contribute to climate change mitigation or climate change adaptation, as well as the Taxonomy Disclosures Delegated Act.