Greenwashing fears, lack of information the main barriers

France’s financial market regulator, The Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF) announced the results of a pair of studies into retail investors’ perceptions and expectations of responsible or sustainable financial products. The studies found that while most people take into account sustainable development issues in their investments, many stay away from sustainable or responsible investments, due to a lack of clarity and fears of greenwashing.

The studies found strong interest by respondents into sustainable development issues, with over two thirds declaring that they attach importance to these issues, and most taking them into account in behaviors encompassing shopping, choice of products, transportation, housing and voting.

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While more than 50% claimed to take sustainable development issues into account when considering savings and investments, and around two-thirds believe it is important for financial institutions to take these issues into account concerning the economic and financing activities they provide, most do not believe the institutions are doing enough on this front.

Despite the strong interest in sustainable development issues, only 17% reported holding at least on investment related to these issues. Lack of investor knowledge appears to be a significant barrier to investing in responsible or sustainable investment products, with nearly 75% reporting being unaware of different ways of “responsible” or “sustainable” investing.

Greenwashing was reported most often as the greatest obstacle stopping respondents from making a responsible or sustainable investment, followed by lack of information about the investment’s sustainability. According to the AMF, investors expect concrete examples of projects and proof of the impact of these investments.

While participation in sustainable investing lags, investors in the studies appear to be interested in aligning their investments with their values, with nearly 6 out of 10 even claiming that they would be willing to accept a lower return in favour of a responsible or sustainable investment rather than a traditional investment.

Click here for the results of the AMF studies, “The French and Responsible Investment Products,” and “Legibility study of Sustainable and Responsible Investment Documentation.”