Past Event

Principles of sustainable finance

How can finance help save the planet?

Date: April 30, 2019, 12:30 pm Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation

video & audio recordings


This event revolved around the topics tackled in the book Principles of Sustainable Finance by Dirk Schoenmaker and Willem Schramade. A presentation by Schoenmaker was followed by a discussion between Schoenmaker, Visiting Fellow Rebecca Christie, European Commissioner Mario Nava, and Pascal Coret from Caisse des dépôts Group.

Finance is widely seen as an obstacle to creating a better world. In this book, authors explain how the financial sector can be mobilized to counter this. Using finance as a means to achieve social goals we could divert the planet and the global economy from their current path, and towards a more sustainable world.

Schoenmaker discussed the importance of creating a more integrated approach to finance and investment. He argued that the traditional evaluation of financial investments only considers the entity’s ability to make profits. Schoenmaker asserted that this strategy was no longer sustainable and a more integrated approach is necessary in today’s economy. Such integration should involve the perspectives of not only economists but of social activists and scientists as well. In order to make any substantive change towards sustainable development, it is necessary to integrate these three elements.

Schoenmaker illuminated several benefits that would accrue for corporations that looked towards sustainable finance. Firstly, this strategy would allow these companies to anticipate and prepare for taxation schemes geared towards sustainability. Second, this shift would give companies a greater reputation as much of public opinion is leaning towards sustainable solutions. Finally, moving towards these goals would allow companies to be more marketable in a future where the SDG goals have been achieved and would satisfy the demands of moral corporate responsibility.

Although there are many reasons suggesting corporations should pursue sustainable development, a question that is often raised is how. Schoenmaker gave many recommendations regarding this dilemma. Sustainable finance involves long-term solutions and a shift from a profit-value to an integrated-value approach. Corporations should be examined and evaluated in terms of how prepared they are for a sustainable future. Schoenmaker also advocates for a shift away from the typical diversified portfolio towards one that is more concentrated in order to enhance company engagement. In this way, investors can have a dialogue with companies centralized around mutual support and movement towards sustainability. Finally, Schoenmaker highlights that much of finance is about anticipating events and pricing them today. As we move towards a more sustainable world, companies should anticipate the impacts that these changes will have and make financial decisions accordingly.

The discussion that followed Schoenmaker’s presentation brought up ideas about how sustainable finance is being promoted by the European Commission and how it is being approached in the financial market itself.

Commissioner Mario Nava emphasized the necessity of private investment to achieve the goals outlined in the Paris Agreement. As many financial institutions are still functioning according to a profit-driven mantra, it is important to provide profit-related incentives that advocate for sustainable financial investment. Some of these strategies include highlighting the potential risks associated with no sustainable investment and looking for ways to create expected value for these institutions. A central goal of the Commission’s recent legislation regarding this issue has been to reorient behavior in order to reorient capital flows. This demands increasing disclosures and transparency, moving from short-term to long-term strategies, and asking companies to share how they are responding to recent market pressures around sustainability. The Commission has been very active in pursuing legislation in support of these goals. Nava highlighted how this legislation has come to fruition at an incredibly fast speed, suggesting that these objectives are of high importance and are receiving considerable support from all sides.

Pascal Coret commented on how corporations and investors were responding to incentives towards sustainable finance at the market level. In order to get people on board with sustainable finance, it is necessary to redefine the traditional definitions of economic and financial ideas such as rationality, market efficiency, portfolio theory, and the utility function. Moving towards sustainable finance will involve persuading people of the merits of sustainable finance over traditional profit maximization. Part of this could be achieved through highlighting the risks associated with pursuing financial strategies that don’t take SDGs into account and increasing company disclosures. Coret emphasized the need to put a financial value on the social and environmental items that are associated with Schoenmaker’s integrated approach. Additionally, he advocated for absolute return targets that would give people a better idea of what return on investment the economy could actually provide in these areas.

Throughout this discussion, it was clear that finance is a powerful tool that can be used to achieve social goals as well as move the current economy towards a more sustainable future.

Event summary by Rachel Campbell-Baier


Presentation by Dirk Schoenmaker


Apr 30, 2019


Check-in and lunch



Dirk Schoenmaker, Non-Resident fellow



Chair: Rebecca Christie, Visiting Fellow

Pascal Coret, Head of sovereign fixed income and Deputy Head of Portfolio Management, Caisse des dépôts Group

Mario Nava, Director, Horizontal policies, European Commission, DG FISMA

Dirk Schoenmaker, Non-Resident fellow






Rebecca Christie

Visiting Fellow

Pascal Coret

Head of sovereign fixed income and Deputy Head of Portfolio Management, Caisse des dépôts Group

Mario Nava

Director, Horizontal policies, European Commission, DG FISMA

Dirk Schoenmaker

Non-Resident fellow

Location & Contact

Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels

Katja Knezevic

[email protected]

Read about event More on this topic

Past Event

Past Event

The economics of biodiversity

Join us in conversation with Sir Partha Dasgupta and Frans Timmermans to mark the publication of The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review

Speakers: Sir Partha Dasgupta, Maria Demertzis, Frans Timmermans and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: Energy & Climate Date: March 3, 2021
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

US separates climate concerns from financial oversight in contrast to EU activism

Different EU and US supervisory approaches to climate risk may hamper efforts to work together and risk fragmenting global markets.

By: Rebecca Christie Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation Date: February 18, 2021
Read about event

Past Event

Past Event

Building back greener: sustainable finance and the Green Deal

How could additional regulation incentivise investment while upholding the integrity of sustainable finance?

Speakers: Klaas Knot, Sean Kidney, Alexander Lehmann, Isabelle Mateos y Lago and Philipp von Restorff Topic: Energy & Climate, Finance & Financial Regulation Date: February 11, 2021
Read article Download PDF More on this topic

External Publication

Hong Kong’s Intermediary Role on Funding the BRI: How does it fare against Singapore?

A look into the intermediary role of Hong Kong in financing cross-border Belt and Road Initiative projects and compare it with Singapore, a similar offshore financial center and competitor.

By: Alicia García-Herrero, Gary Ng and Hanrui LI Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: November 4, 2020
Read about event More on this topic

Past Event

Past Event

Tackling too-big-to-fail banks: have the reforms been effective?

Evaluation of the global reforms implemented to deal with "too-big-to-fail banks".

Speakers: Alexandre Birry, Claudia M. Buch and Nicolas Véron Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: July 9, 2020
Read about event More on this topic

Past Event

Past Event

Impact and additionality assessment in the time of COVID-19

Understanding the impact and additionality of policy interventions.

Speakers: Ugo Albertazzi, Benoit Campagne, Andrea Conte, Zsolt Darvas, Maria Demertzis, Francesco Di Comite, John Earle, Matteo Falagiarda, Áron Gereben, Helmut Kraemer-Eis, Hans Peter Lankes, Iana Liadze, Andrew McDowell, Nicola Pochettino, Debora Revoltella, Mattia Romani, Simone Signore, Natacha Valla, Georg Weiers and Marcin Wolski Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: June 30, 2020
Read about event More on this topic

Past Event

Past Event

The Sound of Economics Live: China’s financial system: opening up and system risk

China is opening up its financial sector? What does that mean for China and the world?

Speakers: Alicia García-Herrero, Gary Liu and Giuseppe Porcaro Topic: Global Economics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: May 19, 2020
Read article More on this topic



Banks and loan losses in the pandemic turmoil

The current pandemic is shaking the financial system. How can banks react ? Is a consolidation of the financial system in Europe needed in order to respond to this crisis ? Will our economies suffer from this pandemic as much as they did in 2008 ? This week, Giuseppe Porcaro is joined live by Guntram Wolff and Nicolas Véron to discuss banks and loan losses in the pandemic turmoil.

By: The Sound of Economics and Bruegel Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation Date: March 25, 2020
Read article Download PDF More on this topic

External Publication

The effect of digitalization in the energy consumption of passenger transport: An analysis of future scenarios for Europe

The paper evaluates the effects on energy consumption of digitalization in transport. Digitalization needs a tailored policy support to avoid higher energy consumption.

By: Simone Tagliapietra and Michel Noussan Topic: Energy & Climate Date: March 16, 2020
Read article More on this topic



Can hybrid threats disrupt the financial system?

From cashless payments to digital banking, finance has become intangible and global. But, while speed and convenience have made our international transactions easier, have we become more vulnerable? How can the EU respond to the increased risk of hybrid threats? This week, Nicholas Barrett is joined by Jukka Savolainen, Director of Community of Interest “Vulnerabilities and Resilience” at the European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats, and Maria Demertzis, to discuss the risks that hybrid threats pose to the financial system.

By: The Sound of Economics and Bruegel Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation Date: February 17, 2020
Read article

Blog Post

Incorporating political risks into debt sustainability analysis

DSA applies to crisis countries only, but an early warning system identifying vulnerabilities is relevant for all countries. A more general, less stringent, debt vulnerabilities analysis (DVA) could be used to assess countries’ debt management policies and identify vulnerabilities, without leading immediately to policy consequences. A more general framework could also incorporate political risks that are significant determinants of debt dynamics

By: Andrea Consiglio and Stavros Zenios Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, Global Economics & Governance Date: January 22, 2020
Read article More on this topic



AI in Europe: a conversation with Google's CEO

It seems almost inevitable that Google will be big part of Europe's future. And Europe will be a huge part of Google's too. This week, Alphabet, Google's parent company, hit $1 trillion market cap for the first time. Can Google's AI be socially beneficial? Are big tech companies intrinsically bad? This week, Guntram Wolff talked to Google and Alphabet's CEO, Sundar Pichai.

By: The Sound of Economics and Bruegel Topic: Innovation & Competition Policy Date: January 20, 2020
Load more posts