Are Personal Finance Deals As Green As They Claim | moneyfacts.co.uk

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Derin Clark

Derin Clark

Online Reporter
Published: 10/11/2021

As world leaders spent the past two weeks at the COP26 Glasgow climate summit many companies are clamouring to highlight their green credentials, and the finance industry is no exception.

Some banks and building societies are offering a range of ‘green’ savings accounts and mortgages; while investments labelled Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) have long been popular with investors.

For consumers looking to do their part to help combat global warming, choosing a green savings or mortgage deal or an ESG investment may seem like a good choice, but with no official guidance on what qualifies as a green product or an ESG investment, the product they choose may not be as green as the consumer initially thought.

What classifies as an ESG investment?

One area that seems to be raising questions within the finance industry is how an investment is classified as an ESG. Right now, there is no regulatory guidance on what investments can be classified as an ESG, which can result in investors being misled into investing in products that are not as environmentally or socially conscious as they believe.

In response to this, earlier this week the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which regulates the finance industry, announced it is publishing a discussion paper to invite views on potential criteria to classify and label investment products.

“It is vital that we innovate to support industry’s shift to a more sustainable future,” said Nikhil Rathi, chief executive of the FCA. “That is why the FCA has been leading from the front. Developing consistent, trusted standards are a vital part of that, giving investors the confidence to put their money where it can deliver the most sustainable outcome.”

How green are savings and mortgage deals?

Banks and building societies have also been launching more green products in recent years, especially within the mortgage market. Now there are hundreds of mortgages that have green branding by the lender, but there is no regulatory guidance on what can be branded as a green mortgage.

Many mortgages branded green require the property to have an EPC rating of A or B, which means that some homeowners, especially those purchasing new builds which tend to be more energy efficient than older properties, will unconsciously qualify for a green mortgage deal.

Other mortgages that are often branded green are ones specifically available to those looking to use the mortgage to renovate or retro-fit a property to make it more energy efficient. Currently only seven of these deals are available, from the lenders Progressive Building Society, Saffron Building Society, Hanley Economic Building Society and Ecology Building Society.

Within the savings market, just seven lenders offer green products, but again, with no official clarification as to what is deemed a green savings deal their environmental credentials vary. Tandem Bank, for example, states that by opening its Green Instant Access Saver savers are supporting the bank’s green lending initiatives and helping to make UK homes more sustainable and environmentally friendly. Meanwhile, with a Saffron Building Society’s Enviro Saver Account, every 12 months a sum equal to 0.10% AER of the average balance is donated to an environmental charity.

Choosing a green finance product

With no regulatory guidelines on what can be classified as a green product or an ESG investment, the onus is on consumers to carry out their own research to ensure that the product they are choosing meets their environmental requirements. Some banks, most notably Triodos Bank, puts their ethical values at the forefront of their products; others, however, may not be as green as they first seem.

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