German government picks experts for sustainable finance panel

Ministries invite market players to advise on ESG in latest sign of progress from EU’s largest economy

The German Government has unofficially selected the market experts it wants to develop its national sustainable finance strategy, RI understands.
Responsible Investor can reveal that there are around 30 individuals that have been informally invited to participate in the country’s Sustainable Advisory Council, which was announced by the German ministries of Finance and the Environment in February.
The Government did not respond to a request for information, but RI understands that the members expected to make up the Council include:

  • Ingo Speich, Head of Sustainability & Corporate Governance at Deka Investment
  • Matthias Stapelfeldt, Head of Sustainability Management at Union Investment
  • Michael Schmidt, Chief Investment Officer, Lloyd Fonds and former member of the EU’s High Level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance.
  • Kristina Jeromin, Head of Group Sustainability at Deutsche Borse and Managing Director at the Green and Sustainable Cluster Germany
  • Matthias Kopp, Head of Sustainable Finance, WWF Germany
  • Alexander Bassen, Chair for Capital Markets and Management at the University of Hamburg
  • Andreas Hilka, member of the Executive Board of Pensionskasse der Mitarbeiter der Hoechst-Gruppe – the pension fund of Hoechst chemical company – and a board member of Arbeitsgemeinschaft für betriebliche Altersversorgung, the German association for occupational pensions
  • Silke Stremlau, Member of the Board at sustainable pension specialist Hannoversche Kassen

It also includes representatives from major corporates including automotive giant BMW, chemical companies BASF and Evonik Industries and utility EnBW, according to insiders. Triodos Germany, Allianz and Deutsche Bank are also expected to participate. Campaign groups Urgewald and GermanWatch are also on the list, along with DIW Berlin – the German Research Centre for Economic Research.
In total, those close to the matter say there will be more than 30 experts on the panel, “but there are new additions all the time” and none of the individuals are formally confirmed.It is not clear whether the group will develop a national sustainable finance strategy itself, or act in an advisory role to the government. When it was initially announced earlier this year, it was described as a body of experts that would advise government and share knowledge. The move is part of a bigger plan by the government to “expand Germany into a leading sustainable finance location”. 
Germany has been notably slow to join the ESG debate in Europe. But, speaking to RI in April, Helge Braun, Head of the German Chancellery and Federal Minister for Special Affairs, said that was changing. “We want financial market actors to do more sustainable finance business in Germany, including issuing green bonds, offering sustainable financial products and developing advanced risk management methods. So it’s our intention to increase the existing expertise and competences of the German financial sector.”

The move is part of a bigger plan by the government to “expand Germany into a leading sustainable finance location”

The advisory committee will meet for the first time on June 6, RI understands.
There will be around six observers to the group, including big names like the Bundesbank, the BVI (Germany’s banking association), the country’s financial regulatory authority The Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (known as BAFIN) and development bank KfW, RI understands.
BAFIN held its first conference dedicated to sustainable finance last week, with more than 300 guests.
Some observers have expressed concerns about the potential size of the new advisory group and the fact that there is no clear eligibility criteria or mandate, with one saying “it demonstrates that there is no real idea about how they plan to do this and make it effective”.
There is a growing trend for ‘expert panels’ to be appointed to advise governments on sustainable finance – countries to have created such bodies so far include the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Canada. The EU set the trend with its High Level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance, which laid the groundwork for the European Commission’s current Action Plan.
Canada has been criticised for going the opposite way to Germany, and only appointing four people to its national advisory group, which many believe will limit its impact and expertise. While some say the German approach will result in a group that’s too big to coordinate, others say it “makes sense, so that everyone feels represented”.