Polish investors and stakeholders have confirmed plans to launch the country’s first sustainable investment forum (PolSIF) this month.
The forum is backed by representatives from the Polish asset management industry, private equity industry, Warsaw Stock Exchange and the broader financial community.
It will be the third SIF to launch in central and eastern Europe (CEE), following the launch of Czech SIF at the end of last year and RoSIF in Romania in 2021.
Robert Adamczyk, senior environmental adviser at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, told Responsible Investor that there has been high interest from the local market and the EBRD is trying to be “a catalyst of support”.
“We are gathering some of the main sustainable finance investors to sign up and establish the Polish SIF this month,” he said. “There is good appetite for a SIF from investors, particularly among asset managers.”
PolSIF is expected to bring together experts from asset managers and asset owners in anticipation of growing demand for best practice on ESG integration in investments.
The organisation will be run by Polish entities, with some of the country’s main asset managers and investment funds expected to “help frame and develop sustainable finance further across the market”, Adamczyk added.
In its first few months, PolSIF will focus on coordinating work on sustainability-related legislation, reporting and disclosure requirements, facilitating the integration of sustainability, and mentoring.
“The main priority is training and development. There is still a huge need for education, institutional strengthening, and incentives for green financing,” Adamczyk said.
The launch of the SIF is a milestone for Poland’s financial landscape and will address a “critical gap” in supporting sustainable finance for financial institutions, according to Robert Sroka, a partner at Warsaw-based private equity firm Abris Capital Partners.
He added that a priority will be the development of a standard guide to navigating EU regulations such as the Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR), Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) and green taxonomy, tailored specifically for the Polish market.
Piotr Dmuchowski, chief investment officer at TFI PZU, the asset management arm of Poland’s leading insurer, said the country is experiencing a “phase of fast growth” in sustainable finance. At the moment, this is more advanced in the banking sector, but the investment community is “quickly catching up”, he added.
“The idea behind creating PolSIF developed due to the need to coordinate these developments so that we are aligned with the best European standards, but also so that local Polish market features and challenges are properly covered,” he said.
He added that Poland’s transition challenges differ from those of the majority of western European countries and that it needs to “find its own path”.
Krzysztof Kamiński, a member of the management board at Millennium TFI, part of the Polish division of Portuguese group Millennium BCP, said that other main goals include creating a “centre of competence” by gathering leading sustainable finance experts from the Polish investment community.
He added that PolSIF will also aim to promote developed approaches to ESG integration in financial institutions and cooperate with other capital market stakeholders, including regulators, to grow the sustainable investment market.
“This will now be possible through close cooperation with Eurosif and other national SIFs.”
Sustainable finance across Poland
While progress is being made, Poland remains a laggard in the European market on sustainability. The government filed a lawsuit last month against the EU to quash three climate change policies on the grounds that they would worsen social inequality.
“The government has embraced ESG to an extent, unlike some others. But they are challenging some of the EU requirements for the simple reason that Poland is still behind, so reaching some of the targets is difficult,” Adamczyk said.
He noted, however, that sustainable finance has recently gained momentum across the country, with high levels of activity and a push to develop best practices.
“The market is developing more transition, sustainability and green bonds,” he said. “There is also a goal to develop the level of knowledge of sustainable finance. The Warsaw Stock Exchange is playing a big part in writing guidance and best practices so that listed companies can report on sustainability.”
Part of this push has been driven by the Polish Bank Association (ZBP) – whose members include the local subsidiaries of Santander, BNP Paribas, ING and Commerzbank – which has been “driving” green finance and green bonds discussions.
Other recent developments include the launch of a sustainable finance platform by the ministry of finance to develop best practice in the area, work by the Warsaw Stock Exchange on ESG ratings and reporting, and a Chamber of Commerce working group set up to advise on sustainable finance best practices.
The Polish Private Equity Association has also partnered with the Warsaw Stock Exchange on a project to update key ESG documents, which are due to be finalised by the end of the month.
In addition, Poland’s Responsible Business Forum, one of the oldest corporate social responsibility initiatives in the country, is working with management boards on diversity and embedding Chapter Zero.