How green finance became mainstream: An exploration of a 20 year transition in the European Union

Authors: Andreas Dimmelmeier*,
Topics: Economic Geography, Europe
Keywords: Finance, Climate, Sustainability, EU, network
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 2:35 PM / 4:15 PM
Room: Washington 4, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In the late 1990s the European Commission conducted a large study on green investment in the European financial markets and subsequently launched an initiative for the development of a European green financial market. In this process, Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) funds and their national associations provided key inputs. Whereas the initiative was abandoned abruptly through a change of Commission, in 2018 – almost 20 years later – a new action plan on sustainable finance was launched by the EU. This time, however, SRI representatives struggled to be part of the debate, which instead was dominated amongst others by large institutional investors, credit rating agencies and specialized think tanks and NGOs. This paper explores the shifting constellations in context, discourse and practices that resulted in this shift, where an issue that was formerly dominated by actors at the fringes of the financial system became increasingly the domain of the ‘mainstream’ financial industry. However, rather than taking a dichotomous stance, the transition is analysed from a systems perspective, where the construction of green (and sustainable) finance relies on a network of actors. Social Network Analysis as well as qualitative data sources are used to operationalize the empirical assessment of the transition.

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