ESG in UK May Falter Without Simpler Rules, Say Lawmakers

The UK should pursue a national ESG strategy to simplify rules and reduce the risk of greenwashing, according to a group of lawmakers.

(Bloomberg) — The UK should pursue a national ESG strategy to simplify rules and reduce the risk of greenwashing, according to a group of lawmakers.

Overstated environmental claims will thrive without common standards, frameworks and disclosures that are suitable for smaller businesses as well as large conglomerates, a report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Environmental, Social and Governance said. Britain now needs a “joined up” national response after various delays to key policies from different branches of government and regulators, the group said. 

“The UK remains well placed to oversee the adoption of ESG principles and the growth of sustainable finance globally,” said Alexander Stafford, a Conservative politician and chair of the group. “We must take this opportunity to restore our place in this position of leadership before we miss our chance.”

It’s the latest rallying cry for the UK to up its game on green investing. The US Inflation Reduction Act will provide about $370 billion to support climate- and energy-related technologies geared at addressing the challenge of reducing emissions. The European Union, meanwhile, has proposed its own Green Deal Industrial Plan and has already created a so-called taxonomy of economically-sustainable activities.

The UK’s Green Technical Advisory Group — a government-appointed expert panel — said earlier this year that the nation risks falling behind both the EU and US as they pursue ambitious regulatory and subsidy programs. The UK released a delayed green finance plan in March, which promised to consult on its postponed green taxonomy later this year. The Financial Conduct Authority said it will publish an update to its proposed fund-labeling rules for asset managers in the third quarter, which also is delayed. 

Unlike agenda-setting select committees, APPGs are informal bodies of UK lawmakers. Stafford’s environmental, social and governance group was set up in 2021 to improve “discussion on the changing role of ESG in domestic and global finance.” Its sponsors include defense contractor BAE Systems Plc, German pharmaceutical company Bayer AG and commercial real estate firm CBRE Group Inc.’s investment arm.

Read more: UK’s Biggest Fund Manager Says ESG Backlash Misses the Point

The report also said the government should look to expand the amount of trained ESG professionals because many consultants lack the necessary expertise. That has created a market strewn with “ESG cowboys,” the group said. 

“In an unregulated market, charlatan consultants can run riot, damaging businesses and undermining markets,” Stafford said. “This needs to be checked through government-led solutions.”

(Adds detail on “ESG cowboys” in seventh paragraph.)

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