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We’ve written previously about the new fund name guidelines coming to the EU. Under the new guidelines set to take effect in August 2024, funds using certain sustainability words and phrases in their names are subject to a new investment threshold. This threshold means that 80% of that fund’s investments must be aligned with the sustainability goals implied by the fund’s name. The new guidelines are shaking up EU markets where some funds are weighing name changes against divestment to reach compliance. MSCI recently discussed this development stating:

“About 32% of the Article 8 and 9 fund names included keywords that appeared relevant to the naming rules. This group of 4,790 unique funds (excluding their numerous share classes and currency lines) accounted for EUR 2 trillion in assets as of the second quarter of 2024. Specifically, we estimate that 25% of Article 8 funds and 74% of Article 9 funds had names that could be affected by the new guidelines.”

Much of the EU financial sector is not fully aligned with the new naming guidelines, meaning that funds will have to change their names or their investment portfolios if they want to reach compliance. This is reminiscent of when the Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR) entered “level two” and ratcheted up disclosure requirements for Article 9 funds. This initially led to a mass downgrading of Article 9 funds to ensure compliance and is often seen as one of the failures of the SFDR. However, the financial sector is vulnerable to greenwashing and it’s important for investors that words in fund names carry meaning.

We may see a mass renaming of sustainability funds, but the new rules will bolster confidence that the remaining sustainability funds are what they purport themselves to be. If this happens, prepare yourself for a deluge of negative news about a mass outflow of funds from ESG investments. In a very technical sense, that could be true – but in reality, funds are more likely to just change their names or investment strategies to fit their actual holdings rather than divesting holdings to meet the fund name.

Our members can find more information on sustainable finance regulations here.

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The Editor

Zachary Barlow is a licensed attorney. He earned his JD from the University of Mississippi and has a bachelor’s in Public Policy Leadership. He practiced law at a mid-size firm and handled a wide variety of cases. During this time he assisted in overseeing compliance of a public entity and litigated contract disputes, gaining experience both in and outside of the courtroom. Zachary currently assists the editorial team by providing research and creating content on a spectrum of ESG… View Profile