First sustainable investment labels Towards Sustainability are awarded

6 November 2019 - 5 min Reading time

Febelfin developed a quality standard in February 2019 to create clarity and transparency about sustainable investments. The first results are now becoming visible: 311 funds may carry the label for 1 year.


Sustainable investing is on the rise. The volume of sustainable investments on the Belgian market tripled between 2013 and 2017 from 7.7 billion euros to 24.1 billion euros. Until now it was not always clear to investors what exactly sustainability means.

That is why Febelfin has developed a quality standard together with stakeholders inside and outside the financial sector, the first results of which are visible today.

On February 7, 2019, the sustainable standard was presented to the market and the public. It is a minimum standard with strict conditions that excludes harmful activities and encourages companies to act sustainably and to report on it correctly.

More than just the environment


The label, which is awarded by an independent body (see below), does not want to be a niche standard that only makes dark green and/or fossil-free investments possible. It is important that the certified investment products are suitable for every type of investor and that they cover a broad spectrum of investments. Sustainability is more than the environment: the investments are also screened for performance in the field of social policy and good governance.

iVOX survey


In the last week of October, iVOX conducted a survey among 1,000 Belgians about the desirability of a sustainable label. Interested investors clearly see added value in an independently certified label.

Deze cijfers zijn een herberekening na het uitfilteren van 26% respondenten die “geen mening” hebben over duurzaam beleggen – omdat ze niet weten wat het is, omdat ze geen interesse hebben, of omdat ze niet beleggen. Dit duidt op een gebrek aan info bij het grote publiek. Febelfin heeft een belangrijke rol te spelen wat betreft financiële educatie en informatie rond duurzaam beleggen.

  • 55.5% are more inclined to choose sustainable investments if they are certified by an independent body.
  • 61.2% are convinced that sustainable investments contribute to a better world.
  • 65.3% believe that the sustainability label is an added value or a necessary condition when choosing a sustainable investment.



Between May and June 2019, more than 50 financial institutions applied for certification of a total of more than 400 investment products. From July to October 2019, the applications were checked by a control body consisting of a number of academic institutions (ICHEC and UAntwerp) and Forum Ethibel and finally assessed by the independent label agency CLA (Central Labeling Agency), a non-profit organization with independent members. 311 funds and 9 indices received the label. They will be announced on the website which will go live on November 6, 2019.

Each labeled product is given a web page and a Sustainability ID, from which the investor can immediately determine how the investment product is sustainable, while being sure that it meets the minimum standard.



The quality standard that Towards Sustainability stands for is not an end point, but the starting point of a process in which the label wants to involve all financial players and investors. In other words, the quality standard is a dynamic and evolving process. The recognition of the investment products will have to be renewed annually. New products can try to acquire the label through four evaluation rounds per year. The standard is also adapted to developments at EU level.

Every two years, the criteria are reviewed in a multi-stakeholder consultation through the Advisory Committee of the CLA (in formation). This committee takes into account, among other things, evolving customer expectations, new scientific research, the availability of better corporate information on sustainability, and new EU regulations.

Themes around which we expect rapid adjustments are the assessment of the energy and electricity sector, and the introduction of more standardized indicators such as the carbon footprint of a portfolio. The lack of sufficiently detailed and widely available company-level data is currently an obstacle.

Strengths of the label


Towards Sustainability has a number of undeniable assets, in particular the broad support, transparency in all areas and the independent audit. Other labels cannot necessarily count on the same support as this sector-wide initiative. The strong support of Belgian providers and managers also forces foreign players active on the Belgian market to apply for the label.

Transparency is a key concept: both with regard to the criteria of the quality standard, as well as with regard to the structure of the CLA and the concrete interpretation of sustainability, as shown by the Sustainability ID.

The governance structure is particularly robust. Febelfin does not assign the labels, but the independent labeling agency CLA, an independent legal entity. Febelfin and the financial sector are represented in the CLA, but they do not have a majority. Moreover, the audit is carried out in part by independent experts from the academic world.