Sustainable financial products: review and reinforcement of the quality standard "Towards Sustainability"

2 June 2021 - 5 min Reading time

The Belgian quality standard Towards Sustainability, which defines the minimum requirements for sustainable financial products, has been revised and tightened.

  • The revision refines the criteria for the label and aligns it with European regulations.
  • Febelfin supports this revision, which shows that the Belgian financial sector is a pioneer in Europe in terms of sustainability.
  • The Belgian label has become a market standard with more than 580 investment products having obtained the label. This amounts to EUR 390 billion managed according to the criteria of the quality standard.
  • Investors can find all information about the labeled products on the website

The Towards Sustainability initiative was launched in February 2019, an initiative of Febelfin and in consultation with stakeholders from within and outside the financial sector.

The main aim was to lay down minimum requirements for sustainable financial products through a quality standard, but also to offer individual and institutional investors an instrument to guide them in their search for sustainable investment solutions.

To ensure that the label is awarded independently and in complete integrity, Febelfin has set up the Central Labeling Agency (CLA), an independent agency that monitors the labeled products and the quality standard. Febelfin and the financial sector are represented in this body, but they are not in the majority.

In November 2019, the first labels were awarded to products that met the 'Towards Sustainability' quality standard.

The quality standard is evaluated every two years. The original quality standard was published in 2019. The first revision was therefore planned for 2021, with a view to refining the criteria and aligning them with European regulations.

This revision shows that the Belgian financial sector is a pioneer in Europe in terms of sustainability. The ambition is an even greater impact of the label and even better guidance for financial institutions and investors in the direction of a sustainable economy.

A revision for even more sustainability


A quality standard for sustainability is dynamic and evolving. It evolves based on many factors: consumer expectations, societal needs, scientific research, data availability and new regulatory initiatives.

The current revision, which will enter into force in January 2022, should first and foremost bring the label into line with the new European rules on sustainable finance, in particular with the Disclosure (SFDR) and Taxonomy Regulations. According to the SFDR, players in the financial market are obliged to disclose and publish information about sustainability risks. The taxonomy includes the criteria that determine which activities are climate-friendly and which are not. The purpose of such a classification is to encourage investment in green activities in order to make the economy more environmentally friendly. Second, the revised standard ensures deeper integration of sustainability into the investment process by requiring different strategies to be applied.

With regard to investments in the sector of fossil fuels such as oil and gas, a balance was sought between supporting companies in transition and avoiding companies that do not evolve fast enough.

The criteria for those companies have become stricter, while companies that can credibly demonstrate that they are actively working on their transition are given more leeway. In this context, the quality standard is not only based on current business operations (indicated by turnover), but also looks at investments in new sustainable activities (indicated by capital expenditure). The criteria have also become stricter for harmful products such as weapons, tobacco or coal. Finally, there are also more detailed expectations for governments when investing in government bonds.

The technical details of the revision can be found on the CLA website.

A reference on the market


In two years time, the Belgian label has become a market standard with more than 580 investment products that have received the label. This equates to total assets under management of EUR 390 billion. About 25% of this amount is managed in Belgium.

More than 85 financial institutions from more than 10 countries are currently involved in the Towards Sustainability initiative, the largest and most inclusive financial instrument labeling initiative in Europe.

A guide for investors


The label plays an important role in guaranteeing the quality of the growing number of sustainable products. When a financial product bears the label Towards Sustainability, the investor can therefore be sure that it meets a number of clearly defined minimum sustainability criteria.

Investors can find an overview of all labeled products on this website. Each product has a sustainability sheet, which enables investors to check how the product meets the standard. Thanks to this information, the investor can assess whether a certain product meets his personal expectations or not.

The Towards Sustainability website will be updated by January 2022 with more detailed information on each product, such as exposure to the fossil fuel sector, environmental footprint, taxonomy alignment...