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Sustainable finance and ESG – what’s next?

Sustainable Finance and ESG – what’s next?

Issues surrounding sustainable financing have been edging closer and closer to the building and property industry in recent years. If you’re an investor, or at a big company, the term sustainable finance will meet you at every corner. To dig deeper, experts at the DGNB Annual Congress talked about their everyday experience in this area.


The second digital Annual Congress of the DGNB took place on 14 and 15 February. The event featured a variety of open discussions, providing plenty of ideas and inspiration on different aspects of sustainable building. This series of blog posts offers a look back at the event with a summary of key insights. In our next article, we focus on how buildings can become carbon sinks.


The topic of sustainable finance and how it shapes changes in the building and property industry was looked at from a variety of angles at the second DGNB Annual Congress. To do this, the topic featured in a number of presentations and panel discussions. In the following post, we’ve pulled together some of the key messages shared by the experts on sustainable financing.

Caught between multiple crises and new solutions

In her opening talk, Silke Stremlau offered an overview of sustainable finance and the opportunities and options it opens up. This touched on a number of aspects, such as the sustainable development goals (SDGs), the EU action plan and EU taxonomy.

As Hannoversche Kassen board member and chairwoman of the German government’s Sustainable Finance Advisory Committee, Stremlau also pointed to the importance of sustainable real estate in her portfolio and why she believes environmental and social aspects should always be considered together, within the context of property. She also offered a number of insights into the workings of the Sustainable Finance Advisory Committee.

Five statements that were particularly noteworthy:

“You can use the power of financial markets to redirect funds to areas of need”

“Data and transparency are absolute must-haves”

“We’re endeavouring to work our way into the topic of ‘data’. It’s not easy; it’s complicated. But one thing I would say is that it is possible if you want the big picture and you’ve understood the point.”

“We need to ensure our properties are healthy – healthy in energy terms, healthy in social terms”

“You have to see [the EU taxonomy] as a tool and handrail. Such things also need fine-tuning. They have manual flaws in some areas, which we can keep developing as an industry, or market, but also as the German nation, as the big German economy.”

Watch Silke Stremlau’s full-length talk on ‘Sustainable Finance: Between Multiple Crises and New Solutions’ on the DGNB YouTube channel (German only).

How sustainable finance accelerates transformation

An increasing number of financial institutions are now becoming involved in the work of the DGNB. The discussion on ‘An Industry in Transition: How Sustainable Finance Accelerates Transformation’ focused on developments surrounding sustainable finance in the banking sector.

The session was moderated by DGNB CEO Dr Christine Lemaitre, alongside

  • Maria Hill, Director of Sustainability & Corporate Communications at ECE Group Services
  • Dr Matthias Morgenstern, Head of Sustainable Real Estate – Research – R&D at GLS ImmoWert

Some of their experiences in everyday business:

At our company, we want to see very tangible evidence of sustainability in businesses and projects […] also with the individual assets we finance” (Dr Matthias Morgenstern)

“Of course anyone working on a development right now – a completely new one – wants to be taxonomy-aligned. Also because of the concern that your development won’t even be marketable if it doesn’t achieve the right level of compliance.” (Maria Hill)

“We need more reliability when it comes to existing buildings” (Maria Hill)

“We’re trying […] to interest people who will potentially be building – in sustainable building, in energy-saving building, in good materials” (Dr Matthias Morgenstern)

“Sustainability is a process, not a status quo” (Dr Christine Lemaitre)

Click to watch the discussion on ‘An Industry in Transition: How Sustainable Finance Accelerates Transformation’ (German only).

Where the current ESG boom is taking us

Taking environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into account is of central importance in sustainable financing. This is also why it was a topic of conversation during the panel discussion with

  • Susanne Eickermann-Riepe, Chair of the Board at the ICG Institute in Germany, Chair of the RICS European World Regional Board, Chair of the Advisory Board of RICS Germany
  • James Hermann, MSc in Information-Oriented Business Administration, Managing Director of Fair Stone
  • Marissa McGowan, Chief Sustainability Officer, L’Oréal

The session was moderated by Johannes Kreißig, Managing Director of DGNB, with a focus on the G part of ESG as well as the things the building sector can learn from the cosmetics industry (looking at L’Oréal as an example), but also how things might unfold in the area of governance.

“We all – together – have to work on innovation and opportunities, because we cannot wait and just sit until somebody has identified the next big target.” (Susanne Eickermann-Riepe)

“You can’t actually have sustainability at scale without the right learning path to reskill, upskill; make sure people know what it means to make the sustainable decision.”(Marissa McGowan)

“So that to me is the G side of the product piece, where you’re looking across the life cycle and saying, what are the checks and balances in place to manage the risk of the social and environmental.” (Marissa McGowan)

“Many [companies] want to see sustainability schemes as a safe harbour and I think that’s also a big difference to really establishing a good internal governance. Because we’re not talking about just different code of conducts and legal safeguarding, but actually ensuring that all the mechanisms are there.” (James Hermann)

A recording of the roundtable discussion on ‘Progress or stagnation: where the current ESG boom is taking us’ can be found on the DGNB YouTube channel. The panel discussion took place in English.

More posts for the blog series:

Title picture: © micheile henderson on Unsplash; edited by Tamira Bethke

Filed under: Impulse


Tamira Bethke works as an editor in the PR, Communications and Marketing department of the DGNB. Appealing and reader-friendly: this is how she prepares interesting content and services for the right target group. After studying PR and Communications Management, she previously worked in marketing for companies in the leisure and sports industry. The desire for meaningful work and her enthusiasm for sustainable living finally led her to the DGNB.

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