Public Policy Bulletin, 12 March 2021

Mar 11, 2021

In this week’s Public Policy news, read about an extension to the financial support schemes available for businesses in Northern Ireland; the announcement of supports for UK leading women innovators; and the introduction of new rules to prevent ‘greenwashing’ in ESG investments.

Financial Support Schemes for Northern Ireland Businesses extended

Northern Ireland’s Economy Minister Diane Dodds has announced an extension of the financial support available to businesses forced to close or severely limit their operations as a result of the COVID-19 restrictions. The COVID Restrictions Business Support Scheme (CRBSS) and Large Tourism Hospitality Business Support Scheme (LTHBSS) will now continue up to 31 March 2021.

Over 300 businesses in Northern Ireland are eligible for the LTHBSS. These have been provided with an application form to be completed and returned with supporting evidence to avail of the scheme and will receive a one-off payment based on weekly amounts of between £2,400 and £41,900 depending on the business’ net annual value.

Those who have already applied for the CRBSS do not need to reapply for the extended period. As of 2 March, more than £42.6million had been paid to over 4,000 applicants under Part A of the CRBSS. A further £3.5 million has been paid to almost 1,000 applicants under Part B.

Supports for UK’s leading women innovators announced

UK Science Minister Amanda Solloway announced this week that 40 of the leading women innovators will be awarded supports, including a £50,000 government grant, mentoring and business supports to develop innovations to help the UK recover from COVID-19 and tackle global challenges.

The funding is part of the government’s flagship Women in Innovation Awards, which seeks to boost the number of UK female entrepreneurs. The Awards are delivered by Innovate UK, the aim of which is to get more women innovating within UK businesses.

EU introduces rules to prevent greenwashing

EU rules came into effect this week that will strengthen and improve how sustainability-related information is disclosed in the financial sector. The Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR) introduces disclosure-related requirements aiming to provide more transparency, prevent greenwashing and allow investors to compare investment products. 

The new rules will require investment products to be categorised as ‘sustainable’ or ‘non-sustainable’. Asset managers will be required to publish information on their sustainability processes and categorise their investment products’ climate and social impact as either ‘dark green’ (sustainable financial products with an intended sustainability impact – Article 9) ‘light green’ (financial products with environmental or social characteristics – Article 8), and ‘other products’ which are not classified as either dark green or light green.

The rules are part of the EU’s Action Plan on Sustainable Finance, a series of green finance reforms which includes the Taxonomy Regulation, the EU Non-Financial Reporting Directive  and Green Bonds Standards. The SFDR will impact asset managers, investment firms and also listed companies which will need to focus on ESG issues or risk losing investor capital.

ESG investment has hugely important in the investment industry, reaching unprecedented levels in 2020. The risk arose, however, of  funds being descried as ‘ESG’ for marketing purposes but without there being evidence of their green credentials. The SFDR aims to address this, and applies from 10 March 2021.

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