There is a growing interest in the strategic renewal of the underlying purpose of the financial system, re-thinking its role and responsibilities in serving the long-term needs of the real economy. It is argued that this role must be inclusive and environmentally sustainable. Our economies, societies and environment are inextricably linked; challenges in one sphere invariably echo in others. Solutions, too, straddle economic, social and environmental dimensions. Support for integrated responses from all relevant actors – including the financial sector – to problems such as widening income gaps, rising unemployment, climate change, soil degradation, and biodiversity
reduction has never been greater. The present momentum is illustrated by the European Commission’s appointment of a High-Level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance to make the EU’s financial policy more sustainable, and the G20 and the Financial Stability Board’s explorations of how to develop the financial system
to take greater account of environmental factors.
The movement to align finance with sustainable development provides an excellent case study for transnational legal theorists who seek to grapple with regulatory and policy innovations in a post-national world. The theoretical debate on how to ensure that the relational ethics between man and earth and between people are upheld in a global economy and society has been in a deadlock for quite some time. In my doctoral research, I
intend to contribute to this scholarship through an empirically grounded examination of the extent to which the EU regulatory architecture serves to align finance with sustainable development as well as its future potential to
do so. I thereby focus on both the norms and the actors that influence the behaviour of banks in Europe.
I explore how large commercial banks can operate socially and environmentally responsible in the contemporary political economy. I set out how commercial banks integrate social and environmental considerations in
their bank lending practice. In addition, I explore how regulators, supervisors, the market, civil society organisations and consumers influence the capacity of banks to live up to their ambitions to operate socially and
environmentally responsible. To develop a good understanding of the workings of and interplay between norms and actors in this field, I have conducted a full year of empirical research. My findings are based on more than 160 interviews with bankers, central bankers and civil society organisations in the Netherlands, Germany and England.