European center for sustainable finance

Sustainable Real Estate

Climate change is the biggest threat facing mankind today. The abatement potential of emissions is by far largest in residential and commercial buildings, with the built environment responsible for one third of global carbon emissions. The topic of energy efficiency and sustainability in the built environment is currently a central theme in the decision-making of investors as well as policymakers. Systematic research is scant. The work of ECCE on energy efficiency and sustainability in buildings is part of a global research initiative that addresses some of the main barriers to market adoption of energy efficiency measures. The results and conclusions from this research have led to new economic insights on whether the private market does incorporate information on energy efficiency in the determination of rents and asset prices, featured in top scientific journals, practitioner magazined and in the popular media. ECCE was also the founder of GRESB, the global standard for ESG benchmarking in the real estate and infrastructure investment space.

The research agenda on building sustainability is now moving on to “Sustainability 2.0,” focusing on the people using and inhabiting buildings. Researchers from ECCE, in close cooperation with colleagues from Maastricht University's School for Public Health, have begun to look at the relationship between indoor climate and the health and performance of building users. Current projects include the implications of housing for health, indoor quality and worker productivity, and the performance of students as it relates to the quality of the classroom.

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Responsible Investing

Responsible investing, more than ever before, is high on the agenda of institutional investors. Pension funds, mutual funds, insurance companies, and other institutional investors with fiduciary duties increasingly integrate environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) factors in their investment decisions.

ECCE investigates how ESG factors influence investment risks and returns across various asset classes, in the short run and long run. ECCE also helps fiduciaries understand the preferences of investors (clients and beneficiaries) for certain environmental, social, and governance issues.

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Sustainable Banking

For a long time, the success of the banking industry was measured almost exclusively by its performance. Developments in the last decade have shown the importance of having sustainable success in international finance. Measuring success purely by the short-term profits that are generated, leads to a banking sector that is quite simply not sustainable.

The importance of sustainable banking is starting to be recognized everywhere. Attempts aimed at finding financial solutions for valuing the world’s rainforests, designing optimal contracts for micro-finance lending, implementing macro and monetary policies that facilitate risk-sharing and enhance stability, or improving risk management techniques to enhance the absorptive capacity of financial institutions all have one thing in common: the creation of a more sustainable banking system.

At ECCE, we view sustainability in finance as something that concerns both the individual firm and the industry at large. Moreover, we believe sustainability requires a safe, sound and stable banking system, as well as a banking system that contributes to economic growth and development in a sustainable manner. Current sustainable banking projects cover micro-finance, speculation and commodity prices and the finance-growth nexus.

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Corporate Governance

ECCE has started and completed a number of research projects in the context of corporate governance and shareholder activism. Institutional investors increasingly scrutinize the corporate governance quality of the companies they invest in. In the past decade, these investors have also intensified their right to vote on annual shareholder meetings. Some investors even go one step further by engaging, directly or indirectly, with company management on governance and related issues. ECCE has the ambition to help understand these new developments better, thereby contributing to both the academic literature and the global investor community.

Good examples are papers on the proxy voting process, the filing of class action lawsuits, the effectiveness of engagement between investors and companies, the determination of executive compensation, the relation between leverage and corporate governance, and the market for corporate directors and committee members.

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In need of research or expertise?

The European Centre for Corporate Engagement (ECCE) at Maastricht University's School of Business and Economics is a globally leading research institute on sustainable finance and responsible investing. We execute high-quality, scientifically rigorous research on the implications of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues for companies, investors and markets while covering different asset classes such as equities, fixed income, and real estate. As an established independent academic center, we also work closely together with industry participants through partnerships.

ECCE also actively translates academic research into practical applications and products. Our research on sustainable real estate was the basis for GRESB -- now the globally leading ESG benchmark for public and private real estate companies and funds, as well as infrastructure assets and funds.

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