The European Community's Fifth Environmental Action Programme recognised the importance of financial services by stating that 'financial institutions which assume the risk of companies and plants can exercise considerable influence - in some cases control - over investment and management decisions which could be brought into play for the benefit of the environment'.
The possible role of the financial sector (commercial banks, investment banks, insurers) in a policy aiming at sustainable development, is of importance for the Environment Directorate-General (Environment DG) of the European Commission. A study conducted for Environment DG by Delphi Consultants in association with Ecologic, shows both the (relatively limited) direct impact that financial institutions have on the environment, as well as the substantial indirect impacts (e.g. through lending and insuring business activity). The study lists opportunities for the financial sector and identifies possibilities and obstacles for improvement.