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Next government urged to ensure financial sector better tackles crises facing UK

The next UK government must better regulate the financial sector to ensure it addresses environmental and social crises facing the country, campaigners have warned.

A manifesto published by ShareAction, which campaigns for responsible investment, outlined six key policies for making financial institutions address issues such as climate change, inequality and degradation of nature.

The document, released on Thursday, comes ahead of UK political parties unveiling their own manifestos for the general election expected this year.

It said the election “provides the next government an opportunity to demonstrate that the UK remains a global leader in tackling the enormous environmental and economic challenges we face”.

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“Too often, the rules that underpin investment activities act as a barrier to innovation,” the manifesto added.

“UK policymakers have the chance to drive action at scale by setting a clear direction and high standards, promoting better regulation and increased transparency, and ensuring that companies and financial institutions are not acting contrary to the interests of the society in which they operate.”

ShareAction is calling for the incoming government to introduce measures such as amending fiduciary duty law governing pension funds to expand the definition of savers’ “best interests” to include impacts on people and planet.

The charity also said ministers should expand new anti-greenwashing rules for retail funds to institutional investors.

Other recommended policies include introducing legislation requiring companies to report on their social impact and their impact on nature, mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting for large employers and a stronger mandatory framework for stewardship standards.

ShareAction said many of these recommended policy interventions build on existing policy initiatives and would require little to no government expenditure to implement.

Green Party press conference – London
The co-leader of the Green Party of England and Wales Carla Denyer welcomed the call (James Manning/PA)

Fergus Moffat, head of UK policy at ShareAction, said: “The next government will be in power at a pivotal moment for people and planet, determining our country’s response to the threats of climate change, nature loss and inequality.

“Smarter regulation is key to ensuring that finance flows away from polluting fossil fuels and exploitative working conditions and towards resilient zero-carbon sectors and fairer treatment of workers.

“To secure a sustainable future for Britain, the next government must act decisively to set the highest possible standards for companies and the financial sector and hold them to account for their impact on all of us.”

Carla Denyer, Green Party co-leader, said: “This is welcome recognition that the private sector has an important role to play in tackling the climate crisis and helping to create a fairer, greener country.

“It is in all our interests to encourage investment in a shared future based on equality, social and environmental justice.”

The PA news agency has contacted the Department for Work and Pensions and the shadow environment secretary Ed Miliband for comment.