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Total assets in ‘sustainable investing’ have more than doubled from US$13.3 trillion to $30.7 trillion since 2012. But the risks of greenwashing — and competence washing — are growing (go.nature.com/3gpqdib). There are no global standards, definitions or regulations regarding environmental, social and governance (ESG) investment factors. And few people with natural-sciences expertise are involved in the sustainable-finance sector. Therefore, Independent scientific review is needed.