UN PRB Insights: The Spirit of Responsibility

The Spirit of Responsibility

The UN PRBs, unlike the UN PRIs and more like the SDGs, are expressed with proper and specific nouns first before any statement such as “we will…”. This gives it universal gravitas, and freedom to be applied in every way possible and every way that becomes possible. Given this property, the UN PRBs are relatively ageless to the UN PRIs. Here are the principles briefly reintroduced with their expansive character supported by extracts from the principles documentation issued publicly so far.

We find that a major challenge will be to understand metrics and apply frameworks and collect data that are not only standardized and normalized across banks for better assessment but also equally weighted on each SDG. Much of the supporting information provided by the UNEP FI so far is climate change heavy and cannot granulate completely how to quantify the principles’ universal and multifaceted character.

  1. Principle 1 (Alignment) beyond alignment with global goals attempts to ensure improvement continues indefinitely by recommending that targets should “exceed mere alignment with the SDGs, the Paris Climate Agreement and other relevant national, regional or international frameworks.” There are standards such as the yet to be released ISO14097 relating to climate change that will be necessary for signatories to make progress addressing issues adverse to the SDGs embedded in their business practices.
  2. Principle 2 (Impact) encourages growth into new sectors or client segments to increase positive impact as well as invest in technology and innovation for better outcomes. Banks will need to think about forward looking scenario-based assessments of risks and opportunities. Again an approach and methodology to do this in the area of climate change is provided by the Task Force on Climate related Financial Disclosure (TCFD). The PI Impact Radar can help identify impact across the greater sustainability spectrum. Banks are encouraged to “provide remediation for adverse impacts, which the enterprise has caused or contributed to.”
  3. Principle 3 (Clients & Customers) suggests mapping clients by sector to identify their impacts on the SDGs and to play a role to support their management. It covers the integration of sustainability questions in onboarding and know your customer procedures and creating a “race to the top among clients” by giving incentives to the sustainable ones. Again the use of technology is encouraged to innovate and offer better suited products to a better understood client base in line with the global goals.
  4. Principle 4 (Stakeholders) highlights the need to build relationships across the supply chain, contractual (e.g. employees and suppliers) and non-contractual (e.g. trade unions and governments), in different dosages to enable a bank to “deliver more that it could by working on its own”. It also calls for signatories to “proactively advocate for sustainable regulations and frameworks.” and to address “affected” stakeholders defined as those affected by a bank’s indirect impacts (e.g. wildlife) via NGOs. Once again, the use of technology for engagement is advocated.
  5. Principle 5 (Governance and Target Setting) is more like two principles in one. The first being governance and culture, suggesting sustainability be shifted to the core of governance. Staff should integrate this into daily work practices, decisions and reward schemes and senior management need to communicate the company’s vision and mission in tune with its sustainability targets. The second being target setting, highlighting the need to set ambitious targets in line with one or more goals at a timescale in sync with that of the goals or, even better, earlier.
  6. Principle 6 (Transparency and Accountability) draws on the need for accountability for a bank’s actions and its positive or negative impact on the global goals. 14 months after signing and annually after that, members will need to include UN PRB implementation data in their public reporting. It refers to frameworks that can be used, giving evidence that a guidance on assessing climate related risk will be released in May 2019. There will be two methods by which an external review process could be conducted: third party assurance or a defined scope review. The latter being where an accredited review partner only uses public information to assess whether a set of criteria are met by the bank.

Related Insights


Overview of Ethical Debt Instruments

Introduction 

Debt instruments that provide a coupon as well as a social or environmental return are broadly dubbed as ethical debt instruments. They come in a variety of forms, and innovative new structures are increasingly coming to market.

The major driver of this is investor demand (such as pension funds, insurers and millennials) and issuers keen to tap into this rich pool of investment capital at equal to lower cost than purely financial return focused bonds. Investors increasingly believe that these forms of debt financing better capture long term and existential risks as well as seek to provide non-financial returns.

The most important factors to focus on when evaluating such instruments is whether the issue meets a common set of Social Bond Principles, namely use of proceeds, project or investment selection process, management of funds in accordance with a pre agreed framework that has been evaluated by a third party (e.g. Sustainalytics or CECERO) and aligns with a recognized global or national set of principles (such as the Green Bond Principles, the Social Bond Principles and/or the Sustainability Bond Guidelines) and impact metrics monitoring and reporting.

Green Bonds

By far the largest ethical debt market place at the moment, with USD11.9bn issued to date in 2019 alone. Last year there was USD167.3bn in issuances. This year is forecasted to mobilise USD250bn in issues. The majority of these bond issuances are aligned with the Climate Bonds Initiative to provide environmental integrity. A few are certified by the climate bond standard which is backed by a board of investors that represent USD34tr in AUM.

Essentially the proceeds of the bond must be used in areas that are consistent with the 2-degree Celsius warming limit specified in the Paris Agreement. BNP Paribas is consistently in the top five underwriting league tables for green bonds. Several stock exchanges have a dedicated section allocated to green bonds, such as Oslo, London, Mexico, Luxembourg, Italy, Shanghai, Taipei, Johannesburg and Japan. Interestingly the US, China and France are the largest sources of labelled green bonds.

Issuers range mostly from multi sector to energy or building related. Structures are sophisticated and diverse ranging from covered bonds and asset backed securities to green Schuldschein, green sukuks, mortgage backed securities and medium-term notes. Apart from issuing its first green bond (USD500mn) as early as 2015, HSBC has also issued an equity linked green bond for EUR34mn (2017) that pegs returns to the performance of a basket of ESG compliant listed companies that are measured against 134 KPIs (STOXX Europe ESG Leaders 30 Index). The proceeds are dedicated to projects that improve energy efficiency.

SDG Bonds

SDG bonds are a type of sustainability bond that aligns the projects it finances or refinances with social and / or environmental impact linked to specific SDGs. These may include all the SDGs or only some of them, such as in the case of the ANZ SDG Bond that seeks to contribute to the achievement of nine of the seventeen goals including health, education, sustainable cities and climate action or the HSBC UN SDG Bond that uses proceeds towards projects that achieve one or more of seven specified SDGs including clean water, energy, education and infrastructure.

In both cases the proceeds can also be used on its own operating or capital expenditures as long as it contributes to the achievement of one or more of the nine SDGs identified.

In HSBCs case the bond is majority invested in two of its LEED Gold certified headquarters in the Midlands and in Dubai. The HSBC bond which was launched in 2017 was USD1bn, 3x oversubscribed and matures in 2023. The more recent SDG bond issued by the World Bank links return on investment to the stock performance of thirty listed companies that make up the Solactive Sustainable Development Goals World MV Index. Proceeds will be used to finance their development projects. BNP Paribas arranged the bond while Banque SYZ placed it.

ESG Bonds

ESG is now a mainstream topic steering investment towards it, and this will continue at a steady pace given that Millennials, who put greater emphasis on adopting these values, will become 75% of the work force by 2025. One of the challenges the industry faces however is a lack of standardization making it difficult for investment funds to set a fixed ESG criteria. In addition, the size of ESG bond issues are generally small relative to their conventional peers and are issued by those with no track record thereby making it difficult for large institutional investors to participate. In fact 50% of European investors in a recent report said they did not think there were enough ESG products in the fixed income space. Another influencing factor in the debt capital markets is that whether labelled as a type of sustainability bond or not, 85% of European investors apply ESG criteria to at least investment grade bonds. (RBC Global Asset Management & Cerulli Associates)

Blue Bonds

These are bonds that raise financing for projects that support the sustainable use of ocean resources, inspired by the green bond movement but at a naisant stage. Only one issuer has raised a blue bond so far and that is the Seychelles, an island highly dependent on the ocean for its livelihood. The issue size was a modest USD15m and the coupon is part guaranteed by the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility. Considering the size of the issue only three investors participated: Calvert Impact Capital, Nuveen and Prudential.

Vaccine Bonds

Vaccine bonds were in fact pioneered in 2006 by the International Finance Facility for Immunisation (IFFIm) launched by GAVI (The Vaccine Alliance) and began the movement by the financial sector towards developing a set of principles to hold the socially responsible bonds universe together. Vaccine bonds are directly aligned to SDG 3, which aims to end the preventable death of children under 5 years of age by 2030. GAVI has been able to raise USD5.7bn so far as effective bridge financing until grant providers can step in.

Other Bonds

Other kinds of social & development impact bonds include Tobacco Social Impact Bonds (TSIB), a rhinoceros conservation impact bond, a cocoa and coffee production bond in Peru and a youth unemployment program bond in Serbia. Sometimes referred to as a pay for success model or a social benefit bond, these innovative financial instruments tend to be driven by private investors with an interest to offer upfront capital for a particular and specific social or environmental goal. These investors work with governments, philanthropists and/or aid donors to come up with mutually beneficial structures that reward them if outcomes are met.

Conclusion

Although the green bond marketplace has taken off well over the last few years, it is not enough to fill the USD3 to USD5 trillion annual gap that is required to meet the SDGs. Banks are in a perfect situation to align just part of their broad loan books towards SDGs that are material to them to drive more capital towards the achievement of the SDGs. Certain sectors can be identified as most closely aligned and a framework for tracking and reviewing annually can be put in place based on industry learnings from the green bond issuance space. As a result, banks will not only be able to expand their product offering and client base but also support their clients who wish to similarly begin engaging with and reporting on their contributions to the UN SDGs.

References: ICMA, UN, Dealogic, MSCI, European Commission, Climate Bonds Initiative and HSBC

Ethical Finance Round Table

HSBC is an active lender in the sustainable finance industry globally and a member of The ICMA Green Bond Principles Executive Committee, The Catalytic Finance Initiative, The Equator Principles Association, The WEF Climate Leaders CEO Group, The Climate Bonds Initiative, The Social Bond Guidance Steering Committee, China’s Green Finance Committee, and the Adopted Taskforce on Climate Related Financial Disclosure. It is the founder of the HSBC Centre of Sustainable Finance and the award-winning Climate Change Centre of Excellence and the first sovereign Green Bond arranger (EUR750mn Polish Bond 2016). HSBC will be speaking at the Ethical Finance Roundtable in Edinburgh hosted by GEFI on Feb 27th 2019. To be considered for an invitation, please click here.


Christians and Muslims forge ahead with pioneering ethical finance plans

A world leading interfaith initiative aimed at creating a practical ethical financial solution will move a step closer on Monday (24th  October 2016) at a private round table to be held in the House of Lords in London.

MEDIA RELEASE
Monday 24th October 2016

 

The Church of Scotland and Islamic Finance Council UK are convening the unique gathering of faith leaders, parliamentarians, and finance practitioners to agree a shared values framework upon which a financial solution, open to all in society, will be developed.

The joint venture, t he culmination of many years of dialogue, was launched earlier this year in response to the systemic failure and non-sustainability of the current financial model that has struggled to recover from the economic, operational and reputational damage caused by the global crisis in 2008/09. By developing a pioneering new model of interfaith engagement the initiative aims to move from dialogue to action by creating a fairer, more socially responsible financial system.

According to the Rev Dr Richard Frazer, convener of the Church of Scotland’s Church & Society Council: “Two of the most important tasks that we face as a society are developing a fairer and more sustainable economy – one which has a passion for equality at its heart – and building stronger relationships across faith communities. This initiative does both and it is hugely exciting to be a part of it.”

The event is the second in a series of three workshops. The first, held in Edinburgh in May 2016, reviewed the theological and philosophical underpinnings of Christianity and Islam in order to identify commonalities. Shared values identified during the discussions included: our role as stewards on a planet with limited natural resources, tackling excess and greed and encouraging moral responsibility.

At the House of Lords workshop on Monday the shared values framework will be reviewed and refined before participants explore the practical obstacles to realising a vision of ethical finance today. Leading asset managers, banks and economists will share their insights on different type of economic model where ethical finance deepens the economy, encourages inclusion and creates positive social impact.

Omar Shaikh of the Islamic Finance Council UK commented: “We are delighted with the positive response received from parliamentarians and practitioners which reinforces the significance of this initiative. Bringing the debate to the heart of London, a leading a global financial centre, sends a strong international message that faith communities can work together for the greater good of society.”

The initiative emerged from an Interfaith Ethical Finance Roundtable, attended by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, in 2013 and the Church of England continues to take an active involvement. “The need for a fairer, more ethical banking system has never been more pressing. What emerged clearly in 2013 is that those from faith perspectives have an important contribution to make in creating a shared solution for the industry and the communities that they serve. I look forward to contributing to the development of a solution in the months and years ahead.” Ed Mason, Church of England.

It is expected that the shared values framework, the first of its kind globally, will be announced early next year, informing the development of a viable ethical finance business solution.

 

For more information contact:

Chris Tait, Islamic Finance Council UK
chris@ukifc.com
(m) 07931103573

Rob Flett, Communications Manager, Church of Scotland
rflett@churchofscotland.org.uk
(m) 07764 335793

 

 

About the Islamic Finance Council UK

The UKIFC was established in 2005 as a specialist advisory and developmental body focused on promoting and enhancing the global Islamic and ethical finance industry. As a dynamic and forwardthinking not-for-profit organisation the UKIFC’s Advisory Board Members, who provide pro bono support, have defined and evolved the role the organisation plays in making a tangible impact in the global Islamic and ethical finance sectors. Principle service areas are: Advisory, Ethical Finance, Training and Awareness and Thought Leadership.

The UKIFC has been recognised globally for its work in promoting shared values and increasing connectivity between ethical and Islamic finance stakeholders across the UK. For more than 5 years the UKIFC has been leading an award winning debate on ethical finance through a series of events based in Edinburgh.

www.ukifc.com

 

About the Church of Scotland

The Church of Scotland is Scotland’s national church and is also one of the UK’s largest charities. It serves almost 400,000 members, with more regularly involved in local congregations and our community work. Within the organisation, the Church has around 800 ministers serving in parishes and chaplaincies, supported by professional and administrative staff. The Church has a proud tradition of working to benefit those less well off in society, and campaigns on a range of economic and social welfare issues.

www.churchofscotland.org.uk

 

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