The Increasing Impact of Green Bonds on Sustainability Integration in Investments
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July 30, 2023
min read

The Increasing Impact of Green Bonds on Sustainability Integration in Investments

Green bonds and the future of green investments

The climate change apocalypse has prompted an all-out effort in the global community to stem the rise in global temperature. Transitioning from a world dependent on fossil fuels to one powered by renewable energy sources is a crucial component of this effort. In such a scenario, green bonds have emerged as a crucial link between capital and sustainable projects, thereby accelerating the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Deciphering Green Bonds to Finance the Future

Green bonds are a specific category of fixed-income financial instruments created to fund environmentally beneficial projects. They contribute directly or indirectly to the support of energy transition, that is, the transition of the global energy sector from fossil fuels to renewable energy resources. The goal is to restrict global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures.

These bonds are considered "use-of-proceeds" bonds because the funds raised are earmarked solely for certain sustainable operations. It can be used to finance or refinance new and/or existing projects that contribute to renewable energy, energy efficiency, clean transportation, or green buildings.

Let's delve deeper into the emergence of green bonds and how they are altering the landscape of investments.

The Era of Green Bonds: Financing the 2015 Paris Agreement Objectives

Since the European Investment Bank issued the world's first Climate Awareness Bond in 2007, green bonds have raised more than $2 trillion in capital. These bonds are a viable option for financing the energy transition, which will require substantial funding over the coming decades.

The 2015 Paris Agreement, which requires developed countries to commit $100 billion annually to mitigate the effects of climate change, presents a tremendous opportunity for green bonds. To achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, the International Monetary Fund estimates that annual spending on climate mitigation and adaptation until 2050 could reach $6 trillion.

Although green bonds constitute a substantial portion of the funding for renewable energy projects, they account for less than 3% of global bond market issuances at present. Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) lenders and investors present a potentially untapped opportunity to tap into new capital sources. Compared to conventional and previously issued green bonds, these stakeholders require data on green bonds to be more reliable and to demonstrate a greater environmental impact.

Establishing Guidelines for Green Bonds: The Need for Standards

Despite the growing popularity of green bonds, no universally accepted standard for their issuance has emerged. However, several guidelines prevail, with the International Capital Markets Association's (ICMA) Green Bond Principles being the most widely used.

Together, these principles and the Climate Bonds Standard and Certification Scheme from the Climate Bonds Initiative provide sector-specific definitions of 'green'. This assists issuers in aligning their projects with global sustainability objectives across a multitude of international jurisdictions.

Concerns regarding greenwashing persist despite the existence of standards designed to ensure comparability and reliability of investor information. Greenwashing refers to the deceptive presentation of the environmental benefits of a project, which results in an undeservedly positive perception. According to research, a significant proportion of green bond investors believe that the impact reports they receive are inadequate, highlighting the need for increased scrutiny and transparency surrounding the issuance of green bonds.

Strategic Alignment for the Effective Issuance of Green Bonds

15Rock recommends five strategic elements to boost the credibility of green bonds and maximise their potential:

  1. Align with Voluntary Green Bond Guidelines or Standards: Aligning with recognised guidelines or standards can provide a structured approach to determining 'green' activities, thereby assisting issuers in efficiently outlining their green bond framework.
  1. Focus on Material ESG Subjects: Identify projects that align with the guidance provided by the Green Bond Principles, the Climate Bonds Standard, or other relevant standards and meet a company's significant ESG goals and objectives. Prioritise stakeholder needs, financing objectives, and the distinct criteria of the issuing jurisdiction.
  1. Raise the Company's Sustainability Profile: A powerful corporate brand centred on sustainability can have a significant impact on investor decisions. Green bonds can gain credibility by living up to these commitments and demonstrating progress towards environmental goals.
  2. Ensure Meaningful Sustainability Impact: Green bonds should fund projects with a measurable and substantial environmental impact. Therefore, issuers must confirm that the proceeds of the bond offering align with the goals outlined in the entity's green financing framework. The concept of additionality, which is defined as results achieved beyond what would have occurred without the intervention, can be utilised as a lens for determining the impact on sustainability.
  3. Obtain External Assurance: Obtaining external assurance on green bond use-of-proceeds reports can increase the credibility of the reported information. The assurance typically provided by the issuer's auditor of financial statements establishes that proceeds from the issuance of green bonds were used for eligible green projects.

15Rock and the Future of Successful Green Investments

15Rock champions the identification and analysis of trends that shape the landscape of sustainable finance. Athena, our cutting-edge platform, is equipped to provide accurate risk assessments for green investments, enabling asset managers to make informed decisions. We are committed to delivering actionable insights and sustainable growth strategies. Feel free to contact us for more information on our offerings or to discuss potential investment strategies.

Together, let's direct our investments towards a more sustainable future.