WHO LOGS IN ON THE GREEN BOND “TINDER” PLATFORM?
Green bonds have historically been issued by multilateral lenders such as the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the European Investment Bank. Increasingly, large corporates have joined in to increase market appeal to a broader investor group. Unilever, for example, one of the world’s leading suppliers of beauty and personal care, home care, foods and refreshment products with sales in over 190 countries and reaching 2.5 billion consumers a day, has issued green bonds to raise funds with which to reduce the environmental footprint of its ordinary business activities. Thus there is potential scope for issuers to tap this market to help fund their efforts to be environmentally and socially responsible in their ordinary course of business.
The first South African green bonds were issued by the City of Johannesburg in 2014 (worth ZAR1.46 billion) and the City of Cape Town in 2017 (worth ZAR1 billion). Green bonds have also given the two cities an opportunity to be up to date with the current world strategy on the implementation of green financing and green projects in cities. More recently, the Standard Bank Group has, in March 2020, raised 200 million dollars, following the green bonds it issued on the London Stock Exchange. It is the largest sale of green bonds ever made in Africa. The purchase was made by a single investor: the International Finance Corporation (IFC). The bonds, which are redeemable over a 10-year period, will be used in particular to finance projects in renewable energy, energy efficiency, water efficiency and the development of environmentally friendly buildings.
WHEN IS IT GREEN ENOUGH TO BE “GREEN”?
Issuers can self-label their bonds as green or seek an independent certification, verification, rating or review.
A central question that arose in this regard asks the question when is it established that a project’s environmental attributes are sufficiently green. Differences of opinion exist as to what assets qualify. For example, should financing for solar facilities that are substantially backed by fossil-fuel powered generation resources be certified as green? Another consideration is public perception, as some green bond issues have been criticized as not being sufficiently green.
There is at present single or universal standard to establish green credentials but many role players are working towards creating some standard or tool to use. For example, S&P Global Ratings launched its Green Evaluation tool in 2017 which assesses how “green” a project is on a project-specific basis and on instruction (this evaluation will not automatically continue during the life of the project(s), unlike credit rating evaluations). Moody’s Investors Service launched a slightly different Green Bond Assessment framework in 2017 which evaluates the environmental credentials of issuers based on based on organisation, use of proceeds, disclosure of the use of proceeds, management of proceeds, and ongoing reporting and disclosure on the environmental projects being financed. The rating will be refreshed annually based on a “use of proceeds” report from the issuer.
It remains a difficult task, also because the perception of what’s green can differ. China, the world’s biggest carbon emitter and nr 2 green-bond issuer, has faced criticism for using green bonds to finance coal-burning power plants, even if the new facilities are cleaner than predecessors.
The green bond market continues to develop and refine itself. Should you require assistance with such financing, contact our Development Law Unit (DLU unit) for assistance at firstname.lastname@example.org.