Sustainalytics is proud to announce a major milestone as the leading provider of second-party opinions (SPOs) for green, social, sustainability and KPI-linked bonds and loans. We recently delivered our 1000th SPO, just 19 months since we celebrated or 500th SPO milestone.
While our first 500 SPOs were delivered over a six-year period, the next 500 SPOs came at a rapid pace as the sustainable finance market skyrocketed, surpassing US$1 trillion in global issuance. To celebrate this achievement, we look back at some noteworthy developments over the past 19 months.
Market Trends Since Our First 500 Second-Party Opinions
Other financial instruments catching up to green bonds
While green bonds continue to lead in terms of total number and volume of deals, we’ve observed a proportional decrease relative to other financial instruments. Notably, the share of Sustainalytics SPOs dedicated to green bonds dropped from 58% to 48% of our total opinions delivered from 2020 to 2021. This trend speaks primarily to the rise in sustainability-linked instruments. That said, in the wake of COP26, we’ve observed increased financing related to net-zero commitments from sovereign and corporate issuers.
Recent example: Government of Canada Green Bond Framework Second-Party Opinion
Social bonds dip, yet will be spurred on by new social challenges
After peaking at the height of COVID in late 2020, targeting the direct and indirect impacts of the pandemic, social bonds have since decreased as a percentage of our total SPOs. Looking forward, we expect social bonds to reclaim their important niche in the market based on their demonstrated ability to respond to timely social developments in a flexible manner. With the somewhat grey area surrounding which activities and target groups qualify for social bonds, regional variation will remain key to the growth of these instruments.
Flexibility of sustainability bonds appeals to issuers with broader mandates
Sustainability bonds, which include a minimum of one green and one social use of proceeds category, have steadily accounted for a quarter of our opinions to date. The flexibility to broadly allocate proceeds across a wide array of use of proceed categories particularly appeals to financial institutions and sovereign issuers with broader mandates and impacts.
KPI-linked instruments take center stage
Sustainability-linked bonds (SLBs) represent the fastest growing market segment in the past two years, marked by their flexibility to finance general corporate purposes. In parallel, investors have become more discerning regarding the strength of key performance indicators (KPIs) and ambitiousness of sustainable performance targets (SPTs). Sustainability-linked loans have also experienced a noteworthy uptick driven by the success of SLBs.
Transition finance is gaining traction
Bonds labelled as ‘transition’ have not gained the level of momentum anticipated when they first entered the market in late 2020. We attribute this in part to the flexibility of SLBs, as well as the lack of a common definition for transition finance. However, there has been considerable interest in transition bonds from hard-to-abate industries such as aviation and shipping. Transition assessment has also become an important overlay to SLBs by issuers from heavier industries.
Harmonized sustainable finance frameworks on the rise
As our SPOs evolved into a modular format this past year, we began opining on harmonized sustainable finance frameworks targeting both use of proceeds and linked issuances. We are enthusiastic about this hybrid model, as it allows issuers to finance impactful green and social projects, while also committing to overall improvements in corporate-level sustainability.
SPOs by the Numbers
The popularity of thematic bonds (green, social, transition, etc.) is growing rapidly, owing to their ability to pin-point specific sustainability goals. Appealing to businesses and governments alike, thematic bonds can raise capital for new and existing projects that contribute to meeting ESG targets. Green bond issuances have dominated the sustainable finance space as the world moves towards carbon neutrality. However, interest in more flexible bond issuances vis-à-vis KPI-linked instruments (sustainability-linked bonds and loans) is contributing to a more diverse bond market.
SPO Market Growth Overview
In 2021, the highest number of sustainable debt market issuers came from the United States, Spain, France, United Kingdom, and Japan. Since then, Sustainalytics has seen continued growth in the U.S., Japan, and the Netherlands, followed by the U.K., Canada, Germany, and France. The global momentum of sustainable debt finance has also allowed us to quickly expand into China and India.
Over the last few years, it has become common to hear that the Americas are two or three years behind Europe with regards to ESG and sustainability-themed financing. However, over...
Asia Pacific (APAC)
The APAC region is a dynamic part of the world, where each territory represents different opportunities and stages of sustainability, economic development and ESG journey...
Over the last 19 months, Sustainalytics’ experience as the leading global provider of SPOs has prepared us well for the expanded volume and increased complexity of projects. Concurrently, our robust innovation agenda has expanded into new territory such as impact reporting, where we see an opportunity to address key gaps in the market.
In this context, we will continue to support forerunning issuers and underwriters to bring credible and impactful sustainable finance instruments to market, embraced by investors worldwide. With expanded capacity and expertise on our SPO team, we are uniquely positioned to meet the demands of this fast-evolving market.