Sustainability-Linked Bonds (SLBs) are innovative financial instruments that are specifically designed to incentivize borrowers to achieve predetermined sustainability performance targets (SPTs). Sustainability-Linked Bond Principles (SLBP) serve as voluntary process guidelines that govern the framework and issuance of such bonds. The aim of these principles is to provide a robust approach to integrating sustainability into capital markets, promoting transparency, and supporting environmentally and socially responsible economic activity.
The core components of the SLBP include are the selection of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Issuers must define KPIs that are relevant, core, and material to their overall business, sustainability strategy, and to the interests of investors.
Also, in terms of calibration of sustainability performance targets, the SPTs should be ambitious, meaningful, and based on a predefined timeline, setting a clear trajectory for achieving improved sustainability outcomes.
Relative to the bond characteristics, the financial and structural characteristics of the bonds should be contingent on the achievement of the SPTs, which can influence the bond's financial yield.
As for reporting, sssuers are required to report on the progress towards achieving the SPTs at least annually, providing transparency and accountability.
In terms of verification, external review by independent and qualified parties, such as auditors or environmental consultants, is recommended to validate the issuer's performance against the SPTs.
Implementation and Usage
The implementing SLBPs involves a structured process where issuers develop a framework aligned with the SLBP and engage in external reviews and establish internal procedures to monitor and report on SPTs. The proceeds from bond issuance are used in a manner that aligns with their broader sustainability objectives.
Advantages and Impact
The use of SLBs underpinned by SLBP encourages companies to commit to future improvements in sustainability outcomes and increases the attractiveness of bonds to socially responsible investors. Also, the use promotes accountability and transparency in the market for sustainable investments.
Criticism and Challenges
Despite their potential, SLBs face criticism and challenges such as the risk of 'greenwashing' if SPTs are not genuinely ambitious and the complexity of accurately reporting and verifying sustainability outcomes.
- Sustainability-Linked Bond Principles. ICMA Group.