If that $732 billion number caught your eye, check out the Wachtell Lipton memo, which highlights how rapidly the market for ESG-related debt financing is growing and broadening. Here’s the intro:
In the midst of the COVID pandemic, issuances of green, social, sustainable and sustainability-linked financing products have surged. Once solely available in the investment grade space, ESG-related debt issuance has expanded into the high-yield market. Likewise, sustainable finance is not just for European issuers anymore; it has jumped the pond and landed in the mainstream in the United States. Notably, private equity sponsors and their portfolio companies have recently joined strategic companies as ESG issuers.
As we expected, the credit markets have sent two unequivocal messages as companies increasingly signal their commitment to accountability on ESG issues: (i) ESG risk is credit risk and (ii) investors are willing to pay modest subsidies to support progress on ESG issues. Massive inflows into ESG-oriented investment funds and seemingly insatiable demand for ESG-related issuances have led to “greenium” pricing (i.e., a lower cost of capital for issuers) of many ESG-related issuances. Moreover, credit rating agencies are increasingly factoring ESG risks – including related regulatory risks – into their ratings, as are credit committees at banks into their determinations.
The memo reviews common sustainable finance product types and urges companies considering tapping into this financing to consider in advance what KPIs could form the basis for an ESG-related bond or loan. Those companies also need to consider how their existing sustainability reporting can support sustainable finance, because investors will want periodic disclosure on the relevant metrics & their drivers.
-John Jenkins, TheCorporateCounsel.net February 23, 2021
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