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Refinitiv analyzes the sustainable finance market

Leon Saunders Calvert
Leon Saunders Calvert
Head of Sustainable Finance, Lipper and I&A Insights

It’s easy to forget how young the market for sustainable finance still is, but outside of green bonds, there has been no source of data for the aggregated amount of capital being raised to support sustainable outcomes. Until now.


  1. Refinitiv reveals the world’s first comprehensive figure for sustainable financing.
  2. In H1 2020, $275bn of new financing was raised on capital markets, which included sustainability bonds, syndicated loans and equity capital issuance tied to sustainability outcomes.
  3. Within sustainable bonds, green bonds remained strong despite the COVID-19 pandemic, while social bonds and other environment-focused sustainable bonds both enjoyed spectacular growth.

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Refinitiv’s inaugural Sustainable Finance Review provides a comprehensive figure for how much new capital is being issued over financial markets towards sustainable outcomes, regardless of the financial instrument.

The review is the most comprehensive view of the industry and covers four key areas:

Image promoting the the most comprehensive view of the sustainable finance industry, covering four key areas.

Get more insight into sustainable finance in the first half of 2020 by downloading the Refinitiv Sustainable Finance quarterly review now

Sustainable finance in H1 2020

In the first half of 2020, more than $275bn of new financing has been raised on capital markets. Pro-rata, that is more than half-a-trillion dollars a year committed to a more sustainable future.

This figure includes sustainability bonds, as well as syndicated loans and equity capital issuance that is clearly tied to sustainability outcomes. The report also includes M&A activity involving the acquisition of sustainable companies, and adviser league tables.

How close are we to raising the $1-2 trillion per year required to keep global temperatures below 2 degrees celsius

These figures are revealing in the context of the fight against climate change.

In 2014, the International Energy Agency estimated that the cost of achieving energy security, and placing the world on a two degrees celsius emissions path, was between $1-2 trillion per year.1

This report provides a benchmark that allows the international community to see how much capital is currently being committed to sustainable initiatives.

Sustainable bonds

The first half of 2020 saw nearly $200bn in sustainable bonds issued globally. This was an increase of almost half, year-on-year, and double the amount raised in H1 2018.

Much of this growth took place in Q2, which saw $130bn raised, the highest quarterly amount ever seen. The World Bank was the largest issuer of sustainable bonds, raising nearly $30bn, a similar level to the first half of 2019.

Sustainable bond quarterly volumes

Within this sustainable bond category, green bonds accounted for the lion’s share, raising $77bn, down 13 percent on 2019. Meanwhile, Citigroup’s $1.5bn is the largest single green bond issuance so far this year.

However, other environment-focused sustainable bonds mushroomed by 94 percent year-on-year, and more than doubled the amount raised, to $57bn.

Even more spectacular was the rise in social bond issuance, which more than doubled the total amount raised for the whole of 2019, to $45bn, driven by capital raising from sovereigns, multi-nationals and banks for COVID-19-related relief and recovery efforts.

Sustainable bonds by transaction type

Europe is the largest market for sustainable bond issuance. It holds a 46 percent market share, and is followed by North America with 32 percent, and Asia-Pac with 16 percent.

European issuers are even more dominant in the sustainable lending space. The 63 percent market share is driven by deals such as a $5.4bn facility for Italy’s Enel SpA, and $5bn raised for Denmark’s AP Moller-Maersk, a logistics container company.

Meanwhile, global sustainable lending totaled $79bn, a slight decline on last year.

In contrast, the Americas accounted for 83 percent of sustainable equity market activity, with Europe a distant second, at 17 percent. Notably, Florida-based sustainable company NextEra Energy raised just over $10bn across debt and equity capital markets and syndicated loans in the first half of 2020.

Overall equity capital market issuance among sustainable companies fell by a quarter year-on-year, to $3.8bn.

M&A involving sustainable companies was fairly flat, totaling $14bn from 220 transactions. By number, China led the way, with a 20 percent share of market volume.

Listen: Social Bonds Q&A: What Makes a Good COVID-19 Bond and What to Expect Post-Crisis

Sustainable finance adviser league tables

As part of the Sustainable Finance Review, Refinitiv also launched adviser league tables. Goldman Sachs led the sustainable M&A league tables, advising on five deals valued at $4.9bn.

HSBC was the front-runner for sustainable bond underwriting, with a 6.3 percent market share, the same proportion that BNP Paribas has for sustainable syndicated lending. Meanwhile, JPMorgan, Bank of America and Wells Fargo each have more than one-fifth of the sustainable equities market.

Evolving methodology

Refinitiv’s Sustainable Finance Review provides greater transparency on this part of the market. Developing these categories has been a collaborative process, and will require further revisions as the market matures.

I have had the pleasure of working with our partners at the Climate Bonds Initiative (CBI) and being part of a UK Finance working group on sustainable finance, helping to set criteria and definitions around these various categories. In time, our hope is that this methodology will evolve and become the market norm.

Sustainable Finance League Tables

There is still a huge amount of work to be done, and I look forward to updating you, as our coverage of this exciting market develops.

Get more insight into sustainable finance in the first half of 2020 by downloading the Refinitiv Sustainable Finance quarterly review now.

Our deals data is the most extensive and flexible resource available for timely M&A and capital markets transaction insight and analytics, relied upon by the financial press and deal makers around the world

1. https://www.iea.org/news/world-needs-48-trillion-in-investment-to-meet-its-energy-needs-to-2035


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