Sustainability is a top concern for many corporations, investors, employees and customers. And that makes it a top concern for Moody’s as a company of credit and enterprise risk analysts and as a corporate citizen of the world.
The reality is, though, that the three facets of sustainability — environmental, social and governance, or ESG — aren’t new to Moody’s at all. Our analysts have always looked at all relevant risks to a sector or individual company.
What’s different today is that there is more focus on environmental, social and governance standards and increasing concerns about environmental risks. There is also more interest in how ESG factors affect creditworthiness. In response, Moody’s Investors Service launched the ESG Initiative to give the global financial community a thorough look at how ESG factors impact financial markets.
One of the hottest topics today is climate change. There is a growing body of scientific evidence linking carbon emissions and global warming. To avoid disaster, scientists say that we must transition to a low-carbon economy. The Paris Agreement from December 2015, in which 195 countries agreed to a global action plan intended to limit global warming to well below 2°C, is expected to result in more rules and regulations aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). For corporations, that means increasing pressure to disclose their climate-related risks and how they are mitigating them.
What does that mean for Moody’s? Institutional investors want to know how ESG factors, including climate-related risks, are being considered in a company’s credit rating. Moody’s has responded by publicly addressing the relationship between creditworthiness and climate-related risks.
Why do investors care about climate change? Because in a low-carbon, sustainable energy world, not all companies will be able to adapt. Moody’s takes a macro and micro look at the issue. Sector research identifies the challenges inherent to an industry; credit ratings examine how an individual company’s response to those challenges affects its ability to repay its debt.
For example, in the coal sector, a company with a solid strategy to diversify into alterative energy might have a different credit rating than one without such a strategy.
Most of the 86 sectors scored consistently low across the five subcategories of environmental risk: air pollution; soil/water pollution and land use restrictions; carbon regulations; water shortages; and natural and man-made disasters. Carbon regulations and air pollution were the most frequently cited risks in sectors with higher risk overall.
Because of its expertise in evaluating creditworthiness, Moody’s was invited to join the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures, a group organized by the Financial Stability Board, an international body that monitors the global financial system. The task force is a multinational effort to set standards to help lenders, insurers, investors and regulators make better decisions.
The international task force, led by entrepreneur and philanthropist Michael Bloomberg, issued its recommendations for public comment in December 2016. See the task force’s report »
In 2016, MIS introduced its Green Bond Assessment, which provides a consistent, standardized and transparent way to evaluate a Green Bond on its ability to deliver on its environmental promise.
A Green Bond is a fixed-income security that funds projects with specific climate or environmental sustainability purposes. Other than that, it is like any other bond. The credit rating for a Green Bond is determined in the same way as one meant for another purpose, while the Green Bond Assessment is a separate service that measures factors that are different altogether.
Bonds are assessed from GB1 — excellent — to GB5 — poor. The Green Bond Assessment reflects Moody’s opinion on five broad factors, including use of proceeds, ongoing reporting, organization, management of proceeds and disclosure on use of proceeds.
The City of Gothenburg, Sweden, has been issuing Green Bonds since 2013. In 2016 Moody’s, which already performs credit ratings for the city, approached Magnus about having the city’s next Green Bond assessed.