It will be logically voluntary. It will be ready to be used in 2022 and aims to set the global standard. Global ESG debt market tops 3 TUSD, with Europe taking a lead as nearly a quarter of its bond sales this year were related to social factors.
Sovereign issuers will be granted some flexibility to assess government spending programs based on their terms and conditions. The 27-member bloc itself is set to become one of the largest issuers, with 30% of its 800 BEUR pandemic recovery funding planned as green debt.
The ESMA will determine whether a bond is green or not, with external reviewers to be approved by the body. Issuers should disclose impact assessments at least once, as well as annual allocation reports for how the funds were used and they will be free to align their bonds alongside other standards.
EU GBS affords issuers an opportunity to launch taxonomy-aligned green bonds at a potentially lower cost of capital. For investors, the standard affords an opportunity to make investments in green bonds that are credible and easier to report on.
Rating agencies disagree substantially about how they assess individual firms. Without agreement on what constitutes good ESG performance, market participants can be misled by these ratings.
The authors of this paper found ESG disagreement is most pronounced for firms with high levels of ESG disclosure, contrary to the argument that disclosure reduces disagreement. While thousands of companies now claim to integrate ESG issues in their business strategy and operations, it is not clear whether those claims are merely cheap talk.
Ratings could help investors and other stakeholders to choose companies that exhibit their preferred ESG outcomes. Having rating agencies focus on ESG outcomes could motivate companies to show real outcomes in their disclosures rather than highlighting the adoption of policies or initiatives that might not generate any real effects.
Lot of work still needs to be done to develop rules and norms that determine what characterises good ESG performance.
Christensen, Dane M. and Serafeim, George and Sikochi, Anywhere, Why is Corporate Virtue in the Eye of the Beholder? The Case of ESG Ratings (February 26, 2021). The Accounting Review. DOI: 10.2308/TAR-2019-0506