Daily ESG Briefing: HSBC Australia buys ‘credits’ to protect Great Barrier Reef

The latest developments in sustainable finance

HSBC Australia has partnered with the Government of Queensland to purchase the first ever ‘Reef Credits’ – a tradable unit, similar to carbon credits, but used to pay farmers who improve the water quality associated with their activities, and therefore help protect Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Queensland developed the Reef Credit Scheme in partnership with GreenCollar and natural resource management organisations. Swedish think-tank Anthropocene said the deal “does not rectify Queensland’s role as a top global coal player”. “This furthers our view of the greenwash nature of the QLD government’s actions, as well as diminishes our hopes that HSBC had taken on a new, more climate-aware approach after its leading position to generate bond and equity funding for Saudi Aramco in 2019,” it said in a note.

ESG house Vigeo Eiris has rebranded to become V.E. Acquired by Moody’s last year, the firm will become a core part of its new ESG Solutions Group. Moody’s has also announced the acquisition of information aggregator Acquire Media (AM) from Naviga Inc. AM collects and distributes curated “real-time” news, multimedia, data and other information from 18,000 sources including websites, media outlets and government regulatory commissions. Moody’s said the deal would bolster its capacity to “provide early warning and real-time insight to market participants”. The terms of the deal were undisclosed, but the acquisition was funded with cash on hand. AM will be integrated into Moody’s Research, Data & Analytics line of business.

Aviva Investors has launched an ESG training programme to help financial advisers prepare for changes to EU rules on suitability tests, which will now be required to include questions around ESG and impact. 280 financial advisors have already signed up to the programme, which was launched following research by Aviva which found that 45% of surveyed advisors had no ESG training at all.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development has found that 78% of its 158 member companies have improved their sustainability and integrated reporting scores since 2017. The CEO-led organisation found increases in those combining financial and “non-financial” information (41% up from 35% in 2017), as well as a rise in the integration of guidelines from SASB into the materiality assessment process or the production of a separate SASB index (28% up from 7% in 2017).

Datamaran has become the first “ESG-tech” company in the world to secure a patent on unstructured data analysis. The patent covers the firm’s company-specific analytics on external risks, including ESG, in real-time.

Standard Ethics has revised the ESG score of BNP Paribas from “EE+” to “EE”. Although “the bank appears to be aligned with and sensitive to international sustainability policies and indications provided by the EU, UN and OECD” and “is prompt and transparent in its dealing with potentially controversial events”, the ratings agency said “the complexity of ESG factors for banks operating on a global scale has increased, especially in the areas of taxation, corruption and money laundering, human rights and, consequently, risk management, prevention and internal control”. The topics are being addressed by BNP Paribas but Standard Ethics’ analysts said there was further room for improvement.

The Mexican Federal Mortgage Society’s (SHF) EcoCasa programme has been approved to certify green bonds under the Climate Bonds Initiative’s standards for low-carbon residential construction. EcoCase is backed by KfW and the Inter-American Development Bank. Eligible projects must achieve a minimum 20% reduction in CO2 emissions against the baseline, measured with the Energy Efficient Housing Design tool.