Responsible Funds, March 17: NAB gender bond, Triodos, SpainSIF, new Bible index, German corporate funds

The round-up of the latest responsible funds news

Australian and international investors have put A$500m (€358.4m) into the first ever social bond promoting workplace gender equality, priced by National Australia Bank (NAB) today. Proceeds from the NAB Social Bond (Gender Equality) will be used to finance or re-finance the assets of Australian businesses that champion women and equality. NAB said superannuation funds, and groups based in Australia, the UK, Hong Kong, Singapore, Switzerland, Korea and Taiwan that focus on socially responsible assets, are among investors that bought the five-year bond.

Triodos, the Dutch sustainable bank, has announced that it will insource the Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) asset management services currently provided by Delta Lloyd and Triodos MeesPierson by 2018. The integration of Triodos’ sustainable and financial analysis within the bank’s investment process will apply to its four SRI funds: Triodos Sustainable Pioneer Fund, Triodos Sustainable Mixed Fund, Triodos Sustainable Equity Fund, and Triodos Sustainable Bond Fund, as well as to the discretionary portfolios from Triodos Bank Private Banking in the Netherlands.

A retail charity bond for the Greensleeves Care elderly care charity in the UK has closed after less than a week, having raised £33m. The bond, which pays an interest rate of 4.25% a year for a term of nine years, saw strong demand from a wide range of institutional, ethical and individual investors, a statement said. The bond will be issued through Allia’s Retail Charity Bond platform and be listed on the London Stock Exchange.

Five regional Japanese banks: Yamaguchi Bank, Juroku Bank, Nanto Bank, Joyo Bank and Hyakujushi Bank, collaborating via a “Regional Infrastructure Promotion Council”, are providing a syndicated loan of 4.5 billion Yen (€36.8m) to support a mega solar power project of 11.8MW on an abandoned golf course in Yanai City. The “Regional Infrastructure Promotion Council” was set up by the five banks in December 2015 to finance projects promoting infrastructure investments that facilitate the revitalisation of regional economies through, for example, renewable energy.

Silicon Valley venture capital firm Accel Partners, which reportedly raised $450m for its fifth India fund last year, has teamed up with impact investors IDG Ventures and India based Aavishkaar to invest $10m in AgroStart. AgroStart, a New Delhi ‘agtech startup’, aims to help Indian farmers buy seeds, nutrients, and hardware directly, and offers analytical tools to boost farmer productivity. Link

SRI firm Trillium Asset Management has held an ESG-dedicated webinar on its large-cap core strategy that is now available for download.

The Sustainable and Responsible Investment Forum Ireland (SIF Ireland), Ireland’s ‘Sustainable Nation Ireland’ initiative formed in April 2016, has held its first meeting this month. The forum which represents over €120bn in assets under management was created as part of the Irish Government’s IFS2020 Action Plan 2017 to ‘capture the business opportunities climate change bring’.Spainsif, the Spanish Social Investment Forum, has announced the launch of an online platform aimed at identifying responsible funds, in partnership with Spanish investment research firm VDOS, MSCI and Morningstar. The platform comprises the already existing database of funds strictly marketed in Spain as “socially responsible” and now, thanks to the cooperation between VDOS and MSCI, it will include 8,000 funds that feature a high quality score according to MSCI methodology. In addition, a separate database will draw from Morningstar those funds that have achieved a high sustainability rating, about 10,000 according to Spainsif.

Custom index firm S-Network Global Indexes has launched the eVALUEator Biblically Responsible Index (BIBLX), which tracks the performance of companies that conform to Biblical ‘moral principles’. The index, which limits portfolio exposures to practices related to abortion, pornography, alcohol, tobacco, gambling etc., will serve as a benchmark for Biblically responsible investing.

A survey by the German finance newspaper Handelsblatt shows that 11 of the biggest corporate pension funds in Germany invest without considering ESG principles, despite ten of their sponsor companies being members of the UN Global Compact, which commits them to sustainability principles in their own businesses. None of the corporate pension funds surveyed in February had signed the UN-supported Principles of Responsible Investment (PRI), although the pension funds of BASF, MAN, RWE, and Deutsche Telekom employ asset managers who have signed the PRI. Deutsche Telekom was the only pension fund that agreed with the statement that ESG investment was a fiduciary duty. Nestlé and Deutsche Telekom were the only two out of the 11 funds asked that said they adhered to ESG criteria in their investment decisions. Among the funds surveyed with total assets of €47 billion in pension assets at the end of 2016, were BASF, Siemens, and Daimler. Deutsche Telekom declared numerous reasons for why they aligned their investments to ESG criteria. Next to lowering risks, the company said that it expects higher returns in the long term due to more stable investments. The company said it also hoped to gain brand reputation among the DAX 30 companies through sustainability investments, Handelsblatt reports.

UBS Wealth Management Americas plans to raise over $55m from its clients to invest in venture capital fund Rethink Impact that backs gender diverse companies working to solve challenges based on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). It is one of the first concrete actions as part of UBS’ pledge to direct at least $5bn of client asset into SDG-related impact investment by 2020. Rethink Impact is looking to raise at least $110m for its gender-lens fund.

TriLinc Global Impact Fund, a US-based private investment fund, has announced that it has approved $36.8m to fund term loans and trade finance transactions for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) operating in Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia. TriLinc has committed a total of $243.6m in term loans and trade finance since November 2016.