Thursday, January 28, 2016

Ontario Hits Green Bond Market for Second Time

The province of Ontario is poised to close its second green bond offering, according to reports, this time with a price of $750 million. In its first green bond issued in 2014, under the same framework, proceeds were used primarily to fund the Eglinton Crosstown rail link.

There's no word on what the province will fund with the newest green bond, other than they will be used for eligible projects, which means "all projects funded by the province that have environmental benefits, exclusive of fossil fuel and nuclear energy projects," the province said in a regulatory filing.

Ontario's first green bond was for $500 million for a term of four years. Ontario is so far the only Canadian province to issue green bonds. By comparison, China has issued $5 billion in green bonds so far this year.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Ontario Credit Union Offers a Financial First: Socially Responsible GICs

Mennonite Savings and Credit Union (MSCU), based in Kitchener, Ontario, said Thursday that they are the first Canadian financial institution to offer socially responsible guaranteed investment certificates (GICs). Until now, the RI approach to investing, which involves sustainable screens, has been limited to mutual funds and market investments, the credit union noted.

"We are thrilled to be a leader in SRI," said Brent Zorgdrager, the MSCU's CEO. "Our commitment to our members is to to continue to look for ways to offer value-based products that connect faith and value with finances, inspiring peaceful, just and prosperous communities. Investments in the MSCU SRI GICs provide our members with the confidence that their funds support loans which clearly align with a sustainable, responsible view of their communities and the world."

ESG research firm Sustainalytics helped the credit union develop a set of socially responsible lending criteria to incorporate into its agricultural and commercial lending practices. These criteria include screening business borrowers for any involvement in industries such as alcohol, tobacco and gambling and for any significant negative impacts on the environment, human rights or communities. Once the screens had been in place for six months, Sustainalytics carried out a review of MSCU's lending portfolio to validate compliance with socially responsible criteria. Because these loans are funded by members' GIC deposits, the screens in place make sure the GICs are SRI compliant.

"MSCU's socially responsible GICs address a growing demand among individual investors considering the environmental and social impacts of their investments," said Sustainalytics CEO Michael Jantzi. "MSCU has embedded socially responsible criteria into its lending practices in an innovative way and in doing so is providing individuals with greater access to SRI retail banking products enabling them to align their investments with their values."

Responsible Investment Association CEO Deb Abbey said that while many financial institutions offer responsible investing options, MSCU is leading the way by integrating environmental and social factors into their GICs. "We're very excited to see them take this initiative," she said.