Environmental Finance (EF) Data has been covering the sustainable bond market since its inception in 2007. Ben Smith, data strategist at EF Data, outlines how the database has evolved in line with a rapidly changing sustainable bond market.
For more information, see: www.efdata.org
Environmental Finance: The sustainable bond market has more than doubled in size in recent years. How has EF Data evolved in line with the proliferation of different ESG labelled products?
Ben Smith: EF Data began life in 2007 as a spreadsheet of green bonds kept by our journalists. It has since evolved into an interactive online platform with API functionality maintained by a team of analysts.
We are continually adding new data points and functions to more accurately capture the ever-changing sustainable bond market. Recent additions include sub-labels such as blue and gender bonds, sustainability-linked bonds (SLB) key performance indicator (KPI) categories and bond asset classes. Our data can be searched by 37 broad criteria and has over 600 sub-data points.
In 2020, we expanded the database to include sustainable loans. Whilst the more private nature of the market makes it harder to achieve the 95%+ coverage we have on bonds, we are making great strides in our market coverage and data granularity on the loans side.
Our subscribers use our platform as a research tool and appreciate the intuitive and interactive nature of our data platform and the fully customisable excel download functions. Our lead manager and issuer pages allow subscribers to create rankings and league tables around any of the data filters including bond label, issuer type, sector, country, currency, and many others.
EF: EF Data has over 16,000 bonds from over 3,000 issuers – how do you maintain your market coverage?
BS: Environmental Finance has been a trusted source of information in the market for over two decades and all the data on our platform is manually sourced, vetted, and inputted by our team of analysts. This is done through a combination of desk research and quarterly reconciliations with lead managers to ensure we are accurately and transparently capturing market activity.
For each new bond we input over 25 key data points and attach any relevant resources and documentation.
EF: Your database includes all self-labelled sustainable bonds on your database – how does EF Data mitigate the risk of greenwashing or the inclusion of bonds or issuers with less stringent sustainable practices?
BS: We add all self-labelled sustainable bonds to the database and do not take a view on the validity or alignment of bonds to allow our subscribers to see the full picture of the market. We do, however, add as much qualifying and contextual information as possible for each bond and issuer.
The database tracks the alignment to principles such as ICMA’s Green/Social Bond Principles and the EU Green Bond Standard and all bonds can be searched by principle alignment. We also show data related to second party opinions (SPOs), Climate Bond Initiative certification, the Science Based Target Initiative (SBTi) and other external verifications of bonds and issuers.
We also link any relevant news articles from our award-winning journalists at Environmental Finance to allow our subscribers to read about any controversies or news stories related to the bond or the issuer.
Our database has a fully searchable and filterable resource library containing over 18,000 documents, including over 3,000 SPOs, 2,000 frameworks, and 1,800 impact reports to provide all of the contextual information on bonds and issuers as well as being a quick and easy way to compare similar profiled bonds and issuers.
EF: What’s next for EF Data?
BS: We are always adding more data points and granularity to the database – with coverage of law firms active in the sustainable finance market and SLB coupon step ups/downs, KPI dates and baselines coming soon. Our quarterly roundup webinars are continuing and will be augmented with more webinars, reports, and presentations on our analysis page.
Impact reporting and impact data is a growing area of interest, and we will be expanding our impact data provisions in the coming year. We are keeping a very close eye on global regulatory developments, in particular requirements and reporting around the EU Taxonomy and EU Green Bond Standard and the Common Ground Taxonomy and green bond principles in China.
We are continuing to work on our sustainable loan coverage and data granularity. And, as the market evolves, we will be adding more interactive data options for the loan market.