WFE announces ESG milestone: Every exchange is on board the green train

Rick Steves

“This is a real milestone, as our survey reveals widespread adoption among exchanges of both the WFE Sustainability Principles and ESG initiatives. The industry has now come together to create the Green Equity Principles, the first exchange-wide agreement on what is green.”

The industry has reached a milestone in collective efforts to achieve sustainability, according to the ninth Annual Sustainability Survey published by the World Federation of Exchanges (WFE),

The report by the global industry group for exchanges and central clearing counterparties noted that this year, for the first time since the surveys began, every exchange participated in at least one ESG initiative and engaged in at least one WFE Sustainability Principle.

Additionally, the number of exchanges reporting engagements in at least a dozen of the listed ESG initiatives rose from eight last year to 16 this year, and two exchanges engaged in all 14 initiatives. A further 12 exchanges also reported having put in place net-zero targets. There was also an annual increase in the average number of initiatives implemented per exchange from 8.4 to 9.2.

As to the WFE’s Sustainability Principles, 70% of survey respondents implemented initiatives that corresponded to all five principles, according to the report.

Challenges: limited resources, unreliable EGS data, lack of standardization

The main challenges reported by exchanges were external factors such as limited resources for implementation, unreliable ESG data, and a lack of standardized reporting frameworks for promoting sustainability.

The report also noted the most frequently reported motivation for ESG engagement: sustainability concerns and opportunities for business expansion.

Nandini Sukumar, Chief Executive Officer of the WFE, said: “This is a real milestone, as our survey reveals widespread adoption among exchanges of both the WFE Sustainability Principles and ESG initiatives. The industry has now come together to create the Green Equity Principles, the first exchange-wide agreement on what is green. We will continue as an industry to champion ESG in financial markets as we make the crucial move towards a sustainable and inclusive global economy.”

The survey found that, of the 58% of exchanges reporting carbon emissions, 68% cover Scopes 1, 2, and 3, which reflects a comprehensive approach to measuring and managing their carbon footprint, considering both direct and indirect emissions throughout their value chain.

Green bonds persist as the most popular ESG product. Three exchanges have also introduced green equity, relying on either their own standards or those established by national regulators.

Turkey, HK, China, South Africa, Korea, Singapore under the spotlight

The report also higlighted the accomplishments of a few exchanges in Turkey, Hong Kong, South Africa, Mainland China, and Singapore:

  • Borsa İstanbul (BIST), which has a history of creating sustainability-themed indices, introduced the Sustainability 25 Index last year, comprising companies with exceptional sustainability performance, market capitalisation, and liquidity.
  • The Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited‘s Sustainable and Green Exchange (STAGE) welcomed more sustainable and green finance products this year and now features data and information on 100+ green, social and sustainability (GSS) bonds, as well as ESG ratings for more than 720 companies. The platform remains a central hub for data and information on sustainable and green finance products in Asia.
  • Several South African financial institutions have listed green, social, and sustainability-focused bonds and ETFs on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE). FirstRand Bank and Nedbank are funding green and eco-friendly projects, while Standard Bank aims to finance affordable housing for female borrowers.
  • With the growing investor interest in ESG, the Korean Exchange (KRX) is increasing its range of ESG products. It has introduced a sustainability-linked bonds segment to overcome the limitations of existing Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) bonds and to back companies’ sustainability initiatives.
  • By the end of 2022, the China Securities Index, a Shanghai Stock Exchange (SSE) subsidiary, had released 122 ESG-related indices. There were 77 products tracking these indices with assets under management (AUM) over RMB 100 billion (USD 14.4 billion). The SSE has also supported low-carbon industries through equity financing, with eight new energy, energy-saving, and environmental protection sector companies listed on the SSE STAR Market in 2022.
  • Singapore Exchange (SGX) launched the Sustainable Fixed Income Initiative (SFI Initiative) in November 2022. SFI Initiative is designed to help investors identify green, social and sustainable fixed-income securities that meet recognised standards.

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