1 Jun 2016

Seminar: Green bonds link investors to sustainable projects

From left: Johan Hassel, moderator; Jytte Guteland, a member of the European Parliament; Penilla Gunther, a member of the Swedish Parliament; Gustav Hemming, Stockholm County Council; Christopher Flensburg, SEB; Helena Lindahl, Storebrand/SPP; and Jens Hellerup, NIB. Photo: Arild Moen

Where do we find the money for the changes necessary to make our future green? This question was the focus of a seminar that the Nordic Council of Ministers' information office in Stockholm and the Swedish think tank Global Utmaning held in Stockholm on 1 June.

The seminar discussed market trends and current challenges in climate-friendly investment projects and what needs to be done to ensure that green bonds are a safe investment in the environment.

In her opening remarks at the seminar, Catharina Nystedt Ringborg, Vice President of Global Utmaning, said that the green bond concept is a very good answer to reducing the risk of investing into environmental projects.

Sven Hegelund, a member of the Board of Directors of NIB, said that green bonds are a new and exciting way of financing sustainable investments. “There exist only a few green banks with a sustainability mandate issuing green bonds. The most dedicated of them is most probably the Nordic Investment Bank in Helsinki”, he said.

Christopher Flensborg, one the architects of green bonds and Head of Sustainable Products and Product Development, Fixed Income and DCM, Global, SEB, commented on the origin of green bonds:

“Back in 2007, a lot went on in the financial market, and many investors couldn’t find assets to invest in. At the same time, there were many solid green projects that needed financing. So, we needed to create a way of linking the issuers to these projects.”

“Green bonds represent an excellent instrument to steer investors towards investing in sustainable projects,” said Helena Lindahl, Portfolio Manager at Storebrand/SPP’s Asset Management Stockholm.

She stressed that capital markets have actually contributed to the “climate mess” the world is currently witnessing. “We used bonds to finance projects we see today. Now we have the opportunity to flip the coin and invest ourselves out of this mess.”

Jens Hellerup, Head of Funding and Investor Relations at NIB, focused on the issuing and monitoring of the projects that green bonds help finance: “Monitoring is an additional process and the question is who is paying for this. Would a pension fund accept a lower return for the sake of a more sustainable future?”

Penilla Gunther, a member of the Swedish parliament and of NIB’s Control Committee, spoke about the advantage of sustainable investments: “There is a real advantage of being ahead with sustainable investments financed with green bonds, and NIB is one of the frontrunners. I am positive about the future of green bonds, and we need to know more about it.”

The seminar was part of Green Week, Europe's biggest annual conference on environment policy, bringing together participants from government, industry, non-governmental organisations, academia and the media to exchange ideas and best practices. The event is arranged by the European Commission.