It has been five years since a small group of ASEAN capital market regulators spearheaded the region’s sustainable finance efforts.
In less than a year, the Green Finance working group of the ASEAN Capital Markets Forum (ACMF) had drafted and launched the first of its sustainable finance initiatives – the ASEAN Green Bond Standards (GBS).
This was followed in 2018 by the ASEAN Social Bonds Standards (SBS) and the ASEAN Sustainability Bond Standards (SUS).
Currently, the ASEAN 5 – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand – dominates the ASEAN green, social and sustainability (GSS) bond market.
Based on September 2022 data from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Singapore has the largest amount outstanding at US$10.7 billion, comprised of domestic and regional issuances. Indonesia is second with $9.1 billion GSS bonds outstanding.
Thailand, at $6.5 billion, has the largest sovereign local currency sustainable bond market, with $2.6 billion worth of outstanding GSS bonds.
Malaysia’s almost $6 billion equivalent of outstanding GSS bonds are comprised of foreign- and local-currency denominated GSS bonds issued by both the government and the private sector.
The Philippines has $6.94 billion worth of outstanding sustainable bonds issued by a range of private sector issuers, including banks and renewable energy firms, among others.
The astounding sustainable debt market growth ASEAN has displayed over the past five years indicates that while the region is still a relatively minor player in the global market for sustainable finance, the necessary foundations for the development of the green and sustainable debt market are already in place.
And while the governments may have driven this growth through enhanced regulatory support, the trends coming out of the region indicate that more companies recognise the importance and benefits of sustainable finance and align climate risk with their business strategies.
In October 2022, the ACMF developed and launched two sustainable finance standards – the ASEAN Sustainability-Linked Bond Standards and the ASEAN Sustainable and Responsible Fund Standards – which will further widen the range of sustainable investments in the region and help in accelerating sustainable development across ASEAN.
Notable issuances from ASEAN
In March 2018, the Indonesian government issued its first green sukuk, the very first sovereign green sukuk issued in the world, amounting to US$1.25 billion with a tenure of five years.
According to Indonesia’s framework, its proceeds will exclusively go to eligible green projects in renewable energy, among others.
Since its 2018 issuance, Indonesia has tapped the sustainable bond market annually – issuing sovereign green sukuk amounting to $750 million yearly from 2019 to 2021 and $1.5 billion in June 2022.
Malaysia led the ASEAN green bond market in 2017 with the issuance of the first ASEAN green bond by PNB Merdeka Ventures Sdn Bhd, and the world’s first sovereign USD-denominated sustainability sukuk.
In April 2021, Malaysia successfully priced its sustainability sukuk, amounting to $800 million worth of 10-year Trust Certificates.
AC Energy and Infrastructure Corporation, formerly AC Energy, Inc, is one of the largest Philippine issuers of green bonds.
In 2019, the company made its debut in the debt market with an issuance of USD-denominated green bonds that totalled $410 million – the first Climate Bonds Initiative-certified US dollar green bonds in Southeast Asia, which has been increased to $470 million.
In the same year, the company offered the world’s first US dollar-denominated perpetual fixed-for-life green notes at an aggregate principal amount of $400 million.
Since then, the company has continued to issue green bonds annually, intended to be used to finance renewable energy.
The most recent was the PHP 10 billion (US$176 million) five-year, fixed-rate green bonds issued in 2022.
In 2018, Sindicatum Renewable Energy Company Pte Ltd issued three multi-currency Green Bonds listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE).
In January 2018, the Indian rupee (IDR) denominated bonds amounting to INR 951.1 million and INR 1,585.3 million due in 2023 and 2025, respectively, were issued, which made Sindicatum Renewables the first ever offshore private sector corporate entity to issue a seven-year INR bond.
The company in November 2018 also issued Philippine peso (PHP) denominated bonds amounting to PHP 1,060.2 million due in 2028, the first PHP-denominated green bonds to be listed on the LSE.
In August 2020, the Thailand Ministry of Finance became one of the first sovereigns in the world to raise funds through sustainability bonds and the first in Southeast Asia.
As of May 2022, the ministry has issued around $6 billion worth of sustainability bonds, which have been used to invest in the Mass Rapid Transit Orange East Line Project and social impact projects, among others.
This issuance made Thailand the first Thai issuer to be listed on the Luxembourg Stock Exchange.
These bonds have also received a total of six awards from various organisations.