ESG Finance has the potential to transform the agricultural economy of the Amazon, but what defines an ESG investment. What are the rules, what are the outcomes? We will ask participants to share examples of “the good, the bad and the ugly” from their respective jurisdictions.
Financial instruments branded as conforming with Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) principals are neither a carbon offset nor a payment for an ecosystem service. They are investments seeking a profitable return on financial capital and involve all types of financial securities (equity and debt). ESG investors seek business opportunities that will generate a profit using conventional financial criteria, while simultaneously reducing GHG emissions, sequester carbon, alleviate poverty and conserve biodiversity. If financial analysts and media pundits are to be believed, the Amazon will soon receive billions of dollars of private capital that, allegedly, will transform the business models that threaten the Amazon. What defines an ESG investment? There has been a proliferation of working groups over the last decade dedicated to developing monitoring systems and metrics that can provide an objective evaluation of a company, project, or investment instrument. Most rely on an amorphous set of metrics referred to as Key Performance Indicators, which have been vetted by a group of stakeholders representing a mélange of vested interests, consumer groups and environmental activists. A coherent KPI system is important to guide potential investors; however, it is even more important to evaluate the investment outcomes. For example, agribusinesses in Brazil have accessed the international market for “green bonds” to finance operations adhering to the principles of “conservation agriculture;” however, some of these companies own logistical facilities complicit in the expansion of intensive farming into the Central Amazon. Irrigation agriculture is exploding across Central Mato Grosso and solar energy is being used to extract surface water from the Tapajos, Xingu and Araguaia watersheds. One of the largest green bond offerings is for a maize-based ethanol producer, a joint venture between an Iowa-based corporation and a subsidiary of a Chinese holding company. One of the most controversial offerings is a ‘transitional loan’ to a large beef packing company with a “commitment” to eliminate [illegal] deforestation from its supply chain. The current Brazilian minister of agriculture predicts that ESG finance will motivate land users to comply with the forest code because they will be denied finance as ESG principals come to dominate all rural finance. If so, the widespread adoption of ESG principals could drive investments in agroforestry systems and reforestation; however, that would require a monitoring and compliance system much more stringent than current efforts, which rely on voluntarily efforts and future commitments to comply with the Forest Code.
Each participant should come with an example of a private sector investment or enterprise (excluding REDD+ projects) that purports to adhere to ESG principals. Participants could include business ventures that conserve forest or sequester carbon via reforestation, but they should be organized as conventional business ventures that benefit from finance that is marketed as ESG compliant, and/or are commercializing a product that is manufactured (or grown) adhering to similar ESG principals.
ESG Finance in the Pan Amazon. The good, that bad and the ugly
Sunday July 10th- Morning (4h, 8:00am-12:00m)