Upping the game
Spanish energy and infrastructure group Acciona is already clean and green, so it created an innovative “double-impact” structure to back its corporate restructuring and show that additionality is more than a buzzword.
In June, the world’s largest 100% clean energy company launched a €2.5bn dual-tranche SLL to finance the spin-off of renewable energy arm Acciona Energia via Spain’s biggest IPO. It followed up with an €800m SLL to restructure the debt of infrastructure business Acciona SA.
Loan industry guidelines encourage companies to show ambition and additionality (a measurable improvement in ESG performance) when setting SLL targets, but Acciona felt that many companies fall short by using existing pledges and wanted to re-establish the product’s credibility.
Acciona set out to tackle what it sees as the “blind spot” of sustainable finance by using the double-impact structure, which combines material corporate targets with additional local targets that show a positive environmental and social impact.
“We want these two syndicated loans to become a new generation of instruments that are focused on the Achilles' heel of green financing – that is the credibility to make it an additional investment to change or move the needle,” said Jose Luis Blasco, Acciona’s global sustainability director.
Introducing quantifiable local impact targets in addition to company-wide metrics is a new development for the SLL product. It also fits Acciona’s strategy of providing "regenerative infrastructure" and sustainable finance is part of the company’s Sustainability Master Plan 2025.
“We think that this is the future of green financing – green finance should be additional. The most valuable thing that we see in this field is credibility and authenticity,” Blasco said.
Acciona set corporate-level KPIs on each company’s loans, using science-based targets aligned to the goal of the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, which is currently seen as best practice for SLLs. It also set sustainability performance targets for local impact.
In an unusual move, Acciona chose to forgo the typical pricing step-downs for hitting its company-wide targets, but it will receive sustainability discounts for achieving the additional local impact SPTs.
Acciona Energia’s corporate KPI is to align more than 95% of its capex with the EU Taxonomy standards (up from 84%). Its local impact SPT is to become carbon positive by using nature-based solutions including tree planting and conservation to offset its direct Scope 1 and 2 emissions, which will earn an annual 5bp sustainability discount if successful.
Acciona SA’s corporate target is to reduce CO2 emissions by 60% by 2030. It has two local impact SPTs, including providing training to vulnerable groups and clean energy for isolated rural communities. Hitting each target will each earn 2.5bp annually.
Failure to hit any of the KPIs or SPTs means the relevant company will work with the UN’s Environment Programme to remove an equivalent amount of CO2.
CaixaBank and UniCredit were coordinators and sustainability agents on the financings and DNV supplied a second-party opinion.
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