Green Bonds and the Poo of Bull

Looking for substance in sustainable finance

B. Lorraine Smith

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What I generally see when I look at green bonds (graphic by me)

I wish I could say I was making the following up. I hope you will fact-check me and tell me what I am missing. I will gladly publish a follow up with a retraction — anything to show that trillions of dollars are in fact flowing towards an economy in service of life.

Here’s the thing: As part of the work-in-progress Matereality assessment on JBS, I dug into the brouhaha around their sustainability-linked bond. The advocacy group Mighty Earth recently brought forward a whistleblower complaint to the US Securities and Exchange Commission alleging JBS’ green bonds are fraudulent. It seemed timely, so I had a look.

Green bonds — a growing piece of the (un)sustainable finance pie

To be clear, I wasn’t a proponent of green bonds in the first place. I lump them in with broader concerns around environmental, social, and governance (ESG) disclosures, and grumbled about this a few years ago.

And in the TD Bank Matereality assessment I shared in 2022 —

— I provide details of the specious nature of many “sustainable finance” disclosures.

Now taking a fresh look at green bonds with the JBS assessment in mind, I find them as problematic as ever. The thing is, this is not unique to JBS — it’s pretty much status quo for the green bond marketplace.

I don’t want to be a whistleblower. I don’t want to take anyone to court. I just want to know: what is actually happening with the money?

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B. Lorraine Smith

Former sustainability consultant replacing ESG with reality-based insights about corporate purpose and impact. https://www.blorrainesmith.com/