Building sustainable financial products - finalists 2019

Accounting for Energy, (UK) 

Summary of entry 
Accounting for Energy specialise exclusively in renewable energy land rent audits. Its royalty audits help UK landowners to get the best commercial returns from the renewable energy produced on their land. It benchmarks the performance of clients’ renewable energy projects against all similar projects across the UK and performs an in-depth historical financial analysis to ensure all potential revenue streams have been captured. Accounting for Energy then demonstrates how much the project has contributed to the environment and works with the associated energy company to correct any underpayments. 

Judges’ comments 
The judges noted that Accounting for Energy identified and addressed a unique niche in the market – the information asymmetry between landowners and renewable energy companies. Their collaborative approach with the energy companies and land agents creates transparency with landowners and could encourage significant growth in renewable energy generation in the UK. 

Contact Energy, (New Zealand) 

Summary of entry 
In 2017, Contact Energy, a provider of electricity, natural gas, broadband, solar and renewable energy, obtained green certification for its entire NZ$1.8bn funding portfolio using a unique, programmatic approach – the largest Climate Bonds Initiative certification to date. This enabled Contact to access the benefits of green finance in an efficient, innovative and transparent way and provide a strong financing platform for future renewable generation development. It also provides investors with the ability to invest in a broad range of debt instruments, including Contact’s inaugural 2019 green bond issue – the first certified green issuance by a corporate in New Zealand. This unique approach has generated interest from other issuers domestically and globally, attracted by the efficient, flexible structure of the programme. 

Judges’ comments 
The judges were impressed by the holistic approach of Contact Energy, with the company’s principles, in harmony with the national spirit, embedded throughout their business decisions. The company’s commitment to finding new sources of renewable energy is significant in New Zealand. More widely, their approach to reducing the cost of green certification could be influential elsewhere.

Ecology Building Society, (UK) 

Summary of entry 
Ecology Building Society has been committed to building a more sustainable future for over 35 years, by providing lending for properties and projects that have a positive environmental or social impact. Ecology’s pioneering range of ‘C-Change’ discounts incentivise energy efficiency by reducing the mortgage rate based on the property’s energy performance. Ecology is also a leading lender for community-led housing, which typically deliver affordable and comfortable energy-efficient homes, reducing bills, tackling fuel poverty and decarbonising housing. As part of its wider commitment to sustainable development, Ecology is also working to reduce both its carbon footprint and wider use of resources. 

Judges’ comments 
The judges were impressed with the overall goal of Ecology Building Society in funding the improvement of the existing UK housing stock, effectively implemented via their ‘C-Change’ product. The monitoring process over the course of the loan has a good level of granularity, with ambitious plans for improving this in the future. 

Octopus Investments, part of the Octopus Group, (UK) 

Summary of entry 
Unlike other managers of venture capital trusts, at the core of Octopus is the drive to deliver sustainable, ethical solutions that generate value for both its customers and society. Octopus has spent the last two years speaking to fleet operators up and down the UK, understanding their challenges as they look to transition to zero-emission fleets. Octopus has delivered an innovative financing solution that wraps vehicle cost, energy infrastructure and local grid reinforcement into a pay-as-you-drive service. Aligning monthly repayments with vehicle use and benefits minimises the operator’s down-time risk and optimises their cash flow, providing economic and environmental benefits. 

Judges’ comments 
The judges noted that Octopus Investments’ financing solution is a well thought through and clever product. It makes the expensive change to electric vehicles more accessible to fleet owners and individual drivers, giving them the simplicity of a package solution. The judges see the potential that this project has as a catalyst for improving the UK’s electric vehicle infrastructure.

Rabobank, (The Netherlands) 

Summary of entry 
Rabobank, a Dutch cooperative bank, has introduced the Planet Impact Loan for farmers, with an interest discount based on their scores on the Biodiversity Monitor for dairy farming. The Monitor is a new innovative tool developed together with the World Wildlife Fund, Royal Friesland Campina and the Sustainable Dairy Chain to quantify biodiversity results of dairy farmers with the aim of developing new revenue models. Key performance indicators relate to climate, land use, loss of minerals, soil, landscape and species. Farmers can be rewarded through supply chain partners and stakeholders, benefiting from farming for improved biodiversity. 

Judges’ comments 
The judges found this pilot to be an interesting and effective example of how big industry and financial institutions can work together to help companies be more sustainable. They liked the very practical approach to the biodiversity of farms, a project that is literally ‘in the weeds’ and making a change from the bottom up. 

ZigWay, (Myanmar) 

Summary of entry 
ZigWay, a provider of microfinance in Myanmar, has built a lending platform that directly or through financial institutions enables low-income families in Myanmar to access nano-loans. Its app has been specially built for easy adoption and lending features were designed to provide an alternative to the service of informal money lenders. It is fast, flexible, convenient lending but at a fraction of the price. 

Judges’ comments 
The judges were inspired by the social impact of ZigWay. As an innovative start-up it makes affordable finance more accessible to a large proportion of the population of Myanmar, particularly women on low incomes. The programme empowers women to break the cycle of accessing finance through informal moneylending, and helps get children back into school.