Australian and international investors have put AUD$500 million in to the first ever social bond promoting workplace gender equality, priced by National Australia Bank (NAB) today. Proceeds will be used to finance or re-finance the assets of Australian businesses that champion women and equality.
Superannuation funds, and groups based in Australia, the UK, Hong Kong, Singapore, Switzerland, Korea and Taiwan that focus on socially responsible assets, are among investors that have purchased the five-year bond.
Cathryn Carver, Acting Chief Customer Officer Corporate & Institutional Banking, said gender equality is one of many big issues in society that business, both banks and investors, can do their part to help address.
“There are proven links* between diversity and better business profits that can’t be ignored,” Ms Carver said. “This bond creates a new pathway for big investors to back the workplaces that are taking a leadership role to support women and equality.
“Investors have told us that this bond is a real validation of the concept of gender equality.”
The proceeds of the NAB Social Bond (Gender Equality) will finance or re-finance organisations that are funded by NAB; are cited by The Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) as an Employer of Choice for Gender Equality; and whose primary activities don’t involve alcohol, gambling, tobacco, military weapons, predatory lending, fossil fuels, palm oil, transport of live cattle or whaling.
Eva Zileli, Head of Group Funding, said investors praised NAB for pioneering an innovative social bond that emphasised positive screening: selecting organisations that are proactively being socially responsible.
“Successfully launching this bond is a critical step forward in building a market for socially responsible investments, and in elevating gender equality as a business imperative,” Ms Zileli said. “Investors increasingly want choices and options to act on social issues and we are finding ways to make that happen.”
The five-year, fixed rate bond priced at semi quarterly asset swap plus 95 basis points, yielding 3.445%. It is rated Aa2 (Neg) / AA- (Neg), (Moody’s/S&P) and has the same credit quality and profile as any other senior unsecured bond issued by NAB.
The organisations included in the initial NAB Social Bond (Gender Equality) portfolio are Lend Lease, Mirvac, Stockland, Monash University, Australian Catholic University, PwC, KPMG Australia, King & Wood Mallesons (Australia), Clayton Utz, Gilbert + Tobin, Minter Ellison, Corrs Chambers Westgarth, Ashurst Australia and Henry Davis York.
NAB holds the WGEA Employer of Choice for Gender Equality citation and achieved 7th place in the Australia Workplace Equality Index Awards in 2016.
*Companies in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians. McKinsey & Company, Why Diversity Matters, 2016.