The Austrian Ecolabel for Green Bonds - a review

Since the issuance of the world's first green bond by the European Investment Bank (EIB) in 2007, the adoption of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Change Agreement in 2015, both the supply and demand for green bonds have been increasing steadily worldwide. But what is "green"?

The special feature of "green" bonds is the dedicated use of the issuance revenues for green projects. But what is "green"?

Susanne Hasenhüttl and Katharina Muner-Sammer, ÖGUT

In order to avoid greenwashing, some standards, recommendations and also labels have already developed in the market. Since last year, Green Bonds can be certified with the Austrian Ecolabel. On this topic, ÖGUT organized a webinar on April 22 on behalf of the Ministry of Climate Protection "Green Money for Green Investments. The Austrian Ecolabel for Green Bonds."

Josef Behofsics, welcomed the participants of the online event on behalf of the Ministry of Climate Protection and handed over to Katharina Muner-Sammer from ÖGUT, who led through the event. Susanne Hasenhüttl, also from ÖGUT, started with an overview of Green Bonds. The still young segment is continuously growing, with Europe leading the world in issuing Green Bonds. In Austria, it is mainly banks, but also energy suppliers, that are increasingly discovering the instrument for themselves. As part of the EU action plan for financing sustainable growth, the European Union is also currently working on an EU Green Bonds Standard, which is to be published before the summer.

With the Austrian Ecolabel, there has already been a standard for Green Bonds since the beginning of 2020. An insight into the requirements of the Ecolabel for Green Bonds was given by Raphael Fink from the Ecolabel team at VKI - Verein für Konsumenteninformation. The Austrian Ecolabel for Financial Products (UZ49) is the oldest sustainability label for financial products in Europe and has been in place since 2004 for funds, and since 2020 for Green Bonds. As a well-established standard for sustainable financial products, the ecolabel provides orientation for investors. Currently, there are two Green Bonds that carry the Austrian Ecolabel. These were then presented to the participants:

Christoph Neubauer, HYPO NOE Landesbank für Niederösterreich und Wien AG, started his presentation with the bank's sustainability strategy, which focuses on financing projects with social added value. The bank's Green Bond Framework is based on the so-called Green Bond Principles of the ICMA, globally recognized guidelines for the issuance of Green Bonds. The proceeds from the issue flow into green real estate and social infrastructure.

Andreas Rauter, UNIQA Insurance Group AG, in turn reported on the company's experiences both with the green bond issue and with certification with the Ecolabel. He sees the issue as part of UNIQA's "Sustainability Performance" and as a further building block in the commitment to a sustainable orientation of UNIQA's portfolio.

The numerous questions asked by the participants demonstrated the great interest in the event.

At the end of the webinar, Josef Behofsics referred to the third part of the event series, which will take place at the beginning of July and deal with real estate and the Ecolabel criteria.

The individual presentations will soon be available for download on the ÖGUT website: