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WFE’s 8th Sustainability Survey Reveals Focus on Carbon Neutrality Transition

The eighth Annual Sustainability Survey published by the World Federation of Exchanges (WFE), the global industry group for exchanges and central clearing counterparties, has revealed a significant advance in the depth and scope of environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) – with an increased focus on the transition to carbon neutrality. This year’s report confirms the strength of what has consistently been a positive trend in the response of exchanges to ESG issues.

The WFE Sustainability Survey provides a picture of ESG activity at market infrastructures across the world and captures both the nature and extent of member engagement with ESG issues in both developed and emerging markets. The WFE and WFE members have been highly involved in the SSE initiative — 54 of the 67 WFE members are part of the initiative.

Nandini Sukumar, Chief Executive Officer of the WFE, said: “Our new survey results highlight the vital role that the exchange industry plays in the shift towards a sustainable and inclusive global economy. It is encouraging for us, as an industry that has championed ESG in financial markets for more than a decade, to see a positive trend towards carbon neutrality accompanied by genuine interest and engagement in these issues from stakeholders.”

Notable highlights from the survey

  • Exchanges increased their efforts by reducing their own carbon footprint, promoting the transition of their listed companies to a climate-neutral or carbon-neutral economy, and committing to Net-Zero pledges. 
  • Initiatives offering ESG education have rapidly gained relevance over the years. They ranked eighth in 2019 in terms of the number of exchanges pursuing them, third in 2020, and second in this survey.
  • Not only has the number of exchanges participating in sustainability initiatives increased but also more initiatives were implemented per exchange. The average number of initiatives per exchange increased from 7.7 to 8.4. The number of exchanges implementing initiatives that meet all five of the WFE Sustainability Principles increased by 17% to 69%.
  • Sustainability concerns and the opportunities for business expansion were again the most frequently reported motivations for ESG engagement. On the other hand, business and economic concerns remain the main concerns around sustainability efforts, while the lack of resources was seen as the second major concern.
  • Efforts on ESG were more evenly distributed across Environmental (31.2%), Social (30.6%) and Governance (38.6%) components, compared to 25.8%, 31.3% and 42.9% respectively a year earlier. While green bonds continue to be the most offered ESG product, offerings across all sustainability product categories have increased.
  • Eight respondents reported engaging in initiatives to prevent human rights abuses in the supply chains, and three respondents reported participating in all of the 13 listed ESG initiatives.

The Sustainability Survey maps exchanges’ activities against the WFE’s Sustainability Principles, which all exchanges, both WFE members and others, continue to demonstrate sustained engagement with. Published in October 2018, these Principles state that exchanges will educate participants about sustainability issues; promote the enhanced availability of ESG information; engage stakeholders to advance the sustainable finance agenda; provide markets and products that support the development of sustainable finance; and embed sustainability into the exchange’s governance, strategy, and organisational structures.

A total of 54 exchanges participated in this year’s survey. As in previous years, the survey questionnaire was revised to capture the latest exchange-related sustainability developments.