Social bonds are use of proceeds bonds that raise funds for new and existing projects with positive social outcomes. The Social Bond Principles (SBP) seek to support issuers in financing socially sound and sustainable projects that achieve greater social benefits. SBP-aligned issuance should provide transparent social credentials alongside an investment opportunity. By recommending that issuers report on the use of Social Bond proceeds, the SBP promote a step change in transparency that facilitates the tracking of funds to social projects, while simultaneously aiming to improve insight into their estimated impact. The SBP, updated as of June 2023, are voluntary process guidelines that recommend transparency and disclosure and promote integrity in the development of the Social Bond market by clarifying the approach for issuance of a Social Bond. The SBP recommend a clear process and disclosure for issuers, which investors, banks, underwriters, arrangers, placement agents and others may use to understand the characteristics of any given Social Bond. The SBP emphasise the required transparency, accuracy and integrity of the information that will be disclosed and reported by issuers to stakeholders through core components and key recommendations.
For additional information on how to interpret this guidance especially for its practical application for transactions, as well as in the context of market developments, see the Guidance Handbook.
In June 2022, Appendix 1 of the SBP was updated to make a distinction between “Standard Social Use of Proceeds Bonds” (unsecured debt obligation) and “Secured Social Bonds” and to provide further guidance on social covered bonds, securitisations, asset-backed commercial paper, secured notes and other secured structures. Additional Q&As related to Secured Social Bonds, updated in June 2023, complement Appendix 1.
Existing guidance for Social and Sustainability Bonds is applicable for raising capital for social projects to support fragile and conflict states. See the related press release and accompanying Q&A published on 27 April 2022.
The Social Bond Principles (SBP) 2023
Translations of the Social Bond Principles
Please note that the following translations are related to the 2017, 2018, 2020, 2021 and 2021 (with June 2022 Appendix 1) SBP editions, therefore the edition that each translation currently refers to is indicated below. They will be updated with the 2023 changes progressively.
This document aims to function as a pre-issuance checklist for issuers considering issuing Social Bonds and to give guidance on the steps for establishing a Social Bond Framework as recommended by the Social Bond Principles (SBP). Links to the different supporting documents (e.g., High-Level Mapping to the Sustainable Development Goals, Harmonised Framework for Impact Reporting of Social Bonds, etc.) have been inserted for ease of reference. It is intended to be a pragmatic and condensed tool for issuers and for investors. Also included are some common questions that the external review providers may assess pre-issuance. The 2023 version clarifies requirements around target population(s) and includes references to ”just transition” considerations. Issuers are also encouraged to complete the Social Bond information template that gives a summary reflecting the main characteristics of a Social Bond, illustrating its key features in alignment with the core components of the SBP. This contributes to market transparency and clarifies issuers’ alignment with the Principles. This helps inform the market participants on a standardised format. Completed templates can be made available on the Sustainable bond issuers database.