ESG: Sustainability Linked Loans becoming more Commonplace in the Marketplace – Louise Melchor, Esq.


As environmental, social, and governance (“ESG”) initiatives are increasingly implemented by borrowers and lenders, sustainability linked loans provide opportunities for both.

What are Sustainability Linked Loans?

Sustainability linked loans (“SLLs”) are based on the Sustainability Linked Loan Principles developed by the LMA, APLMA and LSTA.[1]  In SLLs, a borrower, together with its lender group, determine and set certain sustainability performance targets (“SPTs”) for the borrower to achieve, to be measured by key performance indicators (“KPIs”).  Independent organizations, including the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (“SASB”), provide guidance on the ESG metrics most relevant to certain industry sectors.  Once agreed between the borrower and lenders, the KPI/SPT benchmarks are then integrated into margin adjustments to the interest rate or commitment fee for the credit facility (i.e., by achieving the KPIs, the interest rate is reduced).  The credit facility documentation will also include reporting requirements for independent, external verification of the borrower’s performance level with respect to each SPT for each KPI, at least annually.

Borrower Benefits

Many companies have already undertaken ESG data collection and reporting, and more will likely do so as the SEC expands its focus on ESG disclosures and as more investors demand this information. While the above noted third party verification and reporting costs are inherent to SLLs, borrowers that are already engaging in these efforts may find they can efficiently obtain an additional economic incentive through SLL financing.  Additionally, SLLs can be part of a comprehensive alignment with the borrower’s ESG strategies and policies.

Lender Benefits

Lenders are undertaking ESG initiatives as well, in which SLLs may be a component.  And, regulatory agencies for certain lenders are communicating their plans to provide guidance on climate-related risks, and integrate these principles into their supervisory expectations.[2]  Further, studies have shown that companies (e.g., SLL borrowers) that identify and manage their ESG risks have improved financial performance.[3]  So, financing SLLs can benefit lenders across policy, regulatory and business aspects.

Current State of the Market and Next Steps

Although SLLs are a relatively new financing concept, particularly in the U.S., the volume of SLLs globally quadrupled in issuance between 2020 and 2021.[4]  As ESG momentum continues to build in the U.S., the volume of SLLs is likewise expected to continue to grow.  Currently, terms are negotiated on a transaction specific basis, and market provisions have not been added to the LSTA’s suite of documentation.  But, as SLLs become more common, the market is likely to coalesce on terms.  Stay tuned for more updates on SLLs and other trending sustainable finance products, including green bonds and commercial property assessed clean energy (C-PACE) financing.

Duane Morris has an active ESG and Sustainability Team to help organizations and individuals plan, respond to, and execute on Sustainability and ESG planning and initiatives within their own space. We would be happy to discussion your proposed project with you. For more information, or if you have any questions about this post, please contact Louise Melchor, the author or Brad A. Molotsky, Nanette Heide, Seth Cooley, David Amerikaner, Jolie-Anne Ansley or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.


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ESG Series – Monthly Free ESG Discussion with Industry Thought Leaders Kicks Off to over 200!

We are soo excited to report on the first of our monthly ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) zoom webinars focusing on various and sundry ESG and Sustainability issues and topics.

Scheduled for the 3rd week of each month, these FREE webinars will gather “thought leaders” from around the globe to engage in discussion, answer questions and provide their views on what is going on in the arena, what they are planning and how they are executing.

Today’s session featured thought leaders Sara Neff, SVP of Sustainability at Kilroy Realty Trust, Dr. Chris Pyke, SVP at Arc Sokoru and Uma Pattarkine, VP of ESG at Centre Square and was a tour-de-force regarding defining Sustainability, juxtaposing it with ESG and showing how they are different.

We then ventured into a discussion of what are ESG focused companies and how their “alpha” compares vs. non-ESG companies, identified the lack of transparency in the real estate sector regarding others reporting on ESG and followed this up with sharing various “S” reporting methodologies.

Thereafter, we broke down the differences between GRI, CDP, GRESB, SASB, and the reporting of goals and outcomes. Spent some time on how folks are measuring and reporting ESG outcomes. We wrapped up the discussion focusing on how and why LEED and other third party certification methodologies are critical to showing and measuring success.

Key takeaways:

Sustainability – now becoming more carbon focused especially at the building level; measures social impact; provides a lens within which to view long term value creation and survival capabilities and resource allocation

ESG – more focused on disclosures of material, non public information, a set of practices companies should consider following; metrics to measure sustainability through

ESG Performance – ESG focused companies continue to show demonstrable outperformance metrics; the data is now more readily available and is indeed being measured; ESG centric companies have/continue to rebound faster, better and more efficiently than non-ESG focused companies in the face of the pandemic.

More C-suite, Boards, investors, employees and customers are asking ESG and Sustainability related questions and demanding answers on the ESG front than ever before.

Real Estate is currently ranked dead LAST in terms of disclosure and reporting on ESG, behind even the Energy Sector.

LEED continues to help set an aspirational tone for the sustainability movement and continues to require better results in order to score their certifications (v4 is now the standard) and operates and provides an impartial judge to call “balls and strikes” to show real action in buildings.

More and more public companies are reporting ESG goals and what they are doing, where they are doing it and how they are doing it – i.e., over 80% of the S/P 500 are reporting their ESG metrics.

We will publish a link to the webinar in the near future and all are welcome to listen and comment back and ask questions.

Next months panel will focus on the Built Environment and will be held on March 24 at 12-1 EST.

Duane Morris has an active ESG and Sustainability Team to help organizations and individuals plan, respond to, and execute on Sustainability and ESG planning and initiatives within their own space.  We would be happy to discussion your proposed project with you.  Contact your Duane Morris attorney for more information.

If you have any questions about this post, please contact Brad A. Molotsky ( or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.

© 2009- Duane Morris LLP. Duane Morris is a registered service mark of Duane Morris LLP.

The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

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