ESG data weak for leveraged loans & high yield

ESG data vendor coverage of leveraged loans and high yield bonds is lacking compared to coverage of investment grade companies, according to the European Leveraged Finance Association.

ELFA analysed coverage by three major ESG data vendors for three debt indices – the CS Western European Leveraged Loan Index, the ICE BofAML Developed Markets High Yield Constrained Index and the BBG Global Aggregate Corporate Index – finding major discrepancies in data coverage across asset classes.

The research found that coverage of high yield and leveraged loans is far behind that of investment grade borrowers. Leveraged loans coverage levels ranged from only 4-10% across the three vendors analysed, and high yield coverage stood between 40-79%, whilst investment grade borrowers stood between 62-95%.

Improving ESG data collection
In its Insights report, ELFA addresses key issues with data collection and provides guidance on what market participants can do to improve ESG data availability.

Corporate borrowers: To make coverage by data providers easier, corporate borrowers should provide ESG disclosure in as public a way as possible and aim for disclosures that are comprehensive. Most importantly, corporates should work proactively with both data vendors and investors to make sure the disclosure covers what the majority of market participants need to know.

Investors: Investors should continue to engage with borrowers on the disclosures they would like to see and how to present the disclosure in a user-friendly way. At the same time, as a buyer of these services, investors can encourage data vendors to increase coverage.

Data vendors: Data vendors need to be open-minded about how they can adjust their methodologies to address the fact that borrowers in the leveraged finance markets tend to be smaller, while at the same time not compromising the integrity of their products.

Sabrina Fox, Chief Executive Officer, European Leveraged Finance Association, commented: β€œIt is understandable that, to date, most vendors have focused their efforts on larger borrowers, but market needs are rapidly evolving and there is from investors demand for more comprehensive coverage of leveraged finance borrowers by ESG data providers. We are asking data providers to consider how they can fill this gap.

β€œAt the same time, everyone has a role to play in improving data collection and disclosure, including by making the data as useful as possible. What is encouraging is that most market participants want this to improve, both in terms of data availability from borrowers and data usability for investors. We will continue to play an active role in supporting greater ESG disclosure in the leveraged finance industry to help the industry move forward and bridge this gap.”