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Nuveen global fixed income impact report 2021

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Welcome to the Nuveen global fixed income 2021 impact report which demonstrates how impact investing in public fixed income markets is not only possible, but vital to addressing many of the large-scale, systemic challenges the world faces today.

Intentional, direct and measurable outcomes

A message from Amy O'Brien, global head of responsible investing

Nuveen’s 2021 global fixed income impact report builds on our record of leadership and innovation in measuring, documenting and communicating the real-world outcomes of our global fixed income impact investing strategies.

A shared purpose to address the world’s large-scale, systemic challenges

This report also represents the deep, ongoing partnership between Nuveen’s responsible investing (RI) and global fixed income (GFI) teams — one that began nearly 15 years ago, when Stephen Liberatore and I initially created the global fixed income team’s impact framework. At the time, impact investing was widely considered viable or credible only in the private markets. Yet from the beginning, we have maintained our conviction that impact investing in public fixed income markets is not only possible but vital to addressing many of the large-scale, systemic challenges the world faces today. It will take significant capital to transition to a cleaner energy future, increase the resilience of vulnerable communities and bring clean drinking water to the more than two billion people globally who lack it today. And as our impact investment strategies grow, Nuveen’s RI and GFI teams will continue working together to implement leading practices when selecting investments, measuring their direct outcomes and transparently reporting this data across our global fixed income impact portfolios.

The importance of voluntary industry frameworks

As with much of the world today, impact investing is at an inflection point. Until recently, the growth of this market — fueled by client interest, current events and investment opportunity — has outpaced the widespread adoption of industry standards and clear regulation. This is one of the reasons Nuveen continues to play an active role within industry working groups focused on credible, quantitative measurement and increased transparency between investors and clients. As the regulatory environment that governs sustainable investments, ESG and impact-labeled products continues to evolve, we believe voluntary frameworks, like the IFC’s Operating Principles for Impact Management, provide a strong foundation for asset owners and asset managers deploying capital through impact strategies.

Our results

In the report, you will discover more about Nuveen’s fixed income impact framework and case studies across our four direct and measurable impact themes: affordable housing, community and economic development, renewable energy and climate change, and natural resources. You will also learn how we are supporting a clean energy transition, and gain insight into the challenges that remain when measuring carbon emissions in the fixed income market.

We close the report with a snapshot of our participation in nine COVID-19 bonds that came to market in 2020, which are a testament to our ability to mobilize capital towards hospitals, community organizations and global institutions that serve people around the world. These investments were a critical part of the immediate response to the crisis and will continue to support the recovery and rebuilding in the years ahead.

The growth and success of Nuveen’s global fixed income impact strategy reflects both our rigorous, data-driven approach and the confidence our clients continue to show in entrusting their assets to our management. I am delighted to share the results of this work with you.

A message from Stephen M. Liberatore, CFA, head of ESG/impact — global fixed income

The investment industry has come a long way from the days when mission-driven asset owners viewed “impact” as a place to concede returns in pursuit of ambitious, benevolent goals. Today, our track record demonstrates that investors can direct capital to specific, measurable social and environmental outcomes without sacrificing performance. Looking back on my 15 years as an impact investor in public fixed income markets, I’m grateful for the many opportunities I’ve had to be a part of this industry’s remarkable evolution.

Transparent, evidence-based reporting is essential

We believe that there’s more to impact investing than allocating capital; it also requires transparent, evidence-based reporting. Such reporting is essential to holding issuers accountable and can provide insights into future free cash flow generation and further investment in successful outcomes. Clients have pushed us to expand and enhance our reports each year, with increasingly granular impact data, geographical precision and SDG alignment. This year, we’ve combined hard data with case studies and anecdotal insights.

Today, our team manages over $7.8 billion (as of 31 Dec 2021) of securities selected using our proprietary global fixed income impact framework. That compares to less than $1 billion as of 31 Dec 2012, the first calendar year-end after we launched our flagship TIAA-CREF Core Impact Bond Fund, and $2.9 billion at year-end 2016, when we compiled data for our inaugural impact report.

How we direct capital

From the outset, we have tied use-of-proceeds in offering documents’ language to how we direct capital — intentionally, proactively and aligned with our thematic outcomes — and measured those outcomes by requiring transparent disclosure. We don’t rely on labels or index eligibility rules to identify or select impact investments. Rather, our expertise and experience in the impact market, combined with our deep and talented research team of more than 50 analysts and trading team of 17, allows us to focus on deals and projects that others don’t consider.

Two notable examples in which our involvement and pre-issuance guidance facilitated the flow of capital are the Women’s Livelihood Bond (p. 28) and Seychelles Blue Bond (p. 34).

Among impact reporting’s most acute challenges is the misuse of enterprise-level metrics to represent subsidiary- or project-specific outcomes, especially with commercially available carbon data sets. This report includes both a Q&A on our approach to carbon data (p. 37) and a case study (Continental Wind, LLC, p. 30) involving a subsidiary issuer.

What's next in the impact investing journey?

While the past 15 years have been rewarding, impact investing remains a journey, with continued collaboration and learning key to future success. We will incorporate feedback from other industry thought leaders like independent impact verification company BlueMark, which certified that our proprietary global fixed income impact framework and process are aligned with the International Finance Corporation’s Operating Principles of Impact Management.

Within Nuveen, I offer my sincerest gratitude to Amy O’Brien, who kicked off this impact journey with me in 2007, and her colleagues on the Responsible Investing team, especially Amanda Kizer, who aggregate and help prepare our impact reports.

Lastly, I would like to thank my talented and dedicated team: Jessica Zarzycki, Adam Guerino and Alan Papier, whose expertise, determination and tireless work ethic have elevated our position as a recognized practitioner and thought leader in public fixed income impact investing.

Nuveen wins impact report of the year award at Environmental Finance’s Bond Awards 2022

See the winner  of the impact report of the year for investors.

Bond Award 2022 winner

Read the full impact report

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A word on risk

Because ESG criteria exclude some securities, investments in ESG-focused products may not be able to take advantage of the same opportunities or market trends as products that do not use such criteria. Investment products in general may be subject to market and other risk factors.

The investment advisory services, strategies and expertise of TIAA Investments, a division of Nuveen, are provided by Teachers Advisors, LLC and TIAA-CREF Investment Management, LLC. Securities offered through Nuveen Securities, LLC.

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