Bromford launches inaugural sustainability framework

One of England’s largest housing associations, Bromford, has launched its inaugural Sustainable Finance Framework helping to measure the impact of up to a billion pounds in ESG-linked funding over the next decade.

The framework is the first in the sector to be accredited by S&P Global Ratings and reaffirms Bromford’s commitment to tackling some of the biggest challenges of our time across the environmental, social, and governance agenda. The framework also puts transparency and accountability at the heart of its approach, enabling the 44,000 home provider to meet the growing expectations of its social and environmentally conscious customers, ultimately supporting them to thrive in diverse and sustainable communities.

Bromford, with homes across central and south west England, has already led ESG funding activity with entry into the sector’s first Sustainability Linked Loans. It became the first housing association to establish a green loan in March 2020 and the first in any sector to enter into a loan linked to reducing its gender pay gap in December 2020. Publication of the framework now communicates Bromford’s broader commitment to sustainability, highlighting a number of social and green projects at the core of its Bromford Strategy 2019-2023, and presenting this in a format which is recognised by the international funder community.

The framework was developed by Bromford’s newly established Sustainability Group, with senior representation from across the business, and sets out a number of existing and new projects linked to its business strategy. Whilst it naturally features the delivery of affordable housing, the framework also includes other initiatives such as reducing homelessness, promoting diversity, migrating to a greener vehicle fleet, and enhancing sustainable development through Modern Methods of Construction. The framework is aligned to seven of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, including a commitment to address poverty, hunger, environmental degradation, and human rights. It will give rise to investor impact reports to capture performance against specific key performance indicators.

S&P Global Rating’s accreditation of the framework confirms its alignment to the standards forward by the International Capital Markets Association and the Loan Market Association. S&P Global are already familiar with Bromford as an organisation, having last year reaffirmed its leading A+ credit rating. As part of its independent verification, they recognised Bromford’s “good level of transparency and disclosure” and highlights the framework as a tool for Bromford to illustrate “its commitment to its tenants and employees, and their communities, to promote diversity and equality, and to deliver its services in a way that promotes a more sustainable future.”

Bromford’s director of treasury, Imran Mubeen, says: “With our role in supporting customers and communities, and our reach across a substantial portfolio of homes, housing associations have a significant role to play in addressing the key sustainability challenges of our time.

“We led the way on issuing the first Sustainability Linked Loans in the sector and are now delighted to issue our inaugural framework which reaffirms our commitment to sustainability in its broadest sense. S&P have a deep understanding of our business and their accreditation, awarded after their trademark rigour, underlines the strength of our offer. We see the framework as more than just the delivery of new funding or the recording metrics; it’s a commitment to doing the right thing and building a better world for the communities we serve in an accountable and transparent manner. It will then act as the springboard for partnering with investors who share this vision to deliver meaningful change.”

Dan Sparks, director of service delivery and chair of the Sustainability Group, says: “We deliver social housing with customer wellbeing at the heart of what we do. Sustainable homes are directly linked to wellbeing, they increase comfort and reduce fuel bills, and ultimately contribute to addressing climate change. But we see sustainability as more than just offering lower carbon homes: our neighbourhood coaches continue to be embedded in our communities supporting customers, we have delivered our first tranche of electric repairs vans, and we are working on a number of projects to reduce homelessness, increase diversity across our communities, and create new employment opportunities.

“These projects are already linked to the Bromford Strategy and our framework, with its subsequent annual impact reporting, will challenge us to deliver even more and hold us to account on performance in a language that can be appraised by the investor community.”

Over the past 12 months, Bromford secured GBP275 million of new funding at record low rates including GBP200 million of bonds and private placement with long dated deferrals which will be drawn over the next 12 to 18 months. This will aid its ambition to build 6,500 new affordable homes by 2023.