Mowi’s Green Bond

Will Mowi's Green Bond Address Its Main Sustainability Challenges?

Bond Analysis

Summary

In January 2020, Mowi became the first-ever seafood company to issue a green bond, pledging €200 million to finance numerous green projects. It is a leading company when it comes to managing its ESG issues, as shown by its high scores in the 2019 Coller FAIRR Protein Producer Index. The green bond proceeds aim to enhance the company’s sustainability efforts, yet the bond’s framework is rather broad. There are several areas in which greater detail is needed for investors to understand the strength of Mowi’s plans.

The goal of this analysis is to critically assess the projects and sustainability initiatives for which the bond proceeds will be used, and we have identified the following areas for improvement:

  • Mowi plans to address issues linked to feed sources but this is limited exclusively to wild-caught fish and soy, as per its sustainable salmon feed policy
  • Although the escape issue is mentioned, Mowi does not provide details of the specific methods used to prevent them.
  • Issues linked to negative environmental impacts have been addressed (especially those concerning the treatment of sea lice), but Mowi does not offer a non-medicinal solution to these problems.

 

Company Background

Company & Bond Information

Mowi ASA is the world’s largest producer of farm-raised Atlantic salmon, supplying one-fifth of the global demand. The company is headquartered in Norway and its operations extend to Scotland, Canada, Faroe Islands, Ireland and Chile. It has a fully integrated value chain, which regulates feed production, farming operations, sales and marketing.

Analysis

Use of Proceeds

The net proceeds of the bond will go towards green projects ranging from:

  • Environmentally sustainable aquaculture (i.e. feed, fish farms, processing methods, environmental management and fish welfare)
  • Energy efficiency
  • Water and waste management
  • Waste management
  • Eco-efficiency and/or circular economy-adapted products, production technologies and processes

For full details of its green projects, please see Mowi’s publicly available green bond framework.

In the following tables, we review the Environmentally Sustainable Aquaculture project category of the bond framework.

From there, we assess the company’s impact reporting and offer suggestions for engagement questions relating to the sustainability initiatives underlying the bond issue.

 

Sustainable Feed

TopicBond proceedsIssueRecommendation
Wild-caught fishInvestments and expenditures related to the sourcing and production of sustainable feed. These are to comply with Mowi’s policy on sustainable salmon feed and require that 100% deforestation-free soy be used (i.e., soy that is certified by ProTerra or another certification scheme with equivalent requirements, guaranteeing the segregation of certified and non-certified soy).Continued overfishing of wild fish could lead to a disruption of the aquatic food chain and consequently, biodiversity loss. Over-reliance on fishmeal could also impact a company’s profitability; given that fishmeal prices are affected by climate and weather patterns (e.g., El Niño).FAIRR believes that the company should invest in more radical feed alternatives beyond sustainable soy and fishmeal. Many alternative feed ingredients may disrupt the aquaculture industry. They present huge growth potential for feed manufacturers and also opportunities for producers like Mowi to improve the sustainability impacts of feed production. Thai Union’s partnership with Calysta, for example, shows commercial success in alternative feed innovation, with shrimp being fed on feed produced from natural gas. Sustainable feed reduces wider biodiversity impacts such as deforestation and the depletion of wild fish stocks.  Other examples include algal innovations, single-cell proteins and insect proteins. Please see FAIRR’s Shallow Returns report for a full in-depth analysis of the various feed innovations.
SoySoy cultivation can have damaging environmental impacts such as deforestation, soil degradation and nutrient and water pollution. Purchasing certified soy is a measure readily adopted by protein producers to mitigate risks. However, there are supply constraints and rising cost pressures given that the total volume of certified soy is unknown. In 2013, only 2-3% of soy was certified and there is a lack of evidence to suggest that this volume has grown. Producers like Mowi will be exposed to financial risk if its reliance on certified soy continues.

 

Biodiversity Loss

TopicBond proceedsIssueRecommendation
Fish escapesInvestments to protect, restore and enhance ecosystems and biodiversity such as escape prevention (e.g., sensor technology) and the reduction of microplastics.Fish escapes threaten the wild fish gene pool and damage a company’s profit margin through production losses and regulatory fines. Given the company’s history of escape events, greater focus must be given to developing specific methods to prevent escapes.The company should invest in robust farm infrastructure and technology. In Norway, there are national standards that stipulate technical requirements on the dimension, design, installation and operations of floating fish farming systems. Currently, it is unclear whether Mowi applies these standards throughout its global operations, though we strongly recommend that producers adopt the same stringent criteria across all locations.

 

Disease Management

TopicBond proceedsIssueRecommendation
Sea liceInvestments in fish welfare, including sea lice management and the prevention and reduction of medicine and antibiotic use.Sea lice are Mowi’s biggest challenge. In 2018, the company was found to have sea lice counts in its Chilean operations, which exceeded the national lice limit and cost the company US$9.8 million in mass mortalities. Proceeds should, therefore, address specific methods to prevent and manage sea lice outbreaks without compromising fish welfare. In the past, the industry has relied heavily on veterinary treatments (including the use of ‘SLICE®’) that have either negative impacts on the ecosystem or contribute to antibiotic resistance. Mechanical treatments, where fish are flushed with high-pressure water currents to remove lice, also negatively impact the health and welfare of fish.FAIRR recommends that Mowi focuses on investing in non-medicinal sea lice solutions that circumvent the negative environmental and health impacts. Methods can include the use of wrasse, anti-sea lice functional feed, snorkels and laser technology. We also suggest greater transparency in the company’s progress reporting by disclosing success rates per tool and geography.
DiseaseIt is important that animal protein producers address other diseases such as pancreatic disease, gill disease or infectious salmon anaemia (ISA), which are also financially material. Disease outbreaks may restrict exports to several countries including China, one of Norway’s fastest-growing export markets.Mowi should disclose specific measures to prevent and manage all diseases. Poor management could cut the value of exports and lead to market bans, all of which will undermine the company’s balance sheet and trade relations.

 

Certification

TopicBond proceedsIssueRecommendation
CertificationInvestments and expenditures related to fish farms that are certified, or in preparation to become certified, by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) salmon standard, using feed in accordance with Mowi’s policy on sustainable salmon feed.Whilst the ASC has the strictest requirements on environmental impact, disease and transparency, as benchmarked by the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative, it is not holistically robust. For example, on escape management, the ASC is the most lenient when compared to GLOBAL G.A.P and GAA. Furthermore, ASC certification covers a broad range of topics and it is not clear whether this investment will bring any additional sustainability benefit.Seeking to obtain ASC certification throughout the supply chain is an effective means of signalling to stakeholders that sustainability standards are being managed. The documentation, however, is not clear. It does not explicitly state that proceeds will be used to improve sustainability performance and processes to meet the ASC’s certification criteria. Secondly, as ASC certification covers a broad range of sustainability topics, it is not clear which areas Mowi will be prioritising. We recommend that Mowi provides further detail on how proceeds will be used in relation to certification.

 

Research and Development

TopicBond proceedsIssueRecommendation
Algal bloomsThe green bond framework underlying the bond issue does not address algal blooms.In May 2019, the Norwegian salmon industry suffered the worst algal bloom in 30 years, which amounted to losses of $90 million and led to the death of 7.5 million salmon across all Norwegian salmon farms. As rising temperatures are a contributing factor to the growth of harmful bloom-forming algae, the material impact on fish mortality will exponentially increase. Mowi, however, fails to disclose how it plans to manage algal blooms.FAIRR recognises that a widely established method to monitor and address algal blooms has not yet been developed. Algal blooms are a holistic issue exacerbated by climate risks leading to poor water quality and thereby, gill disease. We recommend that Mowi uses proceeds for R&D to advance algal bloom monitoring and management, and to report on algal bloom management processes.
KPI Reporting

Quality of Mowi's Impact Reporting

The following table assesses the quality of KPIs that Mowi plans to use to measure the performance of its green projects.

CategoryKPIFAIRR Comment
Sustainable FeedThe volume of certified sustainably sourced and produced feedMore specific alternative KPI: Volume of the specific ingredient (soy, fishmeal, fish oil) that is certified by a certification scheme (e.g., ProTerra)
GHG emissions savings relative to comparable products (tonnes per year)More specific alternative KPI: Mowi should disclose GHG emissions on a product-by-product basis rather than solely by overall savings to increase the transparency of product-specific emissions.
Sustainable Fish FarmsReduced fish escapes (%)It is not clear whether this KPI refers to the reduction of escape events or the number of fish escapees. Mowi should continue to disclose figures in both its sustainability and impact reports.
% of sites with minimum benthic impactWe recognise this as a good KPI. Mowi’s sustainability report discloses the % of sites with minimum benthic impact in accordance with national seabed quality standards for different locations.Mowi should also disclose the metrics used to measure organic and inorganic loading.
Research and DevelopmentType of project and issue addressedInsofar as it is commercially viable, Mowi should disclose the specifics of its projects to increase the confidence of investors and demonstrate ongoing progress (e.g., the extent to which the project has addressed the issue).
Environmental management & fish welfareReduction in sea lice medicine use (e.g., active ingredient per tonne produced)More specific alternative KPI: a breakdown of the specific sea lice medicines used.
Reduction in antibiotic use (e.g., active ingredient per tonne produced)Mowi should distinguish antibiotic usage by type (e.g., whether the antibiotics are CIA or MIA).
Type of project and issue addressedInsofar as is commercially viable, Mowi should disclose the specifics of its projects to increase the confidence of investors and demonstrate ongoing progress (e.g., the extent to which the project has addressed the issue).
Assessing the Quality of KPIs

Engagement Questions for Investors

Material issues identified in the Coller FAIRR Protein Producer IndexEngagement Questions
Sustainable feedWhat sustainable feed innovations is Mowi going to explore? What are the environmental or nutritional advantages/disadvantages of these innovations?
Biodiversity LossHow will Mowi upgrade its infrastructure across all sites to prevent escapes?
In which technologies will Mowi invest to prevent future escapes?
Disease managementHow will Mowi deduce the effectiveness of non-medicinal tools?
What specific measures is Mowi undertaking to prevent or manage disease?
Algal bloomsWhich measures will Mowi take to manage and address algal blooms?
CertificationWhat types of improvements relating to certification will be funded by the proceeds? How will proceeds be used at farms that are already certified?
Science-Based TargetHas Mowi considered strengthening its Science-Based Target from a target well below 2C to a 1.5C target?
What is the implementation plan to achieve this target? How will Mowi address emissions from feed farming?
Climate-related scenario analysisDoes Mowi plan to conduct a climate-related scenario analysis, publicly disclose the results and how it directly influences its strategy?
Sustainable proteinHow does Mowi view the alternative protein market: as an opportunity or a risk?
Has Mowi planned to diversify its product portfolio to encompass alternative proteins?
Geographic coverageHow will proceeds be allocated across geographies?
Has Mowi identified which areas are most at risk of escape events or mortality from disease?

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