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The New Era of Commodity Trading

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The following content is sponsored by Abaxx

Commodity Trading infographic

A New Era of Commodity Trading

In today’s world of aggressive climate goals, awareness for the need to source commodities in a sustainable way has increased.

This infographic from Abaxx takes an introductory look at what commodity markets are, what drives revenue for commodity exchanges, and the need for a new set of contracts to deliver a more sustainable future.

The Evolution of Commodity Exchanges

From the simple gatherings of farmers to trade livestock to global contracts that trade the energy supplies of entire nations, commodity markets have evolved to deal with the changing demands of markets.

In the mid-19th century, commodity exchanges offered specialized contracts that resulted in less volume per exchange. The advent of the internet and digital platforms in the early 2000s increased the global reach of trading, increasing trading volumes.

While energy contracts dominate commodity exchanges, there are also metals and agricultural contracts that deliver the goods the world consumes. However, global economies take for granted the complex process that prices commodities, helping codify the terms of trade to facilitate a seemingly endless bounty of resources.

How Do Commodity Exchanges Work?

Exchanges facilitate discovery of the right price for commodities by providing a meeting place where buyers and sellers form a marketplace to trade and negotiate a price.

The price discovery process involves several market participants:

  • The producers who supply the commodities
  • The brokers who communicate with transport, shipping, and insurance to trade on behalf of clients
  • The industrial end-users who are individuals or manufacturers that require or consume a commodity

The activities of these market participants generate a consensus on price and establishes a benchmark for a particular commodity. It is the future contracts that codify the terms of trades and prices, creating trust and minimizing risk between producers and end-users.

What is a Futures Contract?

Exchanges provide the market with contracts to facilitate trades and market data. It is these contracts that form the basis for the revenue of commodity exchanges.

In 2020, the four major commodity trading groups, ICE, CME, HKEX and SGX, generated $14 billion in revenue. While there are many types of contracts that cover the variety of commodities from metals to crops, typically only a handful of contracts account for the bulk of trading and revenue.

According to data compiled from the Futures Industry Association (FIA), in energy, metals and precious markets markets, the top 10 contracts account for 79.8%, 90.9% and 96% of the markets, respectively.

Markedly, this pattern makes contracts very valuable and a key driver of revenue for commodity exchanges. However, the commodity exchanges have yet to deliver specific contracts that can meet the demands for the specific materials and issues in the green energy transition.

Futures Contracts for the New Energy Era

The materials used to fuel economies are rapidly changing in order to create a more sustainable world. However, cleaner fuels such as LNG (liquified natural gas) do not have the history of established contracts and trust despite the rising demand.

Emerging markets in South Asia and India present the greatest opportunity for LNG adoption to provide clean burning fuel for a growing population.

The Abaxx Exchange is developing a LNG futures contract that will set the standard for this new market with new technology to better manage risks, execute trades, while embedding ESG concerns into global supply chains.

LNG is just the beginning—the world will need codified contracts to deliver the materials of the green energy revolution and Abaxx is leading the way.

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An Introduction to MSCI ESG Indexes

With an extensive suite of ESG indexes on offer, MSCI aims to support investors as they build a more personalized and resilient portfolio.

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An Introduction to MSCI ESG Indexes

There are various portfolio objectives within the realm of sustainable investing.

For example, some investors may want to build a portfolio that reflects their personal values. Others may see environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria as a tool for improving long-term returns, or as a way to create positive impact. A combination of all three of these motivations is also possible.

To support investors as they embark on their sustainable journey, our sponsor, MSCI, offers over 1,500 purpose-built ESG indexes. In this infographic, we’ll take a holistic view at what these indexes are designed to achieve.

An Extensive Suite of ESG & Climate Indexes

Below, we’ll summarize the four overarching objectives that MSCI’s ESG & climate indexes are designed to support.

Objective 1: Integrate a broad set of ESG issues

Investors with this objective believe that incorporating ESG criteria can improve their long-term risk-adjusted returns.

The MSCI ESG Leaders indexes are designed to support these investors by targeting companies that have the highest ESG-rated performance from each sector of the parent index.

For those who do not wish to deviate from the parent index, the MSCI ESG Universal indexes may be better suited. This family of indexes will adjust weights according to ESG performance to maintain the broadest possible universe.

Objective 2: Generate social or environmental benefits

A common challenge that impact investors face is measuring their non-financial results.

Consider an asset owner who wishes to support gender diversity through their portfolios. In order to gauge their success, they would need to regularly filter the entire investment universe for updates regarding corporate diversity and related initiatives.

In this scenario, linking their portfolios to an MSCI Women’s Leadership Index would negate much of this groundwork. Relative to a parent index, these indexes aim to include companies which lead their respective countries in terms of female representation.

Objective 3: Exclude controversial activities

Many institutional investors have mandates that require them to avoid certain sectors or industries. For example, approximately $14.6 trillion in institutional capital is in the process of divesting from fossil fuels.

To support these efforts, MSCI offers indexes that either:

  • Exclude individual sectors such as fossil fuels, tobacco, or weapons;
  • Exclude companies from a combination of these sectors; or
  • Exclude companies that are not compatible with certain religious values.

Objective 4: Identify climate risks and opportunities

Climate change poses a number of wide-reaching risks and opportunities for investors, making it difficult to tailor a portfolio accordingly.

With MSCI’s climate indexes, asset owners gain the tools they need to build a more resilient portfolio. The MSCI Climate Change indexes, for example, reduce exposure to stranded assets, increase exposure to solution providers, and target a minimum 30% reduction in emissions.

An Index for Every Objective

Regardless of your motivation for pursuing sustainable investment, the need for an appropriate benchmark is something that everyone shares.

With an extensive suite of ESG indexes designed specifically for sustainability and climate change, MSCI aims to support asset owners as they build a more unique and personalized portfolio.

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Tracked: The U.S. Utilities ESG Report Card

This graphic acts as an ESG report card that tracks the ESG metrics reported by different utilities in the U.S.—what gets left out?

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NPUC Utilities ESG Report Card Share

Tracked: The U.S. Utilities ESG Report Card

As emissions reductions and sustainable practices become more important for electrical utilities, environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reporting is coming under increased scrutiny.

Once seen as optional by most companies, ESG reports and sustainability plans have become commonplace in the power industry. In addition to reporting what’s needed by regulatory state laws, many utilities utilize reporting frameworks like the Edison Electric Institute’s (EEI) ESG Initiative or the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Standards.

But inconsistent regulations, mixed definitions, and perceived importance levels have led some utilities to report significantly more environmental metrics than others.

How do U.S. utilities’ ESG reports stack up? This infographic from the National Public Utilities Council tracks the ESG metrics reported by 50 different U.S. based investor-owned utilities (IOUs).

What’s Consistent Across ESG Reports

To complete the assessment of U.S. utilities, ESG reports, sustainability plans, and company websites were examined. A metric was considered tracked if it had concrete numbers provided, so vague wording or non-detailed projections weren’t included.

Of the 50 IOU parent companies analyzed, 46 have headquarters in the U.S. while four are foreign-owned, but all are regulated by the states in which they operate.

For a few of the most agreed-upon and regulated measures, U.S. utilities tracked them almost across the board. These included direct scope 1 emissions from generated electricity, the utility’s current fuel mix, and water and waste treatment.

Another commonly reported metric was scope 2 emissions, which include electricity emissions purchased by the utility companies for company consumption. However, a majority of the reporting utilities labeled all purchased electricity emissions as scope 2, even though purchased electricity for downstream consumers are traditionally considered scope 3 or value-chain emissions:

  • Scope 1: Direct (owned) emissions.
  • Scope 2: Indirect electricity emissions from internal electricity consumption. Includes purchased power for internal company usage (heat, electrical).
  • Scope 3: Indirect value-chain emissions, including purchased goods/services (including electricity for non-internal use), business travel, and waste.

ESG Inconsistencies, Confusion, and Unimportance

Even putting aside mixed definitions and labeling, there were many inconsistencies and question marks arising from utility ESG reports.

For example, some utilities reported scope 3 emissions as business travel only, without including other value chain emissions. Others included future energy mixes that weren’t separated by fuel and instead grouped into “renewable” and “non-renewable.”

The biggest discrepancies, however, were between what each utility is required to report, as well as what they choose to. That means that metrics like internal energy consumption didn’t need to be reported by the vast majority.

Likewise, some companies didn’t need to report waste generation or emissions because of “minimal hazardous waste generation” that fell under a certain threshold. Other metrics like internal vehicle electrification were only checked if the company decided to make a detailed commitment and unveil its plans.

As pressure for the electricity sector to decarbonize continues to increase at the federal level, however, many of these inconsistencies are roadblocks to clear and direct measurements and reduction strategies.

National Public Utilities Council is the go-to resource for all things decarbonization in the utilities industry. Learn more.

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