Sustainable Bonds and Beyond: A Sustainable Alternative for Portfolio Diversification : An empirical study of sustainable bonds and existing asset classes from a volatility and correlation perspective in Sweden
Abstract: Increasing awareness of sustainable issues is just one of the ways how modern society has evolved. Due to the growing challenges faced by climate change and societal issues, our world has grown to be more innovative in the fight and support towards initiatives that will contribute to the long-term of the world we live in. Capitalists have exploited the resources, and as such, it is the economy where we can make the most significant changes to reverse the negative consequences. Responsible investment has incorporated various financial tools oriented towards the support of environmental, societal, and governance practices to revert the adverse effects brought on by capitalism. Sustainable bonds are a type of fixed income financial tool to support responsible investment practices. Their motive is to drive the financing of projects oriented towards positively contributing to the environment, society, and governance. Previous studies on the field of responsible investment have covered the topic of green bonds and, most recently, social bonds. Although this field is relatively new, much of the literature developed has focused on the financial returns of such fixed-income assets. This thesis is the first to attempt the study of a self-created Swedish Sustainable Bond index consisting of 156 sustainable bonds issued in the Swedish market in correlation to three other asset classes. General interests and a lack of research due to its contemporary issuance in this context brought us to study such relation of return characteristics with its conventional bond counterpart, the equity market, and the energy stock section all within the Swedish market. The objective, as such, was to determine whether such an instrument could be used as a diversification tool. For us to be able to conduct this study, we utilized the returns of each category’s indices. We applied different statistical models and tests, including correlation, univariate, and multivariate GARCH models, to be able to ensure robust results that could yield thought-provoking results for us to analyze. In conjunction with the Modern Portfolio Theory, we were able to determine that sustainable bonds provide investors with some diversification benefit by a positive correlation with the conventional bond and negative correlations with the equity and energy stock market. Volatility clustering and spillover effects within the Swedish sustainable bonds and the identified markets were also present. We went a step ahead and curious to explore whether the conventional bond market was better off than the sustainable bond market. Such results indicate that the conventional bond is still a better tool for diversification purposes with the other two asset classes selected in comparison to the Swedish Sustainable Bond. As such, we are still wishful that sustainable bonds could potentially change their behavior in the future as a diversification tool, as more regulations and standardization of such asset classes are implemented.
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