World Bank Introduces A Water Bond To Raise Money For Clean Oceans

The new World Bank bond series aims to raise $3 billion for water projects around the world.


May 20 2019, Updated 4:47 p.m. ET

The World Bank is aiming to raise $3 billion for water, sanitation, and marine protection — and it’s not doing this through a typical fundraiser. Instead of hosting a telethon or a swanky benefit, the international financial institution has announced plans to offer a bond series designed to pour money into the world’s oceans.

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The bonds will function similar to the war bonds your grandparents purchased in World War II. While those bonds provided immediate funds for U.S. military supplies, the water bonds will infuse marine projects with cash. 

Investors can redeem the bonds for even greater sums once they mature years later, but the owners of these water bonds won’t exactly be average spenders. According to Business Green, the first in the series of water bonds is priced at 1 billion Swedish  Krona (SEK), or roughly $77 million.

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“Seventy percent of the planet’s surface is water, yet degraded ocean resources and lack of access to safe water negatively affect the lives of hundreds of millions of people,” Kristalina Georgieva, the chief executive officer of World Bank, said in a press release

“Through this bond series we will remind investors and the markets that we must protect our water and marine resources today for the generations of tomorrow. As the world’s leading issuer of sustainable development bonds, we also offer an excellent opportunity to invest capital towards global public goods.”

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Sustainable development bonds are nothing new for the World Bank, which has functioned as a global development cooperative owned by 189 countries since 1944. It’s been offering bonds like these for over 70 years to fund various projects. Back in January, the bank launched a bond series for the empowerment of women and girls. Other series have focused on childhood nutrition, healthcare, and coral reef recovery.

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The water bonds will target the World Bank’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation) and SDG 14 (life below water), generating money to support projects in each of these areas.

The World Bank already has quite a bit of money invested in water. It finances water projects around the globe, totaling $37 billion. That includes a $3.7 billion “Blue Economy” portfolio that promotes sustainable fisheries, resilient coastlines, protected coastal and marine areas, and reduced pollution.

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“World Bank Sustainable Development Bonds are an opportunity for investors to invest in safe and liquid product as they become more engaged in the purpose of their investment,” Arunma Oteh, the vice president and treasurer of the World Bank, said in the release. 

“They are an important contributor in the journey towards sustainable capital markets. Following bonds issued earlier this year to raise awareness for gender and health and nutrition, we are pleased to launch this new initiative and engage with investors around another critical topic – clean water and healthy oceans, lifelines for people and economies the world over.”

The first water bond will run for seven years, amassing financial resources for conservation, clean-up, and stewardship programs in that time.

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