The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the important connection between human health and sustainability.
The experience of Covid-19’s many profound impacts — death and severe illness, a challenged healthcare system, economic slowdown as a result of widespread lockdowns and gradual reopening — is clearly visible in the consensus among issuers and investors, revealed by the survey.
Both groups identify the health of the Chinese population as a key area for China and its market participants to emphasise more than they have up to now, in their drive towards sustainability. Only the most prominent environmental issues (greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, energy efficiency in industry) rank more highly as areas for emphasis. Almost 40% of respondents believe health merits increased emphasis — some way ahead of areas such as transport, buildings and agriculture.
Issuers, at 41%, feel this slightly more strongly than investors, on 38%. That may reflect the sudden shocks issuers have experienced from lockdown and economic downturn, disrupting their operations and supply chains.
Investors, on the other hand, have had the blow cushioned by stockmarket rallies as a result of interventions by the central bank, and are somewhat less concerned about health. That is particularly true for investors running multi-asset class portfolios including equity and debt, and for the largest institutions by assets under management.
Fixed income investors, however, are more conscious of health as an issue. Over 60% of them want to see more emphasis on health — and they see this as the most important sustainability issue facing China. This may be because they have been confronted with the raised borrowing needs of governments and other public bodies seeking to fund their coronavirus responses, as well as higher credit risk in parts of the economy.