The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) has helped arrange an innovative sustainability-linked loan (SLL) for North Queensland Airports (NQA) that focuses on better outcomes for biodiversity, driving through a partnership with First Nations peoples.

The loan aligns NQA’s environmental priorities to its financing, by linking the cost of borrowing to achieving key sustainability targets within a specified timeframe. In what is believed to be a first for the Australian sustainable finance market, the loan includes a biodiversity target focused on species conservation. As part of the loan, NQA aims to enhance the habitat of at least three threatened species in partnership with the Dawul Wuru Aboriginal Corporation’s Yirrganydji Land and Sea Ranger program.

Sally Reid, Executive General Manager Global Client Solutions at Commonwealth Bank, said NQA’s innovative sustainability targets would build on a broad and long-running sustainability program, and commit the company to reaching for ambitious outcomes in this important sphere.

"NQA is the first Australian organisation to set a target to support the recovery of endangered species populations, breaking new ground for the domestic sustainable finance market and highlighting the importance of preserving species diversity as part of securing a sustainable future,” she said.

“We also commend NQA on engaging First Nations peoples to help meet and report on these targets as this honours the skills and knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and recognises that they are best placed to lead this important work as the traditional custodians of Australia."

The SLL’s other sustainability targets include the reduction of Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025, as well as a requirement to measure and reduce Scope 3 emissions. The structure also supports improved opportunities for First Nations peoples by prioritising procurement from contactors with a defined percentage of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander employees.

“The initiatives reflect the importance of addressing climate change, our stewardship of important natural habitat and the opportunity we have to ensure that Australia’s First Peoples are empowered to contribute to our operations,” said Richard Barker, North Queensland Airports’ Chief Executive Officer.

“This agreement will accelerate our commitment to achieving long-term, ambitious environmental and social targets,” Mr Barker said.

CBA served as a joint sustainability coordinator and lender on the transaction.

NQA’s SLL breaks new ground for the Australian sustainable finance market, said Charles Davis, CBA’s Managing Director of Sustainable Finance and ESG.

“Excitingly, NQA’s sustainability targets are a nexus of the airport’s sustainability, biodiversity and First Nations peoples engagement work,” he said.

“This transaction really demonstrates to the market how to capture a more holistic approach at a time when many listed institutions are increasingly considering biodiversity in their sustainability ambitions,” said Mr Davis.

Banner image: North Queensland Airports Environment Manager Lucy Friend, along with Dawul Wuru Aboriginal Corporation’s Senior Ranger Brian Singleton and Project Manager Gavin Singleton, recently released a Double-Eyed Fig Parrot on Cairns Airport land. It is a threatened species, and was cared for after being orphaned.