The commodities sector has been at the centre of a number of GTR’s most-read news stories over the last year: from our extensive coverage of fraud cases involving energy traders such as Hin Leong, to more recent accusations filed against oil major BP, and decisions made throughout 2020 by some banks to consolidate their commodity finance departments – or de-risk from the business entirely.

Other widely read commodity-related stories on the GTR site have covered some of the industry solutions launched collaboratively by banks, government agencies and technology partners that aim to solve issues such as duplicate financing and prevent fraudulent practices. Time will tell how effectively they’re able to do so, and in the meantime the message persists that financing continues to be concentrated at the top end of the market as lenders become more stringent about their requirements.

Another major theme of interest to readers over the course of the last year – and boosted by the Covid-19 pandemic – has been the pivot towards sustainable investment and practices. Popular GTR stories within the commodities sector have focused on the increasing number of sustainability-linked loans that involve a set of KPIs for borrowers to improve their sustainability profile and earn a financial incentive. We’ve also tackled wider issues such as flip-flopping government policies around support for fossil fuel projects. Elsewhere, within this space, we’ve published stories about financial institutions’ ties to projects that have been called out for their breach of sustainability agreements and contribution to climate change, with new recommendations being put to the financial sector to limit exposure to such activity.

This publication, our first of the new year, provides us with an opportunity to take a closer look at some of last year’s trends within the commodities space. In our fintech feature, we zero in on commodity-focused blockchain platforms and analyse the extent to which these solutions are able to mitigate the risk of fraud in the sector, and the impact that the recent departure of banks from commodity finance is having on their business.

Our commodity leaders report profiles the views and future plans of three relatively newly appointed business heads, who touch on the need to rehabilitate the image of the commodities sector, the prospect of increased client due diligence in 2021 compared to previous years, and the increasing importance of ESG in the wake of Covid-19.

Elsewhere, our legal roundtable report, which features six top trade finance lawyers, takes a look back at the recent disruption within the commodity finance industry, and explores the lessons to be learned and ways to reduce future risks.

Our sustainability section also includes a roundtable discussion – this time focusing on the humanitarian and economic challenges that have ensued as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The discussion brought together five women leaders from across the trade ecosystem to talk about their leadership principles as they help their teams and organisations survive, and thrive, during the current crisis, as well as what institutions can do to support the most vulnerable companies – including those owned and run by women – through this difficult time.