What are the bank's objectives in 2023 regarding sustainability projects?
Our sustainability objectives for this year reflect the long-term commitment to supporting the transition to a green economy and financial health. In the most impactful part of our business, financing, we aim to mobilize globally, by 2025, €125 billion annually in sustainable finance, via loans, capital markets, derivatives, and advisory. The long-term ambition is to align the most carbon-intensive parts of our portfolio with global climate goals, and for this, we are using climate pathways that reach net zero by 2050. We also aim for net zero in our own operations and for this we have set a mid-term target to reduce scope 1, scope 2, and scope 3 business travel CO2e emissions by 75% by 2025 compared to our 2014 baseline.
The key aspects we address locally in 2023 are:
- Financing, the money we loan to companies and customers. Offer green alternatives to products dedicated to all customer categories and increase the volumes mobilized through our sustainable financing.
- The impact of our operations vs. 2022, primarily in energy use and business travel.
- The personalized advice our customers receive based on their financial health.
- The impact of local social programs we partner either to contribute to the financial health of entrepreneurs, people in financial difficulty, and civil society.
According to the ranking made by the research company Corporate Knights in January 2022, ING is in 61st place in the top 100 most sustainable corporations in the world, out of almost 7,000 analyzed. What is the bank's objective, from this point of view?
This ranking reflects the long-term commitment and proven positive impact we as a bank generate. It is a confirmation that ING's holistic approach to sustainability, with objectives to reach net zero in our own operations; steer the most carbon-intensive parts of our portfolio; finance and advise specific clients in line with a net-zero economy and manage climate and environmental risks, is well addressed and we are on the right path. In this perspective, the bank's objective is to continue the set pathways and follow the most up-to-date climate science available, which is the cornerstone of how our loan book's climate alignment sets targets and steers towards them.
An example of new measures ING introduced since this ranking was published. In 2022, we became the first large global bank to stop providing dedicated finance to new ‘upstream' (exploration and extraction) oil and gas fields. In 2023 we've expanded our approach to other parts of the oil and gas value-chain by restricting dedicated finance to ‘midstream' (oil & gas infrastructure) activities that unlock new oil and gas fields, also aiming to reduce the volumes of the traded oil and gas we finance.
Regarding the volunteer programs, how many employees of the bank were involved in such projects? Give some examples of such programs.
Our approach to volunteering aims to bring our colleagues closer to the NGOs who contribute to solving a social problem and also encourage those who are already contributing constantly to a vulnerable group or environmental issue. Every ING colleague can access a day off per year dedicated to volunteering initiatives of his choice, while the bank also ensures contexts in which anyone can contribute. Few examples, from the past year:
- Our Running community supporting ‘'Platforma de Mediu'' @Bucharest International Marathon MIB - 48 runners in 2 days, for @10k, 21k & 42k races.
- The recurring blood donations sessions attract every 6 months an average of 120 donors per session
- Planting trees with Viitor Plus NGO became an autumn and spring tradition for 75-125 volunteers per session.
- Fundraising for preferred causes:
- Adopt a project, an initiative where 64 ING volunteers fundraised in December for their preferred causes, directing towards 12 projects over €55,000. A similar mechanism can be accessed by colleagues who during the year choose to donate their birthdays to a social cause.
- For Swimathon, the biggest fundraising event organized by Bucharest Community Foundation, every year, teams of ING colleagues join forces and for one month they conduct fundraising campaigns for selected projects. 48 colleagues joined in 2023, raising €14,000 and some of them also celebrated their success, by swimming during the official Swimathon Day
Beyond charitable volunteering, our colleagues constantly engage in what we consider skilled volunteering. This means mentoring sessions for entrepreneurs through the Startarium platform, guiding NGOs who need specialized advice in developing their activity or tutoring children and young adults.
What are, in your opinion, the concrete steps that the local business environment must take in the transition to a sustainable economy?
The first step which provides a healthy base and usually works as a domino effect is assessing which business areas that generate the most important impact (primarily negative) on environmental, social, and economic areas. And then, how the climate change effects can impact the way they will do business in the next years (double materiality mapping). Based on this, a mix of relevant objectives and a coherent plan can be developed.
The transition to a green economy is a process and we all learn along the way. For now, at least part of the challenges are common for all businesses. For instance, we all navigate through the limited availability of data, IT system preparations for data gathering, and the need to be ambitious and at the same time inclusive for this transition (e.g. 48% of the economy is based on brown exposures, the significant value of the economy is still provided by companies in this category).
Based on what we have observed in our interaction with local businesses, and this primarily applies to smaller companies and SMEs, the successful businesses in this transition are those who balance addressing the risks (mainly regulatory) with the opportunities (from financing to new business or products).
How will the bank support the development of green products to reduce the carbon footprint and facilitate the transition of customers to a circular economy?
As previously mentioned, our strongest impact is through the financing we provide and we are committed to continue offering alternatives for our customers who decide to opt for sustainable alternatives. From discounts when accessing loans for solar panels, electrical vehicles, or houses with energy label A and construction year after 2021 to corporate bonds and loans.
Complementary, we adopt practices that although generate a limited decrease in the environmental impact, can act as reminders and encourage more responsible sustainable consumption decisions. For instance, our recycled plastic cards, virtual cards, digital ATM withdraws, or products such as SoftPos transform your phone or tablet into a PoS.
How much money has ING Bank invested in the community so far, in Romania?
Since the bank started to operate in Romania, in 1994, there was a constant contribution to philanthropical projects and social support. In 2012, we established a structure for strategic CSR, focusing on contributing long-term to financial health, environmental actions, and overall for vulnerable groups' support. As the programs we built with our strategic partners grew, the investment evolved accordingly, therefore out of the €11 million invested in the past 11 years, €1.2 million were donated in 2022 only.