ING’s role in a sustainable world: in words and pictures

The Global Goals on decent work and economic growth and responsible consumption and production are ING’s priorities, writes Radoslav Georgiev, group sustainability advisor.

We believe that companies have a responsibility to prepare society for periods of accelerated change, caused by structural upheavals such as AI and climate change. If we want to live in a healthy sustainable world, we all have a role to play – people, companies, governments and organisations.

ING’s purpose is to empower people to stay a step ahead in life and in business. Climate change and fast-evolving technology present the biggest threats to our customers, and it’s up to us to transform them into opportunities. That’s why our initiatives are focused around ways to build the low-carbon and self-reliant society of the future.

As a large bank, ING directly and indirectly contributes to the sustainable development goals (SDGs) through the clients and projects we finance. We have committed to contributing to a low-carbon and self-reliant society, so our primary focus is on the SDGs promoting sustainable and inclusive economic growth (goal 8) and sustainable consumption and production (goal 12). We work with other financial institutions, multinational enterprises and industry organisations to advance our understanding of the SDGs and assess where we can have the most impact.

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How we apply the SDGs

As a global bank, our main impacts on the SDGs relate to our finance activities. To minimise our negative impacts we need to make transparent choices about how, where and with whom we do business. We do our best to ensure we are not misaligned. We check every transaction and every client against our environmental and social risk policies. If they don’t meet our standards, and aren’t willing to change, we do not sign a deal.

The SDGs help us set priorities in the domain of sustainable business. They help us focus our efforts to maximise our positive impact and reduce our negative impacts. In terms of opportunities, we have set targets to increase lending for sustainable deals and clients and sustainable investments. For example, we aim to double our lending to companies considered to be the environmental, social and governance (ESG) leaders in their respective sector by 2022, compared to 2017 levels. We have the same target and timeline for lending to companies and deals with a clear positive climate and social impact. At the same time we continue to move away from business with companies and sectors with negative impacts on the SDGs. An example is our strengthened coal policy: in December 2017, ING decided to accelerate the reduction of our financing to coal power generation, reducing our exposure to close to zero by 2025.

What ING’s commitment means in practice

In relation to SDG 8, ING has increased its funding for microfinance in recent years as well as offering our technical and financial expertise to the sector worldwide. ING’s activities include a greater focus on innovation through technology and new business models. ING Groenbank, which focuses on social and environmental finance, directs up to 10% of its balance sheet towards social impact finance; up to 10% of related profits are used for education and research. In 2016, ING Groenbank began to diversify its microfinance portfolios, which were concentrated in India and Turkey, by adding more countries and more financial services.

Furthermore, ING contributes to the economies of more than 40 countries where we operate. We spend over €4 billion on procurement and 25,000 suppliers worldwide. As of the end of 2017, ING engaged with 877 suppliers in sustainability performance assessments, helping to drive improvements in workplace standards across supply chains. By asking suppliers to live up to our standards and to work towards continual improvement, we believe we can make a demonstrable positive impact.

In terms of impact through our investments in local communities, we prioritise initiatives around the strategic themes that match our skills and expertise and where we can make the most positive impact. Our Power for Youth partnership with UNICEF has reached over 1 million children since 2005. We also aim to financially empower 25 million customers by 2020 through activities such as the Netherlands’ Financially Fit programme, which supports customers in making better financial decisions. For example, the Kijk Vooruit (Look Ahead) tool gives an overview of planned and predicted transactions, giving users more control over their finances. There are other examples in France (Savings Coach), Poland (Smart Saver), Spain (My Money Coach) and other retail markets.

For SDG 12, we are committed to better understanding the impact of our lending activities and to working with clients to drive sustainable progress. In 2017, we reported €5.5 billion in lending outstandings to industry ESG leaders, and we aim to double this by 2022 compared to 2017. In 2017, we completed the first sustainable improvement loan, which links the interest rate to the client’s sustainability performance and rating (the better the company does on sustainability, the lower the interest rate); the first green hybrid bond, raising €1 billion to fund wind energy in the Netherlands and Germany; and the UK’s first green bond in the public utilities sector (water).

We drive responsible consumption and production through our sustainable lending activities; we select companies whose activities consider people, society and the environment. We believe these companies will outperform on return and impact in the long term. Our commitment to sustainability means our financing to coal power generation will fall to close to zero by 2025; it also ensures that we don’t lend to sectors that exhibit controversial behaviour, such as violations of human rights.

Sustainable Development Goal 8 and 12 – in pictures

ING asked two millennial artists to give us their creative interpretation of the UN’s sustainable and inclusive economic growth and sustainable consumption and production goals, which are ING’s primary focus.

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Sergej Schetselaar:

The Dutch astronaut Wubbo Ockles once said: “We are all astronauts of spaceship Earth”. What he means is that we all have our own responsibility to take action and maintain our spaceship. But making the right decision can be difficult, especially when it concerns a business decision. So how can we convey the 17 SDG’s to as many people as possible? The ING-astronaut explains:

“We create a system that ensures that our partners and clients comply with the SDG’s and enable them to empower others through their services, so that more people can make the right decision and fulfil their part in a path towards a sustainable future.”

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Maus Bullhorst:  

The illustration visualises the god Atlas as an idolater of goodwill. In Greek mythology, Atlas was responsible for bearing the weight of the heavens on his shoulders. Here ING as a bank represents Atlas holding the world with money as his foundation. The globe is a wheel of fortune: referring to the capricious nature of fate and the complex ever changing world we live in nowadays. Is contributing to sustainability a safe bet or a heavy burden to bear?

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