Materiality: defining what matters most

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To improve as an organisation we need to identify, understand and balance the most important topics for our stakeholders and know how these relate to the actions and decisions that we take.

ING has been conducting and publishing a materiality assessment since 2012. This identifies what economic, social and environmental topics we should prioritise to further improve the way we do business and drive sustainable progress in society. The results guide us in our strategic decision-making, stakeholder engagement agenda and reporting framework.

The results and analysis of the materiality assessment have been published in the ING Integrated Report and have shaped its content since 2014.

The 2016 materiality matrix

The materiality matrix as shown below represents the outcome of our 2016 materiality assessment. This year we included a qualitative assessment, enhancing the 2015 (quantitative) materiality assessment that covered over 1,500 respondents across five countries.

The topics with the highest priority for stakeholders and the biggest estimated impact on our business appear in the top right of the chart. The arrows within the chart represent the relative increase or decrease in importance compared to the 2015 results. For an analysis of the results, please refer to page 426 of the 2016 ING Annual Report

How ING approached the materiality assessment

Materiality is a challenging journey we want to approach in the best way possible - it is much more than a ‘tick the box’ exercise. Each year we strive to make our materiality assessment increasingly representative of our stakeholder universe so we can be confident that the outcomes really reflect the most important issues of the moment.

This is a complex challenge, as we operate in over 40 countries and have a great number of stakeholders, each with different expectations. In 2016, ING chose to enhance the materiality assessment done in 2015 by taking a qualitative approach – an external stakeholder dialogue and internal interviews. Adding a qualitative check to the quantitative outcomes of 2015:

  • improves the validity of the results and increases our understanding of stakeholder priorities;
  • does justice to the goal of materiality, to check if we as a company and our stakeholders are truly aligned on material topics;
  • provides us with the opportunity to have an in-depth conversation with several stakeholder groups at once.

Identification of issues through extensive research

The 2015 topics were identified through extensive research that included ING’s own non-financial risk assessment as well as guidelines from international bodies such as GRI G4 and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB).

The materiality survey conducted in 2015 resulted in 18 material topics. In 2016 we built on the results of 2015 for both the internal assessment (interviews) and the external assessment (a stakeholder dialogue). Before that, a media, trend and peer analysis was performed to capture new emerging topics and to ensure the 18 topics reported in 2015 were still relevant.

Prioritisation of topics

  • External prioritisation
  • An external stakeholder dialogue was conducted to capture stakeholder perspectives. The participants represented retail customers, business clients, employees, NGOs, regulators, investors and academics. They were asked to rate our material topics on importance and to choose one or two recommendations for ING to focus on, including emerging topics. This qualitative approach increases our understanding of our stakeholders’ priorities and concerns.

  • Internal prioritisation
  • Internal interviews were conducted with 21 key stakeholders (senior management) within ING covering all the relevant departments. Interviewees were asked to score all 18 material topics and express their opinion on the material and emerging topics.

Representation of our global stakeholder universe

The stakeholders that took part in the materiality dialogue in 2016 (retail customers, business clients, employees, NGOs, regulators, investors, academics) were chosen because they are impacted by - and have an impact on - our business the most. In 2016, due to the qualitative approach, the stakeholder dialogue comprised a limited number of stakeholders based in the Netherlands compared to the 2015 quantitative survey, which covered 1,500+ external respondents across five different countries.

Integration in the content of our Integrated Report and stakeholder engagement approach

We use the outcomes of our materiality assessment to shape the content of our Annual Report. To learn more about the way we did that this year please see the ’What matters most’ chapter and other content in the ING Integrated Report. We also use the outcomes for our proactive stakeholder engagement approach. This is adjusted each year as the most important material issues from the assessment represent the issues that are more significant to our stakeholders.

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