Going green isn’t always black and white

24 November 2023 ... min read

We all need to change if we’re going to achieve net zero by 2050. The uncomfortable truth is that it’s complicated. It’s messy.

At ING, we don’t think it’s about being completely sustainable or not sustainable at all. Going green isn’t a black and white equation. Society is transitioning, as are our clients and as is ING. Our role is to support those who are willing to change. This means that while we finance billions of euros in sustainable clients and projects, we still finance more things that aren’t green. This is a reflection of where society is in its transition.

We want to be a banking leader in financing this transition to a low-carbon economy. What have we done so far? Here are five things we’re proud of.

  • We were one of the first banks to commit to the Paris Agreement’s climate goals and one of the first to develop a detailed science-based approach that helps us to get there.
  • After the International Energy Agency said reaching net-zero goals meant no new oil & gas fields, ING was the first large global bank to stop financing projects for new oil & gas fields. We also restrict financing for the related infrastructure.
  • We were the first global player to say we’d reduce financing to coal-fired power plants to close to zero by 2025.
  • We invented the sustainability-linked loan, which is now a standard among financial institutions, and we continue to innovate with green products and services.
  • Collaboration is a key part of our approach. We’ve led or co-led working groups to come up with climate impact measurement and net-zero methodology standards for sectors including shipping and steel, and we’re working on aluminium.
sustainable buildings

Cement & sustainable buildings

Cement is made through a highly polluting production process. But no other material is so widely used in construction and the world can’t just stop building until it’s decarbonised.

The challenge? Decarbonising cement requires massive investments in new technologies. There’s no immediate pay-off and very disciplined tracking is needed to make sure these investments are doing what’s intended.

The good news is that the cement sector has large global players. This means new technology can be more effective, used more widely, and at a quicker pace. Heidelberg Materials and Cemex are such global players and are our clients. We advised Heidelberg Materials on a sustainability-linked bond in 2023 tied to ambitious CO2 emission reduction targets. As for Cemex, we were the sole sustainability coordinator in the refinancing of $3 billion in sustainability-linked loan facilities, which were based an updated sustainability-linked finance framework published in October 2023 (we also helped with the original in 2021). It now includes more ambitious sustainability targets.



Lithium mining can be very resource intensive and requires responsible sourcing to manage and avoid human rights impacts. But it’s also needed in e-cars and plays a critical role in the net-zero transition of the automotive industry.

Lithium is the core component of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, which are used to store energy generated from renewable sources such as wind and solar.

We support our clients active in the metals and mining sector to help create a sustainable supply chain for batteries. We also call on governments and policy makers to create standards for and enforce recycling of EV battery, establish localised battery value chains and promote circular practices to ensure resource efficiency.

Wind power

Wind power

Wind power is one of the most important clean energy sources, yet it’s difficult to make the production of windmills completely green.

Steel is used widely in building windmills, and making steel is a carbon-intensive process that is still very much dependent on coking coal. Options to help the sector transition include carbon capture, utilisation and storage of carbon, and using hydrogen in the steelmaking process rather than coal. We engage with clients on these topics regularly and support them in making the changes needed.

We led a group of banks in developing the Sustainable STEEL Principles, which created a standard way for steelmakers to report their CO2 emissions and for banks to report on the carbon intensity of their steel portfolio. This makes it possible for banks to engage with clients on where they are in decarbonising compared to where they should be, and how they’re going to get there.

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