How we engage
We’ve talked about the ‘why’ of our approach to sustainability in our sustainability direction, and we’ve detailed ‘what’ we do.
Equally important is ‘how’ we do it: we collaborate, we listen and we are transparent.
No one sector, much less one bank, has the ability to solve the world’s problems. We believe that an inclusive approach is the only way we can make any meaningful positive impact. From climate to human rights and financial health, we seek to increase our impact through partnerships and coalition-building.
For our climate approach we worked with the 2˚ Investing Initiative (2˚ii) to develop an open-source methodology to measure our loan book and steer it towards the climate goals of the Paris Agreement. We then personally and individually engaged with more than 40 banks interested in the work ING was doing. This led to 17 systemically important banks joining the pilot with 2˚ii.
Four of these banks joined us in our overarching commitment to steer our loan book in what we called the Katowice Commitment in December 2018. This then turned into the UN-led Collective Commitment to Climate Action, which was signed by over 30 banks in September 2019.
We also collaborate in the area of financial health. The Think Forward Initiative , started by ING and partners, brings together financial experts, policymakers, academics, consumer groups and technology companies. We all work to gain a deeper understanding of the behaviour behind financial decision-making (in TFI’s Research Hub), and then turn that into actual tools that help people (in our TFI Accelerator). TFI’s Community Hub promotes the activities of the other two hubs and conducts campaigns to ensure our work reaches the people that need it the most.
Human rights is also a topic we collaborate on, as part of the Thun Group, the OECD Advisory Group and as part of the steering committee for the Equator Principles. We also participate in learning platforms and promote a shared language among banks, for example through the Shift Financial Institution Practitioners Circle and the Shift Business Learning Programme, to name a few. See more on our memberships page.
We seek out open dialogue with our stakeholders, responding to their views and concerns. Their input helps us balance competing expectations, address issues in an informed way and, crucially, helps us to improve our business.
Retail customers, business clients, employees, investors, NGOs, suppliers, supervisors and regulators are among our most important stakeholders. Rather than having one-off consultations around specific topics, we have an ongoing dialogue about our role in society, our products and services, our business performance and other issues. This is done at both business-unit level and at a global level.
Examples include our approach to materiality, client roundtables; regular meetings with NGOs and other civil society organisations on topics ranging from climate change to animal welfare; targeted stakeholder engagement regarding specific policies in our environmental and social risk framework; and roadshows with investors on sustainability.
We are transparent
We don’t make empty promises. We go beyond commitments to focus on actions and progress. We communicate transparently on those so that we can be held accountable. We share our successes, but also our challenges.
For example, we published our Terra progress report (PDF 7.4 MB) in September 2019, which shows the climate alignment of carbon-intensive sectors in our lending portfolio. While methodologies and standards aren’t yet finalised for each sector, we still proactively shared what we can while working with peers and sectors towards creating viable ways of reporting.
Another example is our approach to human rights. We first identified the main human rights risks present in our clients’ supply chains. We validated that first with NGOs, then with clients themselves. These conversations soon became broader – about their human rights risks, policies and management systems; risk identification, mapping and track record. This proactive engagement, looking deep into our clients’ supply chains, is a unique approach not taken by other banks. You’ll find more about what we learned in our Human Rights Update 2019 (PDF 3.2 MB).