Sustainable development goals

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The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are 17 global goals that the United Nations General Assembly set in 2015 for the year 2030. They address the global challenges we face, such as poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice.

This is the first time that the private sector (i.e. everything other than governments) has been called on to play a key role in achieving the global development agenda. This goes beyond charity. It’s about exploring new business opportunities and defining new ways of doing business that align economic growth with positive environmental and social impact.

Achieving the SDGs could open up an estimated $12 trillion in market opportunities, according to the Better Business Better World report by the Business & Sustainable Development Commission. Seizing such opportunities will require innovation and an enhanced approach to partnerships.

Our strategic focus

As a large bank serving customers in over 40 countries, we contribute directly and indirectly to virtually all SDGs through the clients and projects we finance. We choose to focus on the SDGs that we can impact the most, using our business strategy and purpose to guide us.

Through our approach to sustainability in the areas of climate action, financial health and human rights, and through the customers and projects we finance, we mainly contribute to the following SDGs: decent work and economic growth (goal 8), reduced inequalities (goal 10), responsible consumption and production (goal 12) and climate action (goal 13).

In doing so, we work with other financial institutions, multinational enterprises and industry organisations to advance our understanding of the SDGs and capture impact opportunities.

SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth

SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth

This goal is about inclusive and sustainable economic growth. Banks play a key part here because of their intermediary role in the global economy. The goal involves increasing work opportunities, especially for young people, and protecting people’s labour rights, for example.

In terms of sustainable economic growth, we have a hard stance against certain activities that we will never finance, like fur production and controversial arms industries. Then there are clients and projects that we finance only after certain environmental and social standards are met. Read more about our environmental and social risk approach. We’re also embedding human rights due diligence into our business and are aligning with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Read more about our approach to human rights.

Besides mitigating harm, we also seek ways to make positive contributions to SDG 8. We pursue sustainable innovation through technology and new business models. Our Responsible Finance portfolio contributes to our approach to climate action and financial health.

We believe financially healthy people contribute to a healthy economy and help drive social progress and that we can make the biggest impact on improving financial health through information, innovation, and involvement. We align our efforts in this regard with the United Nations and a group of other banks to help set the standard for financial health impact for our industry. In December 2021 we became one of the founding signatories of the United Nations’ Principles for Responsible Banking’s Commitment to Financial Health and Inclusion. Read more about our approach to financial health.

We also use our expertise to create a positive impact in our communities. Our community investment approach supports programmes that contribute to an inclusive economy, aiming to empower three million people to gain better access to the economy by 2025.

SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth
Programme or policy Impact area ING performance measure Link to SDG target
Responsible Finance* - Social Impact Community development Lending outstandings
(O/S)
8.2, 8.3, 8.5
8.6, 8.9
Financial access and microfinance O/S 8.2, 8.3, 8.5
8.6, 8.7, 8.8
8.9
Responsible Finance - Climate impact Climate action O/S 8.2, 8.4
Responsible Finance - Climate Impact Energy efficiency (O/S) 8.2, 8.4
Energy transition O/S 8.2, 8.4
Alignment with the UN Guiding Principles on business and Human Rights ING as employer: salient risks analysis # identified risks and actions 8.6
Environmental and Social Risk (ESR) policy framework ING Human Rights policy # deals screened;
# deals reported as high risk
8.6, 8.8
Financial Health Feeling of financial empowerment # number of customers who felt empowered 8.10
Power for Youth # adolescents 8.6
Community Investment Programme Community development # of people future- proof employed
# people financially capable
# of people impacted through social enterprises
8,5, 8.6, 8.10

* Responsible Finance categories are linked to SDG targets based on the Green Bond Principles and Social Bond Principles mapping by ICMA.

SDG 10: Reduced inequalities

SDG 10: Reduced inequalities

This goal is about ensuring that no one is left behind in the chance for a better life. As ING, we believe that we can make the biggest impact on this by improving the financial health of our customers and the people in the communities we operate in. We strive to drive social progress by creating equal opportunities and making sure our products, services and facilities are accessible to everyone in a way that best fits their needs and abilities.

We regularly determine the specific financial health challenges in our local markets and address these in each country. The Covid-19 pandemic exposed and worsened existing inequalities. Our community investment approach supports local programmes that contribute to an inclusive economy. We support projects in three areas: future-proof employment, financial capabilities and social enterprises. For example, in 2021 we partnered in Italy with ‘Fondazione Mondo Digitale’ (Digital World Foundation) to train around 6,000 people per year, especially women, in digital and job-orientation skills and help them with professional retraining.

In our financial health ambition, we take vulnerabilities and consumer protection into account. In that sense there is a clear link with human rights. We believe that every person everywhere has the right to be treated with dignity and have their interests considered equally. Our environmental and social risk framework (ESR) includes an overarching policy on human rights to guide us when assessing the clients and transactions we finance.

SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities
Programme or policy Impact area ING performance measure Link to SDG target
Financial Health Feeling of financial empowerment # of customers who felt empowered 10.1, 10.2, 10.3
Community Investment Programme Community development # People empowered through skills development & employment
# people financially capable
# of people impacted through social enterprises
10.1, 10.2, 10.3

SDG 12: Sustainable consumption and production

SDG 12: Sustainable consumption and production

Goal 12 is about preventing the degradation of environmental resources. It includes policies that improve resource efficiency, reduce waste and make sustainability practices mainstream.

ING has committed to better understand the impact of our lending activities and to work with clients to drive sustainable progress. In 2021, lending to industry ESG leaders (based on the scores of independent ESG ratings provider Sustainalytics) grew to €37.8 billion from €28.5 billion in 2020.

We drive responsible consumption and production through our sustainable lending activities. We select companies whose activities consider people, society and the environment, and we also work with our clients to finance and facilitate their transition to low-carbon technologies. We believe these companies will outperform on return and impact in the long term. For example, our commitment to sustainability means our financing to coal power generation will fall to close to zero by 2025. It also means that we do not finance sectors that exhibit controversial behaviour, such as human rights abuses.

For example, ING introduced the first sustainability-linked loan (SLL) for Philips in 2017, where rates are linked to the client’s sustainability performance. Since then, the popularity of these products has increased as more and more companies push sustainability to the top of their strategic agendas.

SDG 12: Sustainable consumption and production
Programme or policy Impact area ING performance measure Link to SDG target
Responsible Finance - Social Impact Food security Lending outstandings
(O/S)
12.3
Responsible Finance - Climate Impact Energy transition O/S 12.4
Sustainable transportation O/S 12.C
Waste management O/S 12.3, 12.4, 12.5
Circular economy O/S 12.4
Responsible Finance - ESG Leaders Lending to industry ESG leaders O/S 12.2, 12.6
Environmental and Social Risk (ESR) policy framework Climate policy # deals screened
# deals reported high risk
12.2, 12.3, 12.5, 12.6
Sustainable procurement Third-party sustainability performance assessments % key suppliers with third party sustainability rating 12.2, 12.3, 12.5, 12.6
Direct environmental footprint Waste generation tonnes 12.4
Environmental and Social Risk (ESR) management Equator Principles (EP) reporting # deals screened 12.2, 12.6

SDG 13: Climate action

SDG 13: Climate action

This goal is about the climate crisis – one of the biggest threats of our time. We lead by example by striving for net zero in our own operations. But our biggest impact is with our financing, via the money we loan to companies and customers. We’ve financed and will continue financing billions of euros in green energy projects through green loans and bonds, sustainability-linked products and other innovative products and financing constructions. Sometimes we say ‘no’ to companies, sectors and projects, like with our decision not to provide dedicated financing for new oil and gas fields, and to reduce our exposure to coal power generation to close to zero by 2025.

Our Terra approach guides us as we steer our portfolio towards the low-carbon technology needed to reach net-zero goals – like hydrogen, carbon capture and energy storage – and away from high-carbon technology. We aim for net zero by 2050 in order to keep global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. Read more about our approach to climate action.

SDG 13: Climate action
Programme or policy Impact area ING performance measure Link to SDG target
Terra Approach Lending portfolio alignment portfolio aligned with well-below 1.5 degree goal 13.A
Responsible Finance - Climate Impact Energy transition O/S 13.3
Responsible Finance - Climate Impact Water (including climate adaptation O/S 13.1
Environmental and Social Risk (ESR) policy framework Climate policy # deals screened
# deals reported
high risk
13.3

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