What is green banking

Three current approaches to green banking

“No company will be able to avoid making its business model more sustainable,” says BKS Bank boss Herta Stockbauer. “The climate neutrality sought by both the EU and Austria will bring about major economic and regulatory changes. Just think of the keywords renewable energy, circular economy, decarbonization or biodiversity. "

There are many opportunities in these change processes. In Austria, for example, through the implementation of the planned Renewable Expansion Act, € 500 million in investment volume for projects on the subject of green hydrogen will be mobilized for industry, and around one billion will be invested annually in the expansion of wind, water and solar power . For the first time, private individuals can form energy communities. "With our sustainability expertise, we support companies and private individuals in benefiting from these opportunities," said Stockbauer. "As Austria's most sustainable bank, we have a great deal of know-how on these issues and can be of great help in the areas of green finance including subsidies and green investment."

In 2020, BKS Bank increased its volume of sustainable products from € 400 million to € 580 million. "We are already generating 5.9 percent of total assets with sustainable financing and investment products," explains Stockbauer. “Our goal is to increase this share to 15 percent by 2025.” In 2020, BKS Bank again issued a green and a social bond. With the Green Bond the project “Sustainable energy supply and exhaust air cleaning” of Hermes Schleifmittel Ges.m.b.H. financed. The social bond was launched to finance the renovation of the new Hartberg Rieger middle school. The green savings book was also in great demand. With the new Nature & Future account, which helps to reforest protective forests and keep climate change at bay, BKS Bank has added another very well-received sustainable product to its range in 2020.

The sustainable activities of BKS Bank do not only focus on sustainable products. Stockbauer: “In the Green Deal, the European Commission reports that buildings account for 40 percent of the energy demand. Therefore, the topic of sustainable building and renovation plays a major role for us. Our WohnCoaches advise our customers during the entire construction phase on much more than just about financing structures and subsidies. We also actively set accents ourselves. We have almost completed the phase-out of oil heating systems. Of the 70 properties owned by BKS Bank, only three are currently heated with oil. The conversion of the last property will be completed in 2022. New construction projects such as the BKS-Holzquartier in Klagenfurt or BKS-Lebenswert in Eisenstadt are certified by ÖGNI with regard to their sustainability.

Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI) is also committed to promoting environmentally friendly technologies and will focus even more on renewable energy in the future. The aim of the strategic alignment is to expand credit exposure, especially in the area of ​​wind and solar technologies, which have benefited greatly from the technological advances of recent years.

At the same time, the bank has imposed strict restrictions on itself in connection with the “exit from coal”. The board of directors recently passed a guideline according to which the carbon finance portfolio of the RBI Group, i.e. the sum of the credits relating to thermal coal and thermal coal trading, will be significantly reduced. To put it simply, no business will be done in the future with companies that generate more than 25 percent of their sales from the mining of thermal coal. The same applies mutatis mutandis to energy and trading companies. No new credit commitments will be made for existing such customers and their outstanding balance must be paid off by 2030 at the latest. At the end of 2020, the RBI Group's exposure to such customers was around € 1.4 billion, which corresponds to around 0.65 percent of the Group's total exposure at that time.

Furthermore, RBI undertakes not to provide any new financial services for new or existing thermal coal power plants or mines with immediate effect, nor to participate directly in (re) financing for such companies. "With this strategic decision we are taking an important step on the way to achieving the EU climate targets and are thus doing justice to our understanding of being a responsible entrepreneur," says RBI CEO Johann Strobl. "The exit from coal-related financing - not only on the part of RBI, but more and more banks worldwide - will give the irreversible process of decarbonization additional momentum." With the signing of the global UN Principles for Responsible Banking as the first Austrian banking group in January 2021 RBI has demonstrated its pioneering role, particularly in Austria.

UniCredit, in turn, has partnered with Treedom, an online platform that makes it possible to plant a tree remotely and track its growth online. The UniCredit forest is to emerge from this initiative: at least 90,000 new trees will be planted in Italy, Colombia, Haiti, Kenya, Madagascar and Tanzania. This will help to reduce global CO2 emissions by around 20,542,500 kg over the next 10 years and is equivalent to the CO2 emissions of around 4,400 cars per year.

All employees of the group can take part in this project by planting their own tree in the UniCredit forest free of charge. Employees who want to plant more trees receive a discount. "After Corona, we have the unique opportunity to join forces to transform the Austrian economy into a sustainable, climate-friendly system," hopes Robert Zadrazil, CEO of UniCredit Bank Austria. “As a bank, we are an important multiplier in this regard. With our business decisions, we can create leverage that is far greater than any other industry. But we are also setting a good example - with this project we ourselves will minimize our direct environmental impact. "

The UniCredit Forest is the result of the Global Week of Climate Action, which started in 2019, during which the UniCredit Group called on all employees to develop ideas so that the bank can move even more when it comes to climate protection.