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Sustainable banks in Germany still lead responsible investing

Thursday, September 17, 2020

In it's fifth assessment out today Fair Finance Guide Germany examined whether or how well German banks and savings banks respect human and environmental rights. The assessment examined the published commitments of 16 financial institutions on the basis of more than 280 criteria and their compliance with international sustainability standards. (The complete results are available in German here)

The best ratings once again go to sustainable banks GLS Bank (95%), EthicsBank (94%) and Triodos (88%). In addition church affiliated banks - KD-Bank (81% ) and Pax-Bank (80%) from Cologne - performed well (80% +). The Sparkasse KölnBonn (+43%) showed the strongest improvement, whilst the Düsseldorf City Savings Bank (17%) has improved, but remains at the bottom of the Fair Finance Guide Germany ranking.

"It is good news that banks from North Rhine-Westphalia are committed to stricter criteria in terms of social and environmental sustainability and improve their ranking. More and more people are looking for a financial service provider that acts and invests sustainably," says Christiane Overkamp, Managing Director of the North Rhine-Westphalia Environment and Development Foundation.

"It is very important to us to have an intensive and constructive dialogue with the banks, because this is the only way can we achieve lasting sustainability," says Richard Buch, project coordinator of the Fair Finance Guide.

ING (55%) and DKB (44%) were evaluated for the first time by FFG Germany and both are placed midfield. 

Banks' commitments in the field of climate protection (+12%) have improved in particular, with an impact on the oil, gas and energy production sectors. Gender equality is the biggest catch-up. On average, banks only achieve only 39% score though, and most banks have little or no gender guidelines for financing and investment.

For the first time, FFG Germany checked whether banks have exclusion criteria for investments supporting novel autonomous weapons systems. These weapons can make autonomous killing decisions without the human involvement - contrary to current international law. Only GLS Bank and EthicsBank have so far published explicit exclusion criteria, and the KD Bank is sensitized.

"Because neither EU nor national level policy makers have succeeded in defining sustainable investment comprehensively enough - let alone regulating it - the commitments of German banks in terms of environmental and social standards are becoming increasingly important," says Thomas Küchenmeister, Managing Director of Facing Finance which coordinates Fair Finance Guide Germany.

"Unfortunately, the EU taxonomy does not constitute an all-encompassing definition of sustainable investments, because it focuses only on six ecological objectives and especially the climate-relevant area of sustainability and continues to ignore the factors of social sustainability and corporate governance," says Uli Lohr of SÜDWIND Institute.

Sparkasse KölnBonn shows that the valuations are also an incentive for the participating credit institutions to strengthen their sustainability profile and thus their self-commitment. After criticism from FFG Germany, the institute removed controversial shareholdings (including all arms producers) from the "Deka Dividend RheinEdition Fund". Many consumers have repeatedly spoken out in favour of such exclusions in surveys.

"Since ethical-ecological action by banks is important for more and more consumers, we would like to see a stronger improvement from all credit institutions in the middle and back places for the next year," comments Dr. Annabel Oelmann, Head of the Bremen Consumer Centre.

Finally, in the practical check, conventional banks, such as Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank or DZ Bank, are still sometimes heavily burdened. For example, samples for Deutsche Bank (53), Commerzbank (25) and the Cooperative DZ (19) continued to show financial relations with controversial mining and defence companies, among others. 

The review of banks of the Fair Finance Guide Germany with a focus on North Rhine-Westphalia was supported by the Foundation Environment and Development North Rhine-Westphalia.

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