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Progress on Dutch bank sustainability policies but improvements still needed

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

With the completion of the 18th bank policy assessment of Fair Finance Guide in the Netherlands, it seems that continuous assessment and advocacy for policy improvements is paying off. Many of the banks assessed show improvements in their policies and therefore scored higher on several themes, than they had in the past. ABN AMRO, ING and Rabobank have improved significantly over the past two years, and for the first time FFG NL also included the Fintech bank Bunq, which scored really well.

However across the board women's rights and approaches to tax avoidance are still lagging behind. 

The majority of the banks surveyed, including the three major banks, have inadequate policies for tackling tax avoidance by customers and on women's rights. Many banks have improved their climate policies, but not enough. De Volksbank, with subsidiary ASN, and Triodos also have the best bank policy for sustainability of all the banks studied in 2020 according to the new policy research.

"Good that almost all the banks surveyed have improved their sustainability policy in the past two years." says Peter Ras, FFG NL project lead, "Tackling tax avoidance and efforts to promote equal rights for women could be much better. Banks must also further increase their commitment to climate and animal welfare. The following applies to everything - put good policy into practice! Ultimately, it is all about ensuring that banks no longer harm people, animals and the environment through their investments in companies."

Almost all banks have improved their human rights, climate and mining policies in the past two years. ABN Amro achieved a total of 8 higher scores due to new and better policy. De Volksbank, which already scored very high, achieved 6 higher scores due to stricter policy. ING's policy is lagging behind compared to ABN Amro and Rabobank in areas such as weapons, human rights, labor rights, health and oil & gas. Van Lanschot made hardly any policy improvements.

Anti-tax avoidance and women's rights policies are inadequate

 

Five banks, including the three major banks ABN Amro, ING and Rabobank, still have insufficient policies to combat tax avoidance. For example, they don't ask the companies they finance to be open about their tax payments and settlements with tax authorities. In addition, they do not expect companies to have a system to take immediate action if employees or suppliers are guilty of tax evasion. Six of the eight banks surveyed also fall short in their policies to tackle discrimination against women at companies in which the banks invest, promote women's participation at the top of companies and close the gender pay gap.

Five banks receive higher scores because of improved climate policy in the past two years, but scores often remain moderate (five banks do not exceed score 5-6). ABN Amro and ING are more transparent about the carbon footprint of some of their business loans. ABN Amro has also developed concrete reduction targets for the greenhouse gas emissions of loans to energy companies and real estate. However, six banks have no or completely inadequate targets for phasing out investments in fossil energy (especially oil and gas companies). Four banks are also not yet transparent about their share in the greenhouse gas emissions of all companies and projects in which they invest. De Volksbank and Triodos have by far the best climate policy: they both score a 9.

Bunq

Bunq is a newcomer to the guide and the online bank's investment policy is quite good. Bunq scores an 8 or higher for 12 themes and sectors, including health, human rights and nature. Bunq's assets are invested by the insurer and asset manager ASR.

Follow the FFG NL Dutch reporting here.

You can access the full report in Dutch here.

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