Erste Group is the first bank based in Austria and Central and Eastern Europe to join the United Nations’ Net-Zero Banking Alliance (NZBA) initiative. By doing so, the banking group commits to aligning its lending and investment portfolio to net-zero emissions by 2050 at the latest. In addition to the Net-Zero Banking Alliance, Erste Group is simultaneously joining the Financial Initiative of the UN Environmental Program (UNEP FI) and signing the UN Principles for Responsible Banking. By taking these steps, Erste Group is setting the next milestone in its sustainability policies and activities, having adopted a new coal policy and joined the EU Green Consumption Pledge and the Partnership for Carbon Accounting Financials (PCAF) earlier in 2021. Erste Group plans to be climate neutral in its own operations as early as 2023.
“The strong operating results that we’ve achieved during the first three quarters of this year put us in a comfortable position to devote our full energy to the important strategic initiatives in the area of sustainability,” explains Bernd Spalt, CEO of Erste Group.
“Joining forces with other major institutions under the UN’s leadership helps us in our efforts to strengthen funding for attaining a greener future and reducing emissions. It’s about the task of the century: climate neutrality. We’re continuing on our path towards being a more sustainability-focused bank – and we’re leading the way.”
In general, Erste Group has a low exposure of just over 1% of its total loan portfolio towards such emission-intensive industries as coal-based power generation, steam production, cement production, livestock farming or waste management. Erste Group has a very good starting point for achieving its net zero commitment: its total financed emission intensity is just below 100 CO2e per euro, reflecting the balanced, regional and sectoral distribution of its loan portfolio.
Clear commitments on the way to Net-Zero
A total of more than 80 banks from 36 countries are part of the Net-Zero Banking Alliance. With the combined assets of its members totaling approximately USD 64 trillion, the Alliance represents around 40% of the world’s overall banking assets.
Alliance members commit to setting scenario-based interim emissions reduction targets for 2030 (or sooner) for the highest-impact sectors, i.e., the most greenhouse gas-intensive and highest-emitting sectors. In addition, strict reporting guidelines apply to the annual publication of emissions and emissions intensity or the disclosure of progress as mapped against a transition strategy reviewed at board level.
Erste Group must develop initial targets within 18 months (initially in its sustainability report for 2022), taking into account the most robust, science-based guidelines available, and thereafter disclose them in annual reporting.
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