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CHIEF SUSTAINABILITY OFFICER
Report created by Youmna Abdallah
KBC Group N.V. is a Belgian universal multichannel bank-insurer, focusing on private clients and small and medium-sized enterprises in Belgium, Ireland, Central Europe and South-East Asia.
Besides retail banking, insurance and asset management activities (in collaboration with daughter companies KBC Insurance NV and KBC Asset Management NV), KBC is active in, among other things, European debt capital markets, domestic cash equity markets and in the field of corporate banking, private banking, leasing, factoring, reinsurance, private equity and project and trade finance in Belgium, Central and Eastern Europe and elsewhere (mainly in Europe). KBC is an acronym for Kredietbank ABB Insurance CERA Bank.
The parent company, KBC Group N.V., is one of the major companies and the second largest bancassurer in Belgium. It is the 15th largest bank in Europe by market capitalisation and a major financial player in Central and Eastern Europe, employing some 41,000 staff (of which more than half in Central and Eastern Europe) and serving 12 million customers worldwide (some 7 to 8 million in Central and Eastern Europe).
Company Sustainability Activity
KBC aims to respond to the expectations of all its stakeholders and to create sustainable value. As a financial institution, they consider themselves as an important driving force for the real economy and as such have an important direct and indirect impact on society.
KBC aims to avoid or limit the negative impact of their products and services as much as possible, and strives to provide financial solutions and business opportunities that have a positive impact in a number of pre-determined focus domains: environmental responsibility, financial literacy, entrepreneurship and health and longevity. They focus especially on responsible behaviour as the foundation for sustainability at KBC. Lastly, doing business sustainably also means that they must have the necessary financial resilience and pursue strict risk management.
Sustainability is integrated throughout their business operations and in their day-to-day business activities, and is supported by all their employees. Senior management responsibility for sustainability and its governance ensures that their sustainability strategy and goals are integrated into every layer of their organisation and all their core activities.
- KBC Asset Management joined the collective engagement initiative Climate Action 100+ in 2020.
- Took several initiatives to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions going forward. These include installing photovoltaic panels on buildings they own and operate group-wide – reaching an installed capacity of 1.5 MWp in 2020 and resulting in avoided emissions of 245 tonnes of CO2 in 2020 and launching a new green mobility policy for their employees in Belgium.
- Developed a mandatory all-staff awareness e-learning programme on sustainability. They launched the training in Belgium and other countries will follow suit.
- Launched a webinar that dealt with the hot issue of cybersecurity and gave practical advice on how to defend a company against cyber criminals.
- Launched several demos on social media in Belgium on how to recognise phishing and how to protect online accounts. Furthermore, they promoted Febelfin’s awareness raising campaign ‘Be alert to strange behaviour’ to their clients through their public website and social media.
- Continued to offer their clients advice in their branches but recommended that they use their online tools or get in contact with their colleagues from their remote bank branches such as KBC Live in Belgium. KBC Live – founded in 2014 – continued to play a crucial supporting role in meeting their clients’ demands – not only during weekdays but also outside office hours and on Saturdays.
- Since March 2020, a team of seven digi-coaches in Belgium has been contacting clients aged 55 and over by telephone to encourage them to use their digital services. That approach is paying off: the fastest-growing group of digitally active clients is the over-55 age category. Moreover, one in three KBC clients in the over-80 age category uses a digital channel to contact KBC and more than half of KBC clients in the 65-80 age category use digital channels.
- Actively encouraged their clients to shop safely with contactless payments through their range of digital wallets including Apple Pay™, Google Pay™, Fitbit Pay™, Garmin Pay™ and Wena Pay™. KBC Ireland even recorded a 119% year-on-year increase in clients using its leading range of digital and mobile wallets.
- KBC Ireland phoned more than 5,000 cocooning clients who had no online access. These care calls reassured clients in Ireland that they had the necessary support in place to help them with questions regarding Covid-19 and their financial concerns.
- To give special assistance to those who need it most, KBC Ireland introduced a dedicated phone line for their elderly and vulnerable clients.
‘Society as a whole’
- Donated 150,000 euros to hospitals treating coronavirus patients in Hungary. The donation was based on the number of online payments through digital K&H channels.
- The Belgian cancer charity Kom op tegen Kanker organised its yearly event of selling azaleas. As a partner of Kom op tegen Kanker, KBC donated 1,000 plants to the healthcare sector and its staff.
- Together with the Czech Ministry of Health their local team allocated a total of 30 operators for tracking patients infected with COVID-19.
As part of their updated corporate strategy in their Sustainability Report 2020 , KBC has raised their climate-related ambitions to the following:
- Substantially increase the volume of socially responsible investment (SRI) funds by 2025, targeting 30 billion euros, with SRI funds accounting for 50% or more of new production by 2021.
- Target for the share of renewable energy in total lending to the energy sector increased from 50% by 2030 to 65% by 2030.
- Full exit from direct coal-related financing by 2021, thereby dropping the last remaining exception in the Czech Republic for funding of coal-fired power stations for communal heating systems.
- Target for own green electricity consumption increased from 90% by 2030 to 100% by 2030.
- Target to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions raised to 80% by 2030 (compared to base year 2015) rather than 65% by 2030, and goal to achieve climate neutrality as early as 2021 by offsetting the balance.
2020 developments as stated in their Sustainability Report 2020:
- Engaged in constructive dialogues with NGOs in preparation for tightening their current, already far-reaching direct coal financing and energy policy and drawing up a new biodiversity policy.
- In collaboration with Sustainalize – a sustainability consultancy firm – they organised the third seminar on The Future of Non-Financial Reporting. Due to Covid-19 measures, the format of the seminar was changed to an informative webinar in which participants were given insight into the current trends and developments in non-financial reporting and a deep dive on how to comply with the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). You can find a recording of the webinar on the KBC website.
- KBC Securities organised their first two-day Sustainability conference with insights into the EU’s recovery policy and the EU Green Deal, including panel discussions with and keynotes from leading sustainability companies.
- Corporate Banking in Belgium organised client webinars and shared how business could benefit from the EU Green Deal and recovery plans. (A recording of the webinar can be found on the KBC website).
- Stayed in frequent contact with many stakeholders concerning the effects of the coronavirus crisis on their economies and societies at large. (An overview of some of the social initiatives that they took can be found in the ‘Covid-19’ part of the ‘Our approach’ section of their Sustainability Report 2020).
- Organised various information sessions for their internal stakeholders on topics including their climate approach and their more general sustainability strategies. In Belgium, they organised one of these sessions as a feedback session with their Managerial Staff Consultation Committee.
- KBC Belgium Business Unit set up a major initiative to engage in dialogue with business clients and support them in their transition to a greener economy.
- Based on the KBC Asset Management Proxy Voting and Engagement Policy, KBC Asset Management has, in its role of management company of the funds involved, voted on more than 3,950 resolutions at 320 shareholder meetings. In 2020, moreover, KBC Asset Management has joined the collective engagement initiative Climate Action 100+. This is an investor-led initiative to engage systemically important greenhouse gas emitters and other companies across the global economy that have significant opportunities to drive the clean energy transition and help achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.
UN Sustainable Development Goals
UN SDGs Compliance
SDG 3: Good Health and Well-Being
- They develop banking and insurance products that focus on health, healthcare and improving quality of life. Their social projects also focus on themes like health and road safety, and so they contribute to reducing the number of road fatalities and injuries. They promote a good work-life balance among their employees.
SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
- They actively contribute to raising the share of renewables in the energy mix. They invest in initiatives in the field of renewable energy and energy efficiency through their banking and insurance activities and have drawn up an exit programme for the financing of non-sustainable energy solutions.
SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
- Their banking and insurance business supports entrepreneurship and job creation and contributes to sustainable economic growth. They support new businesses and invest in innovation and technology through alliances with startups and financial technology companies (fintechs). They play an important role in protecting basic labour rights, fair pay, equal opportunities and training and development opportunities for all their employees.
SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
- KBC Bank supports the transition to a low-carbon and circular economy. They develop sustainable banking and insurance products and services that meet a range of social and environmental challenges. They actively promote sustainable funds towards their clients, which they see as their first offer and preferred investment solutions. They endeavour to mitigate their own negative impact on the environment by dealing sustainably with energy, paper, water, mobility and waste and by reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.
SDG 13: Climate Action
- KBC Bank applies strict environmental policies to their loan, investment and insurance portfolios. A key focus area of their sustainability strategy and climate policy is their focus on sustainable investments. They take account of the climate performance of investees as well as on active engagement with them. They develop business solutions that help clients reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and make the transition to a low-carbon economy. They limit their own environmental impact and communicate on that. They seek to address climate-related risks and focus on related opportunities in that area.
KBC Bank is evidently working towards sustainability through the publishing of annual sustainability reports which clearly indicates their targets and goals.
In 2020, the group has shown remarkable efforts towards their clients during the Covid-19 crisis, such as the donation of 150 000 euros to hospitals treating coronavirus patients in Hungary, and towards the environment, through their initiatives to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions going forward by installing photovoltaic panels on their buildings.
However, the bank has been involved in money laundering and tax fraud cases as well as tracker mortgage scandals since 2019.
For these reasons, the group has been rated a C.
Analyst Outlook: Negative
Whilst KBC Bank is showing considerable efforts towards mitigating climate change and supporting their communities, the group has been involved in money laundering and tax fraud cases as well as tracker mortgage scandals since 2019. This means that the group has a long way before gaining their clients as well as their community’s trust, and will need to implement remarkable strategies and improve their transparency to prove their commitment towards sustainability.
- KBC Bank Charged in Money Laundering, Tax Fraud Case
- KBC Ireland fined €18.3m for ‘unconscionable’ tracker scandal role
Commitment to Global Initiatives