The lending business is one of DZ BANK’s core activities. The subject of responsibility is particularly important in this area: In our lending operations, we systematically assess all loan applications (conventional loans, project finance, and customer-specific trading limits) against relevant sustainability criteria as part of the credit check process. To this end, DZ BANK applies a uniform bank-wide procedure based on a comprehensive sustainability checklist and sector-specific principles. We have been capturing the results since July 2011. In 2015, a new working group began to create a standardized basis for sustainability in the lending business throughout the DZ BANK Group.
Sustainability criteria also played a key role in assessments of loan applications and trading limits in the former WGZ BANK. As part of the merger, we consolidated the two banks’ policies on sustainable lending. From now on, the sustainability checklist will also be used in the lending process of the joint central institution.
DZ BANK’s sustainability checklist, which has been in use since 2009, is based on the ten principles of the United Nations Global Compact and the Equator Principles. We use the list to assess all the factors relevant to a loan that may affect ecological or social risk. The assessments conducted by our experts look at business partners, customers, suppliers, sector, commercial focus, and other aspects. In the year under review, 1,338 loan applications (excluding the former WGZ BANK) passed the sustainability check. This result shows that we are increasingly taking sustainability into consideration the first time that we come into contact with customers – i.e. before a comprehensive assessment is carried out using the internal sustainability checklist. Consequently, we are distancing ourselves from finance projects that do not comply with our sustainability principles and are often doing so at a very early stage of the loan application process.
How the sustainability check works
The sustainability checklist is based on a four-stage traffic light system with levels ranging from exemplary
(green = 1) to dubious (red = 4). It contains ten inspection criteria in four areas (environment, social, anti-corruption, and competition / tax) plus an additional criterion if necessary:
- Environmental protection
- Insurance in case of environmental damage
- Previous usage of company land
- Working conditions
- Respect for human rights
- Protection of heritage, property, and sites of cultural or historical interest
- Protection of neighboring residential areas
- Anti-corruption (corruption in all its forms, including extortion, bribery, and inadequate benefits; increasing employee awareness in order to tackle corruption)
- Competition / tax (compliance with provisions of competition law and tax law; prevention of tax evasion).
As part of the sustainability check, each individual criterion is allocated a value. The overall rating for the loan is obtained by taking the average of the values. If this figure exceeds 3.5, no loan is granted. Loans to cooperative banks and entities in the DZ BANK Group, as well as certain low-risk loan products and exposures that are being restructured, are exempt from the checks.
Sectoral rules for sensitive industries
For the assessment of loan applications from sensitive industries, such as forestry and extraction of raw materials, DZ BANK uses its sectoral rules in addition to the sustainability check. These provide a frame of reference for loan approvals. Processing in accordance with the sectoral rules is an integral part of the sustainability check.
So far, sectoral rules exist for forestry, extractive industries, dam projects, and maritime industries. DZ BANK uses the fundamental sustainability checklist to assess loan applications from the agribusiness and livestock farming sectors. At the same time, we do everything we can to make sure that our customers adhere to animal welfare standards and to environmental, animal welfare, and consumer protection legislation.
Rejection criteria for lending
Since 2005, DZ BANK’s lending guidelines have set out how to deal with sensitive industries. In 2014, we translated these guidelines into criteria for rejecting loan applications, which the customer relationship managers use for guidance and which they take into account when assessing loan applications. The criteria currently apply to weaponry, pornography, gambling, significant environmental risks, and human rights abuses. In Autumn 2017, the Board of Managing Directors also resolved to reject all new future requests for project finance for coal-fired power stations.
DZ BANK rejects loan applications in connection with all types of weaponry outside NATO or in areas of tension, or for which the German Federal Security Council has not given its consent. In addition, DZ BANK avoids loans that support the production or trading of controversial weapons, specifically cluster bombs and landmines.
Significant environmental offences
DZ BANK rejects loan applications for companies and projects posing a significant risk to the environment, such as uranium mining.
Coal-Fired Power Stations
DZ BANK excludes new project finance for coal-fired power stations.
DZ BANK does not lend to borrowers from the pornography industry or similar sectors (prostitution).
DZ BANK does not grant loans to companies involved in controversial forms of gambling.
Significant human rights abuses
DZ BANK does not lend to companies that contravene internationally accepted standards of human rights and labor.
Sustainability seminars for multipliers
Since 2011, DZ BANK has been providing training on sustainability criteria for loans to the multipliers working in its lending business. In recent years, employees mainly from the corporate customer and credit analysis divisions have attended the seminar on sustainable lending as part of DZ BANK’s general professional development program. The training courses teach employees about DZ BANK’s conception of sustainability and how this is put into practice in day-to-day lending. The instruction modules are designed to enable course participants to support their departmental colleagues in using the sustainability checklist.
Going forward, all employees that handle financing inquiries will be required to complete our new online training course on sustainable lending. We postponed the planned launch of the course in 2016 because of the integration work involved with the merger. The online training is now scheduled to begin in the second half of 2017. The aim of the course is to make our employees more aware of the relevance of this subject and, at the same time, to provide specific assistance in how to assess financing inquiries for sustainability.