Being environmentally and socially responsible

    Responsible Financing

    Why this is material to us

    The growing threat of climate change and the urgent need for sustainable development poses both business risks and opportunities for the banking industry. It is imperative that we manage the evolving Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) risks impacting our financing activities. We also have an opportunity to develop new solutions that can finance the transition to a low carbon economy and a more sustainable future.

    Our aspiration is to be the leading bank for responsible and sustainable finance in Asia. Central to this aspiration is our longstanding commitment to taking a long-term view on how we create and sustain value for our shareholders, for our clients and for society. This commitment informs our approach to responsible and sustainable financing.


    Our responsible financing approach

    Managing risks and ensuring that we are lending responsibly have always been key tenets of our approach at OCBC.

    Over the years, as the disruptive forces impacting business have evolved, so has our approach to responsible financing, which we continue to strengthen.

    Our Responsible Financing approach integrates environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations into our credit and risk evaluation process for our lending practices and capital market activities.

    Specifically, we will not engage in or knowingly finance any activity where there is clear evidence of immitigable adverse impact to the environment, people or communities. At a minimum, we expect our customers to meet all local ESG-related laws and regulations. Beyond that, we seek to positively influence our customers' behaviour by engaging them in further adopting appropriate sustainable practices to meet higher ESG industry expectations over time.


    Our ESG risk assessment process

    Implemented in 2017, our ESG risk assessment process ensures that we integrate the management of ESG risks into our credit and risk evaluation process.

    All applicable new and existing corporate, commercial and institutional client transactions are subjected to our ESG risk assessment process.

    We take a risk-based approach towards managing ESG risk where transactions that carry high ESG risks are subject to enhanced evaluation and approval requirements.

    Save a copy of our ESG risk management process (149KB)

    Exclusion list and sector-specific policies

    Our exclusion list

    Our exclusion list lays out the activities we will not finance. Some of these are sector-specific while others are cross-cutting.

    Our sector-specific prohibitions include:

    • Energy: We will not provide new financing for coal-fired power plants.

    • Mining and metals: We will not provide new financing to thermal coal mines.

    • Defence: We will not provide financing for the production or trade in controversial weapons and munitions for offensive warfare (e.g. nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions).


    We also prohibit the financing of:

    • The production or activities involving harmful or exploitative forms of forced labour or harmful child labour.

    • Projects located in or have significant impact on United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage Sites and Wetlands of International Importance designated under the Ramsar Conventions well as the trade in wildlife or products under Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), among others.

    • Production or trade in wildlife including products regulated under the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and United for Wildlife Financial Taskforce.


    Our sector-specific policies

    Our sector-specific policies outline our requirements and expectations of clients in sectors with high risk of potential environmental and social impacts.

    We continue to evolve our framework by developing new policies or revising existing ones in response to a dynamic external environment.

    In 2019, we developed three additional sector-specific policies covering chemicals, infrastructure and waste management. Our sector-specific policies now cover all the industry sectors identified as ‘high risk’ by the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) Responsible Financing Guidelines.

    For example, we require our borrowers to have policies or procedures against deforestation and to preserve or enhance identified high conservation value areas. The requirements that we have set out under these policies reference IFC Industry Sector Guidelines, as well as relevant standards and conventions from organisations such as the Roundtable Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association (IPIECA), Equator Principles Association and others. In addition, we have referenced ABS Haze Prevention and Fire Risk guidelines, which set out requirements for borrowers including not performing open burning, adherence to local regulations regarding the use of peat and others.

    OCBC sector-specific policies:

    • Agriculture & Forestry

    • Chemicals

    • Defence

    • Energy

    • Infrastructure

    • Metals and Mining

    • Waste Management


    ESG resources and training

    We have dedicated resources that focus on the management of ESG risks and the effective application of our ESG policies.

    We established a taskforce in 2016 to spearhead the further development and implementation of our Responsible Financing policies. This taskforce, comprising representatives from business units and risk functions across the OCBC Group, meets regularly and shares ESG developments and business implications. We currently have seven dedicated ESG specialists which have been appointed to cover both business operations and risk management.

    Our Sustainability Council, which is made up of our Group CEO and senior management, identifies, manages and monitors material ESG matters including climate change risks and opportunities. It is also responsible for the development of OCBC's sustainability framework and is updated on ESG developments on a regular basis. On an individual and collective basis, the Council members actively participate in sessions and workshops conducted by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and regulators on Responsible Financing and other ESG considerations.

    Our relationship managers and credit approving officers are trained periodically in the area of Responsible Financing to strengthen their capabilities in assessing ESG issues and risks, and they are updated on developments in OCBC Bank's sectorial policies.


    Engagement with stakeholders

    We regularly engage our key stakeholder groups, as this allows us to deepen our understanding of their concerns.

    As part of our ongoing dialogue with our customers, communities, NGOs and regulators, we share our progress on Responsible Financing and exchange views on global sustainable developments. In addition, we participate actively and contribute our feedback at workshops organised by policymakers, think tanks and industry associations. We continue to engage NGOs that share our view that sustainability is an ongoing journey for companies.


    Signatory to United for Wildlife Financial Taskforce

    OCBC is a member of the United for Wildlife Financial Taskforce, a leading global effort to combat illegal wildlife trade. We recognise that the illegal wildlife trade — among the five most lucrative global crimes — has a devastating impact on the dwindling populations of endangered wildlife left in the world. We are committed to ensuring that the Bank does not facilitate or tolerate financial flows derived from the illegal wildlife trade and the corruption associated with it, such as the sale of illegal wildlife products.

    Sustainable Financing

    Our sustainable financing approach

    As a bank, OCBC Bank aims to partner with like-minded clients that contribute to sustainable development in society, by offering bespoke and credible sustainable financing solutions.

    In particular, we understand the important role banks need to play to support the transition to a low carbon economy. The Bank has seen a significant increase in the demand for sustainable financing in recent years due to better awareness and heightened efforts to combat climate change.

    Led by our dedicated Sustainable Finance Team, OCBC Bank completed more than 20 green loans and sustainability-linked loans in 2019 and has been ranked number 1 Mandated Lead Arranger for green financing league tables in the region. In June 2020, OCBC Bank has set an ambitious new target of S$25 billion by 2025 for its sustainable finance portfolio, having surpassed its original S$10 billion target in the first quarter of 2020 – two years ahead of its 2022 schedule.

    Looking ahead, we expect more diversification in industries and countries as our clients embark on their sustainability journey. As the concept of sustainable financing evolves, OCBC Bank will continue to develop a comprehensive and innovative range of solutions targeted to meet the changing needs and opportunities in the markets where our customers are active in.

    OCBC SME Sustainable Finance Framework

    In 2020, we launched the OCBC SME Sustainable Finance Framework. The aim of the framework is to make it simpler for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to access sustainable financing of up to S$20 million.

    The framework is applicable to SMEs that are involved in sustainable activities across eight Green Project Categories eligible under the Green Loan Principles developed by the Loan Market Association. For more details refer to OCBC SME Sustainable Financing page.


    Notable Sustainable Financing Transactions

    Climate change statement

    Why this is material to us

    Climate change has had a significant impact on our planet. With rising global temperatures leading to shrinking ice sheets, rising sea levels and the increasing prevalence of extreme weather events, it is widely acknowledged that climate change poses the greatest environmental challenge to our society and businesses today.

    OCBC recognises that our financial success is intrinsically linked to the overall health of the markets we operate in. We are committed to advancing environmental and social (E&S) progress and to conducting our business in a responsible manner. By doing so, we will be able to support sustainable development in our markets and communities and create long-term value for our stakeholders.

    Our Climate Change Statement affirms our support for the Paris Climate Agreement, which aims to keep the increase in global average temperatures to "well below 2℃ above pre-industrial levels". We believe that decarbonisation of the economy must be managed responsibly over time and will adopt a progressive approach to promote the transition to a low-carbon economy. This is aligned with our focus on Sustainable Development Goal 13 of taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

    Our Commitments on Coal Sector Lending:

    • We prohibit new financing of Coal-fired Power Plants.

    • We prohibit new financing of Thermal Coal Mines.


    As part of our ESG Risk Assessment Framework, we perform enhanced E&S due diligence on our clients for all energy-related loans, referencing:

    • International Finance Corporation (IFC) Performance Standards;

    • Equator Principles (EP); and

    • Local/National laws and regulations.


    Under our credit evaluation process, we conduct ESG risk assessment on borrowers at least once a year throughout the financing tenor. Additional assessments are conducted if and when significant ESG events arise. In addition, we may impose covenants in our credit facilities that require the borrowers to comply with ESG requirements. If the covenants are breached or our ESG expectations are not met, we will reassess the client relationships, including turning down transactions.


    Increasing Sustainable Financing

    We will continue to seek and realise opportunities to partner our clients on sustainability performance-linked loans. By offering reduced interest rates for independently-assessed improvements in their ESG indicators, our clients will be financially incentivised and empowered to find innovative ways to enhance their sustainability performance. We are committed to channelling funds to support environmental investments which will in turn spur economic and climate resiliency across our core markets. The green bond market has emerged as an alternative source of funding and a platform to support the financing of qualifying assets/projects that combat climate change and its impacts. These qualifying assets/projects may include renewable energy, energy efficiency, sustainable water and wastewater management, green buildings and others.


    Disclosure on Our Climate Change Efforts

    OCBC recognises the importance of transparency and believes widespread climate-related disclosures can help drive global transition towards a low-carbon economy. In 2019, OCBC became a signatory to and expressing our support for the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). We have set up an internal working group that will lead our efforts on implementing the recommendations set out by TCFD. Moving forward, we will continue to enhance our climate disclosures.


    Moving Forward

    Sustainability is a journey and OCBC recognises that more needs to be done to support sustainable development. In line with this approach, we will continue to refine our climate change statement and enhance our responsible financing policies over time. Together with our customers, we will work towards further adopting appropriate sustainable practices and standards laid out by local regulations and to continue to reference international standards and industry best practices.

    Environmental footprint

    Why this is material to us

    Minimising our footprint on the environment and maximising our positive impact on environmental sustainability.


    Our approach

    Our direct environmental management efforts are focused on three key areas:

    • Sustainable Buildings and Operations:
      Improving the environmental performance of our buildings and operations by obtaining the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) Green Mark Certification and adopting best practices relating to energy, water, and waste.
    • Sustainable Procurement:
      Prioritising the procurement of more eco-friendly products and services during the screening and selection of suppliers, wherever feasible.
    • Promoting Environmentally-friendly Behaviours:
      Engaging our employees, customers and the wider community to raise awareness of climate change and promote environmentally responsible behaviours.

    Featured programmes/initiatives

    • Retrofitting our buildings, including the upgrading of central air-conditioning chillers and installing motion sensors to control lighting in office lobby and car park.

    • Purchasing of biodegradable serviceware and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified paper for office use.
    • Encouraging our customers to switch to e-statements.

    • Eliminating the use of plastic bottled water at all of our customer branches and selected offices in Singapore.