In general, HYPO NOE employees must bear in mind the Group’s ethics guidelines and business principles, as well as reputational risk and any risks associated with specific transactions. Reputational risks can arise in connection with loans to borrowers operating in industries that are not compatible with the image and values of HYPO NOE or its owner, the State of Lower Austria. The ethics guidelines and business principles comprise inclusion and exclusion criteria, which are the basis for initiating new business throughout HYPO NOE.
Positive criteria help the Group to promote activities that it believes generate the greatest possible benefit for society. In contrast, exclusion criteria help to identify sectors where the Bank chooses not to operate, in the interest of fulfilling its social responsibilities.
In addition, the Group has defined certain sectors as environmentally or socially sensitive – financing in these sectors is subject to strict standards of care, and in case of doubt the Group refrains from doing business in the sector concerned.
HYPO NOE is committed to the international and national climate targets and, within the framework of its environmental and climate strategy, is guided by the current climate and energy strategy ("#mission 2030") of the Republic of Austria. These form the basis for the positive criteria regarding any initiation of new business relations and simultaneously act as the strategic guidelines for the entire HYPO NOE organisation:
This includes the financing of social infrastructure and housing construction: Particular backing is provided for transactions promoting the construction of socially and environmentally sound housing projects (non-profit housing).
A further focus is on the promotion of the use of sustainable energies and environmental protection as well as the promotion of education and cultural activities The positive criteria formulated here, as well as the "sustainability references" listed in point 2, are compared with the categories of the EU taxonomy adopted in December 2019 from the "EU Action Plan for Sustainable Growth".
Furthermore, HYPO NOE aims to identify business opportunities that potentially have a strong impact on climate change and high CO2 emissions in order to address these with its business partners.
- Finance for nuclear power plants (including suppliers of key components and related infrastructure, as well as uranium mining and processing)
- Finance for transactions that endanger the environment
- Finance for arms trading
- Finance for transactions related to pornography and prostitution
- Finance for countries engaged in armed conflicts, as identified in the OeKB country list
- Finance for transactions that constitute a violation of human rights, as defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
- Finance for transactions that violate the core conventions of the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, e.g. freedom of association and the right to organise, forced labour, child labour and discrimination
- Finance for transactions that contravene the Group’s own business ethics and compliance guidelines, and transactions where there is suspicion of corruption
- Finance for coal-fired power stations and coal mining businesses, and finance for energy suppliers which predominantly use coal to generate electricity
- Finance for transactions that breach the EU’s animal welfare and animal experiment legislation
- Finance for the production of genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
- Finance for tobacco farming and processing
- Finance for mining companies in connection with the development of new coal mines or expansion of existing coal mines of any kind (unless this relates to technical upgrades which will improve environmental and/or social conditions on site, or the renaturation of mining sites), or with particularly destructive mining practices (e.g. mountaintop removal [MTR] mining)
- Finance related to controversial hydrocarbon production practices (crude oil and natural gas), such as Arctic drilling, oil/tar sand mining, deep-sea drilling, oil drilling in protected or environmentally sensitive areas, and fracking
Environmentally and socially sensitive sectors
HYPO NOE exercises particular care when providing finance for the environmentally and socially sensitive sectors of energy production, mining, forestry and agriculture. The Group believes that avoiding environmental and social risks in these areas is vital to the responsible and sustainable development of its target markets. This includes preventing large-scale, long-term intervention in social and environmental structures, and promoting water conservation.
Finance for projects that exacerbate the impacts of climate change and CO2 emissions has also been identified as a key issue. The Group takes steps to identify lending that will intensify the effects of climate change or increase CO2 emissions, raises these issues with its customers, and in this way helps to reduce the overall carbon footprint. This approach is also integrated into HYPO NOE’s environmental and climate strategy, which was adopted in 2019.