What is the value of an ESG score in Banking?

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by KnowESG
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The banking sector has begun to pay more attention to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors in recent years. ESG scores are now a crucial way to assess a bank's sustainability efforts and responsible actions. This article aims to explain the importance of ESG scores in banking and how they promote a more sustainable and socially responsible financial sector.

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What are ESG scores?

ESG scores are ratings given to a company based on its environmental, social, and governance performance and risk levels. These ratings are typically assigned by specific agencies like MSCI, Sustainalytics, and Moody's, which analyse various data points and indicators to determine the ESG performance of a bank. The scores are useful for investors, stakeholders, and customers to understand a bank's sustainable practices and responsible behaviour.

KnowESG provides an extensive listing of published ESG scores, as well as progress reports, for a huge number of companies across all major economic sectors. For more information, access here.

Read: Sustainalytics ESG Risk Rating: A Guide for Responsible Investing

Environmental Factors

The "E" in ESG specifically refers to environmental factors. This includes a bank's impact on climate change, their use of resources, and their environmental stewardship. ESG scores are used to assess a bank's efforts to reduce their carbon footprint, lower their greenhouse gas emissions, support renewable energy sources, and manage waste and water resources. Banks with high ESG scores are typically committed to sustainable practices, including green financing and investments in environmentally friendly projects.

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Social Factors

The "S" denotes the social factors that assess a bank's impact on society and its stakeholders. These factors include customer satisfaction, diversity and inclusion, employee welfare, community involvement, and human rights. A high score in the social dimension reflects a bank's commitment to promoting fair and ethical practices, supporting social initiatives like affordable housing or education programs, and expanding financial inclusion.

Governance Factors

"G" stands for governance, which involves evaluating a bank's leadership, risk management practices, and transparency. This includes assessing aspects such as the board structure, executive compensation policies, risk oversight, and internal controls. Good governance practices are linked to improved risk management, accountability, and long-term sustainability. A high ESG score in governance indicates that a bank has a strong corporate governance framework and ethical decision-making processes.

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Why do ESG scores matter in banking?

ESG scores have gained importance in banking due to several reasons:

  1. Risk Management: Banks use ESG scores to evaluate and address environmental and social risks, including those that stem from climate change and unethical conduct, and to integrate these risks into their risk management plans. By taking into account ESG factors, banks can detect possible risks and develop strategies to manage them effectively.

  2. Stakeholder Expectations: Banks are facing rising pressure from customers, investors, and regulators to conduct sustainable and socially responsible operations. Having high ESG scores can improve a bank's reputation, draw in socially aware investors, and address the rising need for ethical banking services.

  3. Competitive Advantage: Banks that have high ESG scores can stand out in the market, appealing to customers who value sustainability and responsible practices. This can result in a larger market share and customer loyalty, which can ultimately lead to long-term profitability.

  4. Regulatory Compliance: ESG considerations have become increasingly important to regulatory authorities globally. Banks with low ESG scores may be subject to regulatory scrutiny, fines, or restrictions, whereas those with high scores are entitled to regulatory support and incentives.

  5. Long-Term Value Creation: Banks can positively impact society, contribute to sustainable development, and create long-term value for all stakeholders by integrating ESG considerations into their operations. This approach is in line with the principles of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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How to calculate ESG scores for banks?

To determine ESG scores for banks, the rating agencies conduct a detailed examination of environmental, social, and governance factors. Although the process may differ slightly between agencies, the following are the general steps involved in calculating ESG scores for banks.

  1. Data Collection: Collect important information from trustworthy sources like the bank itself, public disclosures, regulatory filings, and other reliable sources. This information can consist of financial statements, sustainability reports, policies, and data related to the bank's environmental and social impact.

  2. ESG Framework and Weighting: Create a structure that defines the ESG factors which need to be taken into account. Within this structure, assign importance values to each factor. Environmental, social, and governance aspects are usually covered in this structure, which may differ between rating agencies. 

  3. Environmental Factors: Assess the bank's environmental impact by evaluating its carbon emissions, energy consumption, waste management, and renewable energy initiatives. This will include examining the bank's compliance with climate change objectives, efforts toward resource conservation, and measures for managing environmental risks.

  4. Social Factors: Evaluate how the bank's operations impact society, taking into consideration factors such as its policies related to customer satisfaction, diversity and inclusion, employee well-being, community engagement, respect for human rights, and compliance with labour standards..

  5. Governance Factors: Assess the bank's corporate governance framework, board structure, risk management practices, transparency, adherence to ethical standards, and executive compensation. This evaluation aims to determine the bank's capacity to handle risks efficiently and uphold accountability.

  6. Scoring and Weighted Aggregation: Calculate an overall ESG score by assigning scores to each factor based on the determined assessment criteria and weights in the framework. Make sure to normalise the scores for comparability across banks. Use weighted aggregation to reflect the relative importance of each factor. 

  7. Reporting and Disclosure: Share the ESG score and relevant findings with stakeholders, which may include investors, customers, and regulators. Be sure to disclose clear information regarding the calculation methodology, data sources, and assumptions.

It's worth noting that ESG scores can differ between rating agencies because of variations in their methodologies, data sources, and how they interpret factors. Banks have the option of calculating their own ESG scores using their own frameworks or using external resources.

To evaluate a bank's ESG performance, the process of calculating ESG scores involves meticulous analysis of ESG factors. This is done using transparent methodologies, clear frameworks, and comprehensive data analysis to ensure accuracy and dependability.

Featured Article: More Data, More Transparency: Why Are ESG Ratings important?


ESG scores are crucial for assessing a bank's dedication to sustainable practices and responsible conduct. They allow investors, customers, and stakeholders to make informed decisions and promote positive change in the financial industry. 

When banks take into account environmental, social, and governance considerations, they can effectively mitigate risks, gain a competitive edge, and contribute to a more sustainable and equitable society. Banks need to prioritise sustainable practices to meet stakeholders' evolving expectations and secure long-term success as ESG factors become increasingly important.

Perhaps more importantly, the uptake of ESG-centric initiatives in the banking sector sends a clear signal that developing rigour around data reporting is a necessary component for healthy business operations. Banking relies on trust and solidity. With ESG as an essential part of that built reputation, other sectors may follow suit. 

KnowESG is your trusted source for daily sustainability news. Keep tabs on banking and finance stories at our Investors and Sustainable Finance pages. 

Also, go to our Company ESG Profiles page, select “Financials” in the “All Sector” dropdown menu, and instantly compare ESG scores across the global finance sector.


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