Baltic banks must be clearer on their sustainability goals – only five out of 24 Baltic banks commit to net-zero

By bne IntelliNews February 20, 2024

Only five out of 24 Baltic banks commit to net-zero, and the rest need to step up, argue Vaida Arlauskaitė and Monika Aleksiejute-Jonusauskiene of the consultancy Viridis Sustainability,, the website of Lithuanian national broadcaster LRT, reported on February 19.

A recent review of net-zero commitments by banks operating in the Baltics, conducted in February 2024 by Viridis Sustainability, shows uneven progress in current practices of sustainability reporting and commitment to net-zero. The trend towards achieving carbon neutrality is driven primarily by subsidiaries of larger banking groups. The majority of smaller local banks, on the other hand, are yet to make formal net-zero commitments, a process that demands significant groundwork to achieve real and meaningful change.

An initial screening for sustainability data and related disclosures revealed that only 11 of those surveyed (46%) publicly disclosed a sustainability report for 2022.

Out of the rest, it found that four banks have a small section dedicated to environmental, social and governance (ESG) matters in their annual financial report and another four have a page on their website to discuss general sustainability principles.

While achieving carbon neutrality in a bank’s own operational emissions is a significant objective, it is considerably smaller – in scope, complexity and impact – than attaining neutrality in financed emissions, encompassing the entirety of their portfolio. 

In fact, according to Net-Zero Banking Alliance (NZBA), a global association driving banks towards net-zero by 2050, “financed emissions are, on average, 700 times greater than banks’ own operational emissions”. The following breakdown shows further examination of the seven (29%) banks that made a clear commitment in the report to reach net zero in operational emissions, with only four (17%) of them indicating relevant interim targets. There are some noteworthy points here. 

The Estonian bank LHV is leading the way – it has already reached net-zero in operational emissions in 2022. Secondly, there is a significant variance in the target year across the surveyed institutions – 2022-2050. Thirdly, SEB Group has an ambitious goal of near zero absolute emissions and takes 2008 as the baseline year, which shows exceptional progress and forward-thinking.

As for reaching net zero in financed emissions, there are five banks (21%) operating within the Baltic States that have officially made such a commitment.

Importantly, Citadele Banka, the only bank that has made an official commitment in its sustainability report but has not set interim targets yet, is also the only one that is headquartered in the Baltics, specifically Latvia, while the other four are subsidiaries of large Scandinavian banks, said.

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