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UniCredit reaffirms sustainability commitment with ESG Product Guidelines

Jul 10, 2024, 12:36:41 PMNews by : UniCredit Bulbank
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SeeNext spoke with Bilyana Mladenova – Mileva, Manager ESG Strategy at UniCredit Bulbank, about the lender’s ESG strategy and its implementation. Mrs. Mladenova-Mileva was appointed as Manager ESG Strategy in March 2023. She has extensive experience of more than 20 years in the financial sector in Bulgaria. From 2016 to 2023 she was Head of Corporate Credit Administration and Head of Corporate Development and Sales Management in one of the big commercial banks on the local market. Mrs. Mladenova-Mileva has a master degree in International Economic Relations from the University of National and World Economy in Sofia.

UniCredit reaffirms sustainability commitment with ESG Product Guidelines
Bilyana Mladenova - Mileva

Mrs. Mladenova-Mileva, considering the enhanced focus on ESG reporting and the robust regulatory framework in place, financial institutions face heightened scrutiny regarding their portfolios. Recognizing greenwashing as a rising concern in the sector, what strategies has the UniCredit Group implemented to address and mitigate this risk in its financing activities?

UniCredit Bulbank’ ESG Strategy is fully aligned with the UniCredit ESG strategy and we have clear principles for all aspects of the ESG topic. It is an integral part of our core activities. We want to hold ourselves to the highest possible standards so that we do the right thing for our clients and society. Climate change and the need to transition  to a more sustainable economy have become major global topics and this leads to instances of greenwashing. One of our main priorities is to prevent the risk of green and social washing. In this regard, we have clear rules and processes in place to ensure the transparency of the classification, reporting and communication of all projects that we finance.

In 2022, UniCredit introduced its ESG Product Guidelines Policy and in 2024 the guidelines were officially published on our public website. ESG Product Guidelines rely on our Group’s commitment to and strategy to align with the Net-Zero and European standards. These guidelines aim at establishing a consistent and comprehensive methodology for the classification and reporting of ESG transactions and to prevent the related risks of greenwashing and social washing.

How do you aid customers in setting up and developing their ESG strategies?

UniCredit Bulbank supports its corporate clients in their transition to creating a greener and socially-impactful economy. We are investing in the expertise of our colleagues, more precisely the client portfolio relationship managers. Given  that our service model is portfolio-based, we know  the business of our clients very well and we rely on our relationship managers to be able to identify the best possible solutions for green financing. We have in-debt expertise in project financing , mainly in the field of renewables, and a long-lasting successful history in supporting significant projects in this field.

We realise that we have a responsibility, being the biggest corporate bank on the market and respect the fact that our clients rely on our expertise. In 2023, we started a series of workshops for our partners with the main goal to deep-dive into different ESG topics like new regulations, best case practices from the most exposed sectors, green investments etc.

One of UniCredit Bulbank’s main priorities is to enrich our ESG product portfolio which is focused on simplification, green financing, digitalisation of the service model, financial inclusion and active utilisation of guarantee schemes for improving conditions on energy efficiency investments and on customer loans.

Could you elaborate on UniCredit's ESG product suite and how it aligns with the growing demand for sustainable investment options, particularly in the Bulgarian market?

In 2023, green financing to customers reached EUR 240 mln and loans with social impact amounted to EUR 66 mln. Investments in renewable resource projects by our clients constitute the largest portion of our green portfolio, with over 550 MWh financed in the past year. To name a few  examples - UniCredit Bulbank is the sole financial partner in the construction and operation of the large-scale Tsenovo Solar Plant in North-Eastern Bulgaria and the addition of 112.5 MW of new solar power generation capacity to the national electricity system. The deal to provide a wide range of financial products, including large-scale financing, is backed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), which will guarantee up to EUR 25 mln of the long-term debt. With the closing of the transaction, UniCredit Bulbank reaffirmed its strong commitment to supporting sustainable development in the country. We also support projects with energy efficiency impact. One such  example is the transaction of OFFICE X JSC, signed in 2023, for the construction of new buildings with LEED PLATINUM certificate for efficiency. Apart from  transactions in the field of renewable sources and energy efficiency, we finance special ESG-linked transactions with ambitious KPIs and green commitments, with beneficiary pricing. This way, we are supporting our clients in implementing  more sustainable competitive practices and aim for a common mission – to boost their potential and look for solutions for the future.

 

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