Letter from Head of Group Strategy & ESG

Fiona Melrose

What we ask of ourselves, we also expect from those we work with and have set clear objectives to support our clients in their transition. This means actively engaging with clients in our daily commitment for a just and fair transition.


At UniCredit we believe that leading by example is the right thing to do: ESG is embedded in everything we do, and one of the five strategic imperatives of UniCredit Unlocked.
It is a collective mindset that we all take responsibility for.

UniCredit's ESG strategy reflects our ambition to position ourselves as a bank of reference on ESG issues and is based on 3 guiding principles:

  • hold ourselves to the highest possible standards in order to do the right thing both for our clients and society
  • be fully committed to supporting our clients in a just and fair transition
  • reflect and respect the views of our stakeholders in our business and decision-making processes.

We know that fulfilling our uniting and common purpose of empowering communities to progress would not be possible without the highest standards of ESG across our bank.

At UniCredit, we are focused on delivering a positive and sustainable transition to green energy which does as little harm to the planet and its people as possible. In order to make a just and fair transition for all, we work consistently towards having a positive social impact in line with our role and responsibilities as a social actor.

With a clear multi-stakeholder approach, we have been making strides to integrate all ESG factors into the bank’s governance, business, risk and credit management, metrics and operations.

What we embody ourselves, we demand from those we work with and have set clear objectives to support our clients in their transition. This means actively engaging with clients in our daily commitment to support their energy transition plans and working closely together to accelerate climate action. We aim to raise awareness and provide them with information, tools and education on innovations that can help their business evolve.

One year ago, we targeted 150bn euros of new ESG volumes over 2022-2024 across Environmental Lending, ESG Investment Products, Sustainable Bonds and Social Lending (€10bn up from previous €1bn target) and we have been progressing well towards achieving these goals, mobilizing in 2022, €11.4bn of Environmental Lending, €28.7bn of ESG Investment Products, €12.8bn of Sustainable Bonds and €4.8bn of Social Lending (compared to the Group's cumulative ESG volume goal of €150bn over 2022-2024).

We are committed to reach the Net Zero goal on financed emissions by 2050.

We recently published our targets on the first carbon intensive sectors, as Oil & Gas, Power Generation and Automotive, calculated according the International Energy Agency (IEA) Net Zero 2050 pathway as the benchmark scenario. We will ensure tangible progress with dedicated initiatives focusing on:

  • Strengthening of advisory services for corporates in high emitting sectors
  • Significantly boosting our sustainable lending (green loans and sustainability linked loans) to support our clients in their journey to decarbonise their operations and diversify away from carbon intensive sectors
  • Support to clients in the development and scaling up of innovative climate solutions
  • Targeted partnerships with companies specialised in sustainability for specific sectors.

All the above actions are complemented by our sector policies, including for Oil & Gas and Coal.

As a further demonstration of how ESG topics are embedded in everything we do, we are also part of the Principles for Responsible Banking (including the PRB's commitment on Financial Health and Inclusion), the Ellen MacArthur Foundation network committed to Circular Economy and have signed up to the Steel principles and Finance for Biodiversity Pledge as the first bank from Italy at COP15.
Lastly, UniCredit is the only bank in the CEO Alliance Action Tank focused on accelerating Europe's decarbonisation and digitalisation.

We are likely to be required to evaluate the trade-off between environmental impacts and social repercussions. These are equally important for UniCredit, but we are realistic about their interaction and where we can add most value.
Compromises will be necessary if we are to deliver on our goals for both, but we will make these with our ultimate purpose in mind, focusing our energies on where we can have most impact.

Banks have an important social function which goes far beyond lending. We have a huge responsibility in supporting clients in their own business transformation and guiding financing in the right direction. Our role is to assist our clients and communities in making meaningful progress towards a more sustainable, inclusive and equitable society in the long term.

To this extent, the social component of the ESG pillars has been further enhanced, given its importance.
Also at governance level the social component has been spread across the relevant ESG functions to make sure it was treated with the same engagement.

Therefore in 2022 our Social Strategy has been further defined with enriching the initiatives and pursuing five strategic goals addressed to specific beneficiaries, in line with EU direction: 

  1. Foster financial inclusion and health of vulnerable people and enterprises 
  2. Support corporates to become more socially-oriented 
  3. Ensure communities sustainable progress, with focus on Youth and Education 
  4. Protect categories at higher risk of being negatively affected by the transition 
  5. Ensure positive work conditions for employees.

Moreover, in November the UniCredit Foundation launched its new strategy, actively engaging in projects aimed at combating school dropouts, enhancing employability, encouraging university attainment and promoting study and research of our youth to empower Europe's next generation so they can unlock their full potential.

Our sustainability governance has been significantly strengthened in recent years at both steering and execution levels, underpinning the drive to further integrate ESG criteria into the Group's overall business strategy.

Furthermore, ESG matters are increasingly embedded across our Group through dedicated teams and experts in several Group functions which manage specific ESG aspects according to the area of competency.

Education and training are fundamental to the culture of our bank and to our values of Integrity, Ownership and Caring. It is a core area we continue to work on both, internally and externally.
As an example, in 2022, we reached more than 289k beneficiaries, such as the young, women and fragile individuals, through Financial Education and Financial and ESG Awareness initiatives, externally.

Internally, we launched our ESG University last year, which has dedicated learning resources and training programmes for all colleagues across the Group, including online courses on ESG available to all staff aimed at stepping up general ESG awareness and knowledge across the Group, as well as more targeted courses for specific roles (reaching c. 600 people between 2022 and first half of 2023, in addition to 40 000 colleagues already trained on ESG fundamentals in 2021-22) that are increasingly engaged on ESG topics in their daily work. The latter have been developed together with experts from universities.
We're also providing dedicated ESG programmes for our Group Executives, including in-person workshops, webinars and online resources.

ESG education and training Is also a key area where we support Teach For All across seven of our markets in Europe (Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Italy, Romania, Slovakia and Serbia) - sharing our expertise to train their teacher who teach in disadvantaged areas to ensure equal access to quality education for all.

We will continue to play our part in doing so: cultivating stakeholders’ trust, supporting impactful social initiatives and consistently measuring our results to ensure we are held accountable. This will ensure ESG is at the heart of all our activity as we build a bank for Europe’s future.

Fiona Melrose 
Head of Group Strategy & ESG