Kaitlin Crouch: the right person in the right place at the right time
Kaitlin Crouch is Climate Lead at ING and the lead editor of ING’s Terra report, which was launched in 2019. Her work is about establishing what the Paris Agreement means for individual companies and how financial institutions can support them and help them to cut through the noise.
How did you become a changemaker at ING?
I've been involved in sustainability throughout my entire career. Sustainable development and ‘green theory’ were keen interests of mine while I was at university, and then I ended up writing my thesis on the impacts of the financial crisis on the sustainability agenda for financial institutions. As a result of that, I became really interested in ING’s work and began my career at the bank’s sustainable procurement department.
In 2015, I joined ING’s Global Sustainability team, where I launched and built up the environmental programme for a few years. The Paris Agreement was signed around the same time, and it became clear to me that the financial sector needed to get more involved. The financing needs of achieving climate goals are so acute that it became a strategic focus for ING to see how we can play a positive role in supporting our clients’ transitions.
I was in the right place at the right time. Now, I can influence and support banks to understand their role and which are the right tools and insights they need to move forward. It’s very exciting.
The Terra report underpins much of ING’s sustainability financing strategy. How did you develop the approach behind it?
It was largely a result of collaborating with the 2° Investing Initiative (2DII) to translate their climate scenario methodology PACTA (Paris Agreement Capital Transition Assessment), which was developed for equity and bond portfolios, to corporate lending.
My team and I had spent six months trying to understand what our portfolio impact is in relation to climate goals, and what kind of data is available on our performance. It's not enough for a bank to say, ‘We want to invest more in green’ – we need to know how much green, and what’s considered green. Also, by what date does climate science say we need this?’ The whole point of my team being set up under the Terra initiative was to get a better understanding of what data we need in order to answer those questions and determine what kind of analysis to apply to make sense of where our financing is today in relation to climate goals.
We see Terra as an inclusive approach: we can have a significant impact by supporting clients that have both a willingness and the ability to change. We can provide products and service, finance and insights that can support them in that transition.
Would it be fair to describe ING as a pioneer in this area?
It’s definitely fair in the sense that ING is the first bank worldwide to report in such a comprehensive way on a sector basis as we have done with the Terra report. I get to be the orchestrator in some ways, but I am by no means the only changemaker in this process.
Sustainability is a big and complex problem. It has to be broken down into the simplest terms in order for change to happen on the ground. And it's not something that just one person can do.
I wasn’t expecting it to become such a big client engagement area. Our financial institutions clients have come to us as peers to say, ‘We've seen what you've done and we're really interested in learning from it’. So we’ve been working really hard on getting our peers up to speed – we worked with four other banks intensively in the run up to the Katowice Commitment, for example.
What advice would you give the next generation of changemakers?
Building up expertise requires a lot of learning and listening – especially early on in your career. When you want to be heard, it’s important that you actually know what you're talking about. Because there's so much information out there, it’s critical to really understand your field and communicate in a way that speaks the language of the audience.
Who inspires you, and what have you learnt from them?
Rachel Carson has inspired me greatly. Her book Silent Spring was published in the 1960s, and she was one of the boldest female authors and scientists at the time. Carson used her work to challenge the status quo, which was profit at the cost of environmental and public wellbeing, even though she received a lot of harsh criticism from industry and lobbyists. She advocated for science and facts, and made them accessible to the average consumer – in a way, she was the mother of environmental enlightenment.
I could never compare myself to her, but I like to think that the insights we're making publicly available through the Terra report, and the way I’m educating colleagues and decision-makers internally, will be its own sort of enlightenment – one that is needed to steer companies in the right direction.
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