ABN AMRO Groenbank: green savings, green financing

Attracting green savers and using those funds to finance sustainable initiatives – that’s the aim of ABN AMRO Groenbank, which collected over €100 million worth of green certificates for sustainable loans in its first year alone. One initiative Groenbank is financing involves the construction of a climate-neutral hotel for the Van der Valk chain.

Krista Overwater, manager of Groenbank, looks back on Groenbank’s first full year with satisfaction. Not least because in addition to the €100 million in green certificates already received, loans totalling a further €200 million are planned. Together with Krista, Marja Straatsma-Wuck and Suze Korse oversee Groenbank.

Transition

Groenbank aims to support the transition to a sustainable society with a two-pronged approach. 

First, private individuals can open a green savings account with the ABN AMRO subsidiary MoneYou in the knowledge that at least 70 per cent of the funds they deposit will go towards sustainable initiatives. The Green Funds Scheme (Regeling Groenprojecten) ensures these clients will then enjoy a tax benefit, since green savings of up to €58,540 (in 2019) are exempt from capital gains tax in the Netherlands. Additionally, these green savers receive a tax credit of 0.7 per cent on the exempt amount.

Second, companies and organisations can obtain green financing from Groenbank on favourable terms (i.e. at lower interest rates) starting from €25,000. These green loans were conceived as a way to finance sustainable projects involving everything from climate-neutral buildings and organic farming to solar panels.

An official green certificate is required to secure financing. Groenbank then submits an application to the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland) for a certificate on the client’s behalf.

Krista emphasises that companies of all sizes can turn to Groenbank for financing. She says, “We work with lots of entrepreneurs who have SMEs, but with many larger firms, too. The Dutch government’s Green Scheme is also intended to stimulate sustainable innovation. I think we’ll see more and more of this in the coming years.” There’s certainly been an increase in the number of applications coming across her desk. “ABN AMRO’s relationship managers are raising awareness among clients of the opportunities our green financing offers,” explains Krista. “And we put a lot of energy into keeping all our relationship managers informed here at the bank.”

Van der Valk

Van der Valk, a Dutch hotel chain, received €16 million from Groenbank in 2019 to finance a climate-neutral hotel in the city of Deventer. The hotel is expected to be completed in the summer of 2020. Paul van der Valk, who co-owns thirty-two hotels, bought a plot measuring 2.3 ha. at the A1 Business Park back in 2015. “We’d already built sustainable hotels in the towns of Zwolle and Enschede,” Paul explains. “But we wanted to take things even further in Deventer. Why? Well, why not?”

All this means that a gas-free hotel will soon be built on the A1 motorway. The work is being carried out by the firm Dura Vermeer. Boasting 140 rooms, the entire hotel will be heated exclusively by wind and solar energy. An advanced extraction system purifies hot air from the kitchen to heat bathwater. The building will be insulated with triple glazing and will house heat pumps, a hot/cold storage facility and a large green terrace. The car park will also be equipped with charging stations for electric cars.

Paul says, “Being part of a family business means you’re always thinking about the future, about the next generation. That’s why I think it’s so exciting that the Van der Valk family are really at the forefront of sustainable hotels.”

Mission 2030

The financing of the Van der Valk hotel is just one example of how ABN AMRO and Groenbank are making a tangible contribution to their clients’ sustainability objectives. Financing initiatives of this kind also mean that Groenbank is contributing to ABN AMRO’s Mission 2030, which states that all the homes and offices financed by ABN AMRO must have earned an average energy label A by 2030. “Groenbank is here to stay,” concludes Krista. “We’re really looking forward to financing many more special projects in 2020.”