New deal with oil giant reveals cracks in Danske Bank’s green plan

Danske Bank helps Norway's second largest oil group with a bond issue. This is possible due to major exceptions in the bank's climate plan, which only blacklists three of its 62 customers in the fossil fuel sector.

Danske Bank has managed to create a climate plan that has virtually no impact on which customers the bank works with. "A free ride with no effect", is the criticism. Illustration: Thomas Bugge

Danske Bank still has large customers in the banking business that are drilling and exploring for oil fields in the North Sea, among other places.

Although the bank launched a climate plan in 2023 and has just updated its investment policy targeting fossil fuel companies, the bank continues to help Norway’s second largest oil group, Aker ASA, with new bond issues. Danske Bank confirms the agreements, which have a total value of more than DKK 2 billion.

“The agreements with the Aker Group clearly show that fossil expansion still plays a major role in Danske Bank’s banking business. The bank’s climate plan has not put an end to this,” says Carsten Tanggaard, Professor of Finance at Aarhus University.

The Norwegian oil group escapes the bank’s climate plan because the rights to the oil are placed with the subsidiary Aker BP – and not with the parent company Aker ASA or its sister company Aker Solutions, with whom the bank has formally entered into the agreements.


Aker Group’s rights to oil & gas fields on the Norwegian Continental Shelf

The map shows both rights to fields that can be developed and fields that are currently producing. The rights to the oil & gas fields are owned by Aker BP, which is controlled by Aker ASA.

Source: The Norwegian Soil Directorate, Ministry of Energy in Norway.

“A free ride with no effect”

According to a response from Danske Bank’s Global Head of Sustainable Finance Samu Slotte, the bank’s climate plan only targets fossil customers who own license rights for fossil extraction and exploration for new oil fields.

And the bank has virtually none of them, and that has always been the case.

Only three of the bank’s 62 oil and gas customers since 2016 until the launch of the climate plan in 2023 own oil extraction rights. This is according to data collected by Danwatch and Finanswatch.

The remaining 59 companies do not own oil licenses but perform tasks such as oil drilling, oil production, fossil exploration and rig maintenance for licensees. They are therefore not excluded from the restrictions of the bank’s climate plan, even though they are in practice participating in fossil fuel expansion.

The climate plan is therefore a free ride, according to Carsten Tanggaard, after Danwatch presented him with documentation showing that the bank’s climate plan has limited impact on the bank’s business and continues to service fossil fuel activities.

“It looks like a very deliberate and convenient choice on the part of the bank to let the formal right to oil fields determine whether a company is considered climate-friendly or not. To me, it seems far-fetched and a completely free ride with no effect,” says Carsten Tanggaard.

Climate plan ignores fossil activities

Before the launch of its climate plan in 2023, Danske Bank had Aker BP on its customer list, but because Aker BP owns the rights to the group’s oil fields, they can no longer be a customer of the bank.

On the other hand, both parent company Aker ASA, which controls Aker BP, and sister company Aker Solutions, which supplies equipment for drilling platforms and fossil fuel production facilities, are now on the customer list.

The agreements are thus fully in line with the bank’s climate plan, because the rights to the oil extraction are placed with Aker BP – and not with either the parent company or its sister company, both of which are now customers in Danske Bank’s corporate customer department.

“I find it strange that a climate plan ignores the actual fossil fuel activity and instead focuses on licenses and corporate structure. You may be able to bluff your stakeholders, but not the climate, which deteriorates regardless of who produces and extracts the oil,” says Carsten Tanggaard.

Danwatch has previously revealed that the bank also continues its customer agreements with oil companies BW Offshore and Odfjell Drilling, among others.

Odfjell Drilling does not own oil licenses itself, but carries out oil drilling for both Aker BP and Norway’s largest oil company Equinor. BW Offshore also slips through the climate plan, as their license rights to the group’s own oil fields are formally owned by the sister company BW Energy.

BW Offshore produces oil for BW Energy from floating oil platforms, so-called FPSOs (Floating Production, Storage and Offloading). Both companies are owned by BW Group.

At Merkur Andelskasse, which is considered one of the most climate-focused banks in the country, CEO Charlotte Skovgaard believes that climate considerations are a management responsibility.

“If large financial players want to be green, I would recommend that they anchor it in their strategy so that it is clear how they prioritize combating the climate crisis compared to creating financial results. Because there is something wrong with the governance structure if it is possible to get around climate promises with technical explanations,” says Charlotte Skovgaard.

Investors demand reassessment of climate plan

The loopholes in the climate plan that allow the bank to continue to make big money from services that support oil extraction and fossil fuel expansion should be closed.

This is according to Jasper Riis, Investment Director at P+, which has invested 280 million in Danske Bank.

As part of our dialog with Danske Bank, we will focus on the fact that the bank should generally raise the level of ambition and that the climate policy should also include those activities that are currently not sufficiently addressed,” says Jasper Riis.

AP Pension, which has excluded Aker and 172 other oil and gas companies for climate reasons, also reacts to Danske Bank’s agreements with the oil companies. AP Pension will now include Danske Bank’s climate plan in the pension fund’s active ownership of the bank.

We are discussing with our external partner whether their dialog with the company includes this topic, and we will also take note of our voting at the upcoming annual general meeting,” says Anna Maria Fibla Møller, Head of Sustainable Investments.


Danske Bank’s fossil fuel customers

Overview of Danske Bank’s fossil customers (oil & gas) within loan financing and financial services in the period 2016 and up to 2022, just before the bank’s climate plan was launched.

Only four companies own fossil extraction rights, two of which have merged (Aker BP and Lundin Energy). Danske Bank’s climate plan excludes just three of the bank’s 62 fossil fuel customers.

Danske Bank has not wished to comment on the list.


According to Charlotte Skovgaard, financial institutions should clearly communicate the dilemmas they face when it comes to how the climate crisis can affect their business.

“There are dilemmas between climate concerns and profit, and it should be clear to consumers that you will lose revenue in the short term by not making money from the fossil fuel industry, but we will not solve the climate crisis if we continue to send money to fossil fuel companies,” says Charlotte Skovgaard.

New financial data from LSEG Data & Analytics shows that since the launch of its climate plan in January 2023, Danske Bank has participated in financing agreements with companies that own, apply for and are awarded new licenses for oil extraction in the North Sea, Barents Sea and Arctic. Here are the latest deals that Danwatch can reveal.

Aker ASA – Bond issue of DKK 820 million.
In the beginning of 2024, Danske Bank participated in Aker ASA’s bond issue worth EUR 1.25 billion. NOK. Aker ASA is the majority owner of Norway’s second largest oil company, Aker BP. The money was raised just one week after the Aker Group was awarded 27 new licenses to explore for new oil and gas deposits on the Norwegian continental shelf. The money is not earmarked and can be used for any purpose (General Corporate Purpose). The Aker Group holds 179 licenses with rights to fossil exploration and production.

Aker Solutions ASA – Credit agreement of DKK 1.95 billion.
On January 31, 2023, Danske Bank is co-arranger on the renewal of a USD 285 million (approx. DKK 1.95 billion) credit agreement with Aker Solutions. Aker Solutiones is part of the Aker Group and delivers installations for oil & gas extraction and equipment for floating production storage and offloading (FPSO). Aker Solutions has, among other things, supplied equipment and technology for Equinor’s oil extraction in the Johan Castberg field, one of the largest in the Barents Sea.

Sval Energi AS – Credit facility of DKK 9 billion
On February 20, 2023, Danske Bank participates in a credit facility of USD 1,325 million (approx. DKK 9 billion) to Sval Energi. The credit agreement is concluded on d. 20.2.2023 and runs until 2028. Sval Energi currently produces from 15 oil and gas fields on the Norwegian Continental Shelf and owns a total of 58 licenses, of which four new fields are under development. According to Danwatch’s information, the credit will be used as investments (CapEx). These are typically funds that a company uses to maintain production facilities or to implement new projects.

KNOT Offshore Partners LP – Loan agreement of DKK 300 million.
On June 2, 2023, Danske Bank enters into a loan agreement with other banks and commits to deliver USD 44,500,000, just over DKK 300 million. KNOT owns and operates shuffle tankers that transport oil between oil drilling platforms and oil tankers that send the oil out into the world. KNOT works for customers such as Shell and Equinor.

No impact on earnings

Danske Bank confirms in an email that the bank’s climate targets also do not capture financial services, a business area where Danske Bank has many fossil fuel customers. Financial services are, for example, financial advice, which earns Danske Bank DKK 5.7 billion annually.

“Danske Bank’s climate action plan does not yet include information or targets for emissions related to fees from servicing customers’ fundraising via the bond and equity markets,” the bank’s press department writes in an email to Danwatch.

Although the bank’s climate plan formally excludes both lending and financial services to oil and gas companies, in practice it does not seem to have had any particular impact on the number of Danske Bank’s fossil fuel customers.

A review of Danske Bank’s financial statements for 2023 shows that earnings from financial services to large customers are at the same level as the previous year.

Nor has the volume of credit and lending changed since the bank launched its climate plan. Danske Bank confirms this to Danwatch.


Bank lending to fossil fuel companies

Danske Bank states that since the climate plan in 2023, its lending to fossil fuel companies has fallen from DKK 2.7 billion to DKK 2.6 billion, a drop of just 3.7 percent. The statement does not include financial services, such as the agreement with Aker ASA.

Source: Danske Bank investor presentation

“Our exposure (to oil and gas, ed.) already decreased significantly before we announced the end of lending to E&P (companies that explore, extract and produce oil and gas, ed.),” Danske Bank’s press department writes in an email.

“This shows that we already acted on this before updating our policy and that we have not “speculated” on issuing a lot of loans before the announcement that we could profit from,” the bank writes.

In addition, as already mentioned, the bank’s total number of fossil customer relationships in 2023 is largely unchanged compared to 2022, the year before the climate plan.

“A financial institution can channel money out in many ways, and Danske Bank can apparently continue with pretty much the same fossil fuel customers they had before they announced the climate plan in 2023,” says Carsten Tanggaard.

Climate targets do not apply to a third of large customer business

The bank’s CO2 reduction targets are measured in so-called financed emissions. However, the metric does not include greenhouse gases associated with financial services, where the bank serves many of its large fossil fuel customers.

Emissions from financial services, on the other hand, are included in another metric called facilitated emissions. A ratio that the bank does not use.

Facilitated issues cover all the issues associated with services such as advisory, issuance and underwriting. While funded issues are accounted for as assets from loans and investments. Financial services account for 36 percent of the bank’s key account business, corresponding to the aforementioned DKK 5.7 billion.

Andreas Rasche, Professor of Sustainable Finance at Copenhagen Business School, believes that the bank should include financial services in its climate goal and thus take responsibility for emissions from the oil production that the bank helps finance.

“I expect Danske Bank to streamline its exclusions based on funded issuances with a policy that also applies to facilitated issuances. It is crucial that financial institutions adopt relevant policies to avoid inconsistencies,” says Andreas Rasche.

Very few banks include emissions from services, and there’s a reason for that, according to Jeanne Martin, Head of Banking Campaigns at ShareAction, which promotes responsible investing.

“In theory, any sector with emissions should calculate facilitated emissions, because they do exist. Progressive investors should push for more transparency and accountability in the handling of facilitated issuance in the banking sector,” she says.

However, it may be difficult to get banks to take responsibility for the service part of their business, according to Jeanne Martin.

“Banks generally believe that their role as service providers in capital market transactions absolves them of full liability,” she says.

An analysis by the NGO Rainforest Action Network (RAN) shows the participation of the world’s 60 largest banks, including Danske Bank, in the period 2016 to 2022 in loan financing and financial services to the fossil fuel sector. The analysis is based on data from Bloomberg Finance, IJGlobal database and Urgewald’s Oil & Gas Exit List.

The analysis reveals that during the period, Danske Bank has had 62 fossil fuel companies on its customer list when it comes to loan financing and financial services. Danwatch has compared the 62 companies with active license owners of oil & gas rights on the Norwegian Continental Shelf, which covers the Norwegian part of the North Sea, the Norwegian Sea and the Barents Sea. Data on license owners is sourced from Norsk Petroleum.

The result of the comparison shows that before the launch of the climate plan, Danske Bank has only three customers who own licenses.

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