• Sustainable finance

BNP Paribas renews its commitment to Human Rights

In 2012, BNP Paribas published its “Declaration with respect to Human Rights,” in which the Group outlines its commitment to “respecting internationally recognized Human Rights standards.” How has this initiative impacted the Group and its sphere of influence? Emmanuelle Bru, Manager of Stakeholder Dialogue and Human Rights at BNP Paribas, explains.

Everyone must respect human rights. So why issue this Declaration? 

In addition to following laws, international organizations such as the United Nations ask corporations to take concrete action. Monitoring a plethora of activities and international supply chains is complicated work, but we felt that this was an integral part of our social and environmental responsibility. We have adapted this approach into four main areas: individual customers, employees, suppliers and—the most complex of them all—activities that we finance (business customers). 

“ the most effective tool is employee awareness: better they understand the importance of Human Rights for the Group, better they can take action ”

Emmanuelle Bru

Manager of Stakeholder Dialogue and Human Rights at BNP Paribas

Because you finance every sector of the economy!

That’s right. We have to prevent risks of Human Rights violations among the customers that we finance, which means monitoring their ecosystems: staff, suppliers, local communities, etc. 

Are you able to monitor everything?

Zero risk is a myth, we are fully aware of that fact. And yet, many processes are in place to limit these risks. For example, in sensitive sectors such as defense, mining and agriculture, our teams must evaluate a certain number of criteria tied to Human Rights (land seizure, population displacement, health, child labor, etc.) before financing a project or, in some cases, even before dialogue with a prospect. We also have monitoring tools for our customers : if we identify a risk, we use our leverage with the customer to open a dialogue on the identified issue. But the most effective tool is employee awareness: the better they understand the importance of Human Rights for the Group, the better they can take action. 

Any examples?

In Asia, our local teams alerted us after reading news stories accusing one of our customers of working with suppliers who were using forced labor. After our attempt to start a dialogue with the customer fell flat, we froze their lines of credit. 

Way to take initiative! As for your individual customers, what does your commitment to Human Rights mean for them?

It means we protect a number of fundamental rights like personal data privacy: almost 36,000 Group employees completed training on this topic in 2015. Data privacy is also a part of the Group’s Code of Conduct, which is associated with a training session required for all employees. Another topic is banking exclusion: if a portion of the population cannot access our products, then we are limiting their economic potential. That is why we launched our microfinance offer in developing countries, and it has already benefited some 250,000 people worldwide. Western countries face different issues: we notably improved access to insurance in France among populations with greater health risks by creating a system of premiums adapted to different conditions, while accounting for medical progress and follow-up. Since 2008, we have offered improved premiums to patients suffering from 6 conditions, including cardiac valvopathy in 2015. 

Are there any other actions you would like to mention?

The two other aspects of our approach: protecting employees and evaluating supplier risks. We monitor the situation of our employees through detailed annual surveys and we pay close attention to diversity topics. In terms of how we select our suppliers, we look at questions pertaining to their policy with respect to Human Rights. 

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