• Sustainable finance

The Social Business is playing a key role in the building of a more sustainable and equitable world

Jean-Laurent Bonnafe
Jean-Laurent Bonnafe
Director and Chief Executive Officer of BNP Paribas

For the Global Social Business Summit event, which took place on the 7th of November 2017 in Paris, Jean-Laurent Bonnafé, Director and Chief Executive Officer of BNP Paribas, has spoken on partnerships between the Social Business and Bank. Find below all of his speech.

I am impressed by the way Social Business mobilizes such brilliant personalities from all over the world. And I would like to thank Professor Yunus for his invitation to participate in this summit. I consider that Social Business, as a contributor to the economy and society for more than 30 years, is playing a key role in the building of a more sustainable and equitable world. At the beginning of the 2000s, BNP Paribas signed a major agreement with ADIE. Each of you knows the key role played in France by ADIE in the creation of businesses by people excluded from the banking system. Through this partnership, which remains in place today, BNP Paribas retail branches committed to open an account for all entrepreneurs whose file was cleared by ADIE. At the time of the signature, Maria Nowak, who founded ADIE, inspired by the work of Professor Yunus, said that she felt like a “mouse coming to associate with an elephant”. Fifteen years later, we must face the facts: the elephant can no longer live without the mouse. Let me explain.

The search for fairer economic growth

Today, inequalities between the richest people and nations and the poorest are greater than ever before. This situation calls into question all the humanistic dreams that have been ours for decades, and whose realization seemed, at the end of the 20th century, closer to us than it is today.

 Everywhere on the planet, there are geopolitical disturbances, carrying both humanitarian crises and dangers for the security of our world. Rapid urbanization and global warming add to this situation a major ecological risk, which we know is not unrelated to many humanitarian tragedies and the refugee crisis. In such a context, the search for fairer economic growth must be a priority for economic agents, as much as it is for the political world.

No country, no business, no person, can win sustainably in a world that loses.

How do we deal with this concern at BNP Paribas? 

First, we have always strived to remain faithful to the first purpose of a bank: to collect savings and to put them at the service of the professional and personal projects of our customers. We are present in 74 countries, from Guinea or Vietnam to the USA or the European countries, with 190 000 employees.

We play a significant role alongside our clients to contribute to economic growth but we know enough about the realities on the ground to share Professor Yunus' observation: the banking system, as it is today, often fails to support those who need it most. This is true in emerging countries, but also in the developed ones when it comes to giving to disadvantaged young people the place they deserve in the Society. 

This is the reason why, beyond helping our current clients, we have considered as our duty to contribute to a better future. We are well aware that this goal will demand strategic and sometimes hard choices, including in terms of financial consequences. But we are convinced that Society as a whole will benefit from these efforts including our company and our employees.

we have considered as our duty to contribute to a better future 

BNP Paribas, an accelerator of the energy transition

A few years ago, we decided to become an accelerator of the energy transition. We started with very ambitious targets to finance new energies and to reduce our financing for the most CO₂-emitting fuels. 

Beyond environmental challenges, our world requires us to rethink our role in the global economic system, to contribute to fairer growth. Our experience shows that Social Business has an invaluable role to play in our search for a sustainable future. What type of projects can we build in collaboration in the future? 

To be inspired by Social Business...

We consider that we have the duty to be inspired by Social Business

The first banks were created by groups of men and women who wanted to make the savings of some available to finance a community of peasants, artisans or small businesses. Later they financed infrastructure and large companies, and sometimes the complexity of their role made them lose sight of the original meaning. Social Business brings us closer to women, men and children who can benefit from a small financial support.

That’s the reason why we have included technical assistance missions in microfinance institutions in the development route for our young talents. This helps us to keep alive the original sense of our purpose and probably to show more empathy with all our clients. 

Give a social purpose to our actions

  • We also realized that it was possible to innovate with social business actors to give a social purpose to our actions: in November last year we signed with ADIE one of the 2 first French Social Impact Bonds. The bond finances a program to develop entrepreneurship in isolated rural areas in France. It aims to find new, stable employment for at least 320 people and generate over 2 million euros in savings for the French State mainly in terms of saved unemployment benefits. 
  • Also in the last 12 months, our asset management subsidiary has reached the milestone of one billion euros in solidarity-based investment funds. Part of the investments are allocated to financing companies with a high social impact. This is patient capital which pays both a financial return and a social dividend.
  • In Asia, through the Tropical Landscape Finance Facility, we have recently structured with the Indonesian government a ground-breaking and innovative green loan platform, a world first, that can transform the lives and livelihoods of millions of Indonesians in rural areas that deserve it the most. This project benefits from a very close attention from the United Nations Environment Program.
  • Closer to home, the “Projet Banlieues”. We have been developing this program in France since 2006, particularly in partnership with social business players. It allows us to contribute to the integration of young people and to the economic vitality of disadvantaged urban areas where we have numerous branches. This project allows our branches both to have a positive impact on the ecosystem and to strengthen the link with local customers.

We partner with Social Business all around the world through our funding

Beyond inspiration, we partner with Social Business all around the world through our funding. Our goal is to indirectly serve, through our financing, 350 000 beneficiaries by the end 2018 through partnerships with more than 30 Microfinance Institutions in 15 countries.  

Today, our total exposure to social enterprises, which includes microfinance and covering loans and investment through impact funds, amounts to € 940 million of which 250 million concern microfinance. As of today, 1017 social enterprises in seven countries benefited from our funding. The majority of them are social businesses in the strictest sense of the word. More generally, as of today, BNP Paribas has dedicated around € 135bn to Sustainable Finance.

Beyond those figures, there are people: the people who work in Social Business, the people who benefit from Social Business, and the people of the bank who enrich the purpose of their job by working with Social Business. Partnering with the social business helps us to deeply transform the actions and the objectives of our company, to really contribute to a better future. 

BNP Paribas has dedicated around € 135bn to Sustainable Finance. 

Assess our societal footprint

What is the impact? You will tell me that we are used to quantifying our financial results and that we do not have the same KPIs with respect to our social impact. In fact, with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the United Nations have created a framework that allows companies to assess their societal footprint. This is a very important step that I think will have long-term and structural implications for the way companies think about their mission. These are not just words. The assessment of my personal performance as well as that of the senior managers of the company includes qualitative criteria such as Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives. 

“ I firmly believe that the success of tomorrow’s companies and employees will depend to a large extent on the ability of their leadership to generate benefits for civil society and the world around them.  ”

If we are here, it is of course because the needs of our societies can no longer be covered exclusively by states. Emergencies pile up in front of us. We will not be able to tackle the urgent issues facing the world if companies don’t become the actors of a greater redistribution. Thank you to the Social Business companies to have shown us the way and prove to us every day that this beautiful ambition can become the reality of tomorrow. 

We share Muhammad Yunus’s dream of achieving a World with Zero Poverty, Zero Unemployment and Zero Emissions. This will be a long journey, but I am confident we can make this journey all together.

#GSBS2017: Speech of Jean-Laurent Bonnafé, Director and Chief Executive Officer of BNP Paribas

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