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Sustainable Development Goals: how to raise awareness in the private sector?

  • 29.08.2016

In September 2015, the UN defined its Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), which follow up on the Millennium Development Goals. The SDG aim “to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change by 2030.” BNP Paribas has aligned its sustainability ambitions to fit the scope of this ambitious plan. Nathalie Jaubert, BNP Paribas Deputy Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) manager, explains.

Remind us, what are the Sustainable Development Goals?

In 2000, the UN set its Millennium Development Goals: eight objectives for ending poverty, providing education, promoting gender equality and protecting the environment. 

After expiring in 2015, these goals led to a new plan: the Sustainable Development Goals. These 17 goals, which were adapted into 169 targets, are aimed at creating a more just and prosperous world by 2030. Member states are asked to rely on these policies when crafting policy, while civil society—companies, institutions, individuals—are also invited to play a role. 

These are ambitious goals. Who do they apply to? 

The goals are ambitious because they are part of a long-term plan. And the sheer number of goals ensures that they apply to everyone, through one or more targets. Some are more focused on the circular economy, others on renewable energies or protecting aquatic life. 

“ Of course, no single enterprise or person can achieve all of these targets. But all of us can set goals based on our opportunity and interests. ”

Nathalie Jaubert

BNP Paribas Deputy Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) manager

How can the private sector contribute to these goals? 

Every company is impacted by at least some of these goals. Companies must integrate and adapt these goals into specific actions to make progress and advance society. 

BNP Paribas, through the size and variety of our activities and locations, can take action on several of these points, either directly or indirectly by aiding our customers to reach their own goals. 

For example, we can take action on a goal such as “clean water and sanitation,” because we have teams dedicated to financing businesses in this sector. 

Is the private sector aware of these goals?

The SDG were defined in September 2015, and it is still too early to measure the level of awareness among companies. BNP Paribas is taking action, and our CSR department has already started to identify positive-impact financing actions to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. 

Our goal is for the entire Group to get involved. For that reason we work to raise awareness throughout all of our activities, internally, through our CSR strategy, and by measuring the results of our actions. Banks need to quantify their results— it’s part of our culture! We publish reports regularly, which enables us to communicate about the SDG, ensure these goals are present within the Group strategy, and raise employee awareness. Among our 10 CSR KPIs, one is specifically dedicated to SDG: we measure annually the share of our loans to companies contributing strictly to SDGs.

In fact, I’m convinced that many employees feel personally concerned and involved. They inform management of practices that can be improved, try to contribute through their own efforts—such as joining organizations or recycling—and continue their initiatives each day at work. 

How can the corporate world promote the SDG?

One of the key methods is to share best practices

In CSR, competition does not operate the same way as in other activities! 

Businesses can communicate about their most effective initiatives, exchange with their partners or even competitors and share example projects. That’s how we can promote these goals and ambitions. 

Businesses can communicate about their most effective initiatives. In CSR, competition does not operate the same way as in other activities!  

Has the BNP Paribas Group adopted the SDG?

Adopting the SDG was simple, because the four pillars of our CSR strategy line up with the goals defined by the UN. First of all, we mapped the connections between the SDG and our CSR commitments and activities. 

Some of our business activities may act on one goal, while others are more transversal, incorporating several goals. For example, our microfinance activity meets goal No. 1: “No Poverty;” Targets relating to goal No. 3, “Good Health and Well-Being,” correspond to our activities that support hospital customers. 

Through all of our actions, we can claim an attachment to the “economic growth” goal, but we only focus on strict and clear connections to goals, with complete candor, so as to maintain the spirit of the SDG

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Finally, does the BNP Paribas Group raise awareness about the SDG among its customers? If so, how?

We raise awareness about the SDG among our customers through dedicated offers, making it possible to tackle certain issues and anchor them into our daily lives. 

In this way, we offer specific savings products to retail customers, such as BNP Paribas Aqua to focus on water and preservation, or BNP Paribas Human Development, which invests in corporate actions that help to meet basic human needs. We encourage customers to save responsibly, by investing in areas tied to the SDG

For institutional customers, we offer structured bond issues, making it possible to invest in products whose performance is indexed to a package of “green” actions: a unique investment solution on the market! 

The energy transition is a crucial theme, adapted to every market. Awareness tools, created in the framework of COP21, are now available for each Sustainable Development Goal, including:

  1. A website for retail customers seeking to perform a self-assessment of their home’s energy performance and to plan improvements 
  2. A similar tool for SME, focused on the performance of industrial facilities,
  3. For large corporations, we manage our communications on a case-by-case basis