Published on 15 November 2018


Companies call for more ESG engagement

The investor-business dialogue is a lever for sustainable creation, according to the companies that attended Novethic’s Positive Investors Forum on 6 November. This was a heartfelt cry that came from both sustainable development directors and engaged CFOs. Today, however, conventional investors are not forthcoming enough, companies exclaimed.

Jean-Luc Di Paola-Galloni, Group Corporate Vice-President for Sustainability and External Affairs; Karim Hajjar, Group Chief Financial Officer at Solvay; Laurence Pessez, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility at BNP Paribas; Philippe Zaouati, President
@Ludovic Dupin / Novethic

Investors, pick up your pen and ask companies questions concerning ESG (environmental, social and governance) issues...this is exactly what companies are asking!  "At Solvay, we have worked extensively on transparency, with extremely comprehensive reporting on both financial and extra-financial issues, and I am surprised by the silence that this brings," says Karim Hajjar, Group Chief Financial Officer at Solvay during the Positive Investors Forum.

"In five years, we have had only two letters from investors asking us ESG-related questions.  It's ridiculous! We want 50 letters," Hajjar said in front of a room full of people convinced of their role in creating value.

The deputy director of Valéo, who is also in charge of sustainable development, repeated the same message: "Us too, we want you to write to us!", he added, "A number of sovereign funds, often those from Nordic countries, are positively obsessed with these issues, but we would like classic investors to challenge us on these issues in roadshows as well".

A shrinking gap

Is this wishful thinking? Companies agreed that things are changing. Earlier in the morning, Total CEO Patrick Pouyanné said he spent an hour with his board discussing how the group responds to ESG issues, as they are under pressure from investors.

"I’ve seen recently, and it must be recognised, that the gap between SRI (socially responsible investment) and mainstream management has tightened a bit in favour of taking into account climate risks," said Laurence Pessez, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility at BNP Paribas.

Along with new legislation arising from Article 173 of the French Law on Energy Transition for Green Growth and the TCDF (Task Force on Climate Related Financial Disclosure) recommendations, new sustainable financial products, such as green bonds or positive incentive loans (bonus/malus system based on ESG criteria) are also helping to intensify the dialogue.

Béatrice Héraud @beatriceheraud

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