Published on 04 October 2018


[Focus CSR] BNP Paribas transforms itself through company engagement

How can companies better diffuse CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) internally and throughout its ecosystem? This is the question all committed companies are asking. Novethic has identified good, achievable, and proven practices that have been put in place by major economic leaders. The following focuses on an engagement made one year ago within BNP Paribas group.

BNP Paribas group has created a Company Engagement department to strengthen its commitments in societal and environmental transformation.

In July 2017, BNP Paribas announced the creation of a new department, represented on the group’s COMEX (executive committee): the Company Engagement department. The ambition of the bank's CEO, Jean-Laurent Bonnafé, is strong. Bonnafé explained: "Today’s social and environmental challenges require that our group contribute even more actively to sustainable growth. We have therefore made a decision to put in place a structure to support this ambition at all levels of the Group". 

A company’s responsibility 

For this purpose, the new department includes CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), communication, the company’s foundation, diversity and a project-based team responsible for ensuring engagement with the approach across the entire company. In all, 200 people are involved and represent all 73 countries where the group operates. 

BNP’s former director of communication, Antoine Sire, recalled the group in 2005. At the time, the bank established headquarters in Seine-Saint-Denis, a Parisian suburb that, at the time, was experiencing rioting and heightened social tensions. "Being directly concerned has allowed us, within the company, to better understand that societal problems are the problems of the company, and that the company must have a positive impact on its community”, explains Sire. The second trigger would come 10 years later, the year of the COP21, the establishment of the SDGs and the refugee crisis. Sire explained, "All these events and actors - employees, investors, customers, civil society, institutions - converged towards one understanding: the demand for more corporate involvement in society". 

Accelerating positive innovations 

The creation of a Company Engagement department made it possible to translate this vision into the strategy of the company and to infuse it in all its activities, which a CSR department could not have done alone. "CSR is still the technical engine of engagement, but we needed a department that more broadly integrates both HR and business dimensions, to show that this is a strategic approach for the bank in general". Having formalized this course through new organisation has allowed for such a change of scale, according to Sire. 

"Sustainable solutions are now highlighted in all the group's activities, and we are working to strengthen this movement, which motivates employees to develop and market them better, which is a powerful catalyst for positive innovation and a way to provoke a virtuous cycle," he explains. As proof of this, there exists a range of major commitments, such as excluding shale gas and oil sands from the bank's investments. It has also made reference to new projects developed since the creation of the department, such as ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) performance-indexed loans or public-private partnerships with the United Nations to finance projects for the common good. 

Cross-level company transformation 

If the Company Engagement department is "an accelerator in diffusing the culture of the impact and the transformation of the company", efforts must be continued via training, affirms Sire, in order to better integrate this dimension into all sectors of activity and to measure the effects. 

For Agnès Rambaud-Paquin, expert in change management, and associate director at Des Enjeux et Des Hommes, the initiative is particularly interesting: "The title of the department shows the scope that the group wants to give it. It is a very broad scope that aggregates several departments, and its cross-functional missions are also interesting; a trend that is beginning to emerge in other companies. Another strong point: the participation of the executive committee director. This is still quite rare, and it really allows the company to bring the subject to the highest level," says Rambaud-Paquin. 

Béatrice Héraud @beatriceheraud

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