Building coalitions to meet the challenges of a changing world


By  Jean-Laurent Bonnafé, Director and Chief Executive Officer of BNP Paribas

The One Planet Summit, the HeForShe Impact Summit, the Bloomberg Global Business Forum and the Tobacco-Free Finance Pledge: these events all took place in September in New York and I attended or spoke at them, together with BNP Paribas colleagues. Why? First, because these events were opportunities for BNP Paribas to reaffirm its commitment to fairer economic growth. And secondly, because they allow us to meet many of the individuals and organisations with whom we are working for a sustainable future.

We face significant social, economic and environmental challenges, and part of the solutions to these challenges lies in new alliances between parties who have not traditionally worked together. The problems of our world have become too complex for one type of organisation to have the solution. NGOs, governments, community groups, businesses, investors, academics – we must all become involved and create solutions by drawing on the skills, vision and strength of each of us. It is by engaging collectively in large-scale coalitions that we will be able to respond to the global challenges laid down in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and which were adopted in 2015 by the 193 members of the United Nations.

Among the 17 SDGs is one that encourages governments, civil society and those in the business and economic world to form partnerships and act for the benefit of people and the planet. Far from being just one priority among others, I think this goal goes straight to the heart of our efforts.

The “new economy” was born in California’s Silicon Valley, where the intersecting worlds of researchers, entrepreneurs, thinkers and community activists invented new models and solutions that resulted from a coalescence of their points of view.

It is by drawing on this approach that collective action becomes even more powerful.

Banks play a key role here. They provide financial resources and ensure the continuity of economic life, and they are the crossroads of different economic sectors, countries, and at multiple levels. Banking activity is anchored in the local realities of towns and regions and it is at the heart of local communities. This characteristic enables banks to play a natural role in forming future coalitions. Our customers and partners inspire us and together we can find the answers to the problems of tomorrow.

It is time for us to invent new ways of working together. What is occurring in New York during UN General Assembly week is the rise of a new, positive economy. We are determined to contribute to it through concrete actions that can improve the future for women and men around the world.

As CEO of BNP Paribas, I am convinced: we must ensure that the bank’s economic efficiency is aligned with the expectations of the world we live in. In societies marked by public anxiety about the climate, inequality and local economic development, many solutions can be found through technological, social and financial innovation. Developing these solutions effectively requires the concerted efforts and goodwill of all, and it has led us to work with various coalitions:

  • Connecting regions around the world to design global solutions with the One Planet Fellowship programme developed with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The programme will devote $15 million over five years to supporting 600 African and European researchers working on climate change in Africa.
  • Engaging in co-creation so as to find, with the United Nations Environment Programme, innovative and disruptive solutions such as “Sustainable Finance Facilities”. These are aimed at financing, using private capital from around the world, large-scale, sustainable projects in developing countries, and under the joint control of NGOs and governments.
  • Forming an “avant-garde” of precursors able to lead the way, for example through my commitment as a new Thematic Champion for HeForShe, a movement initiated by UN Women to promote gender equality.


These coalitions are visionary and effective, and they can motivate people to take action, get involved and contribute to a better world. I know how proud BNP Paribas employees are to be part of these—and other—coalitions being formed with our partners and customers around the world. This is how, in today’s world, we can truly be the bank for a changing world.