On October 26, the associations Notre affaires à tous, Oxfam France and Les Amis de la Terre notified BNP-Paribas, the main French bank, a legal notice to stop supporting the development of fossil fuels. The pressure on bankers is therefore finally beginning.
For several years, “socially responsible investments” (SRI) have been booming. For its promoters, it is defined as “an investment that aims to reconcile economic performance and social and environmental impact by financing companies and public bodies that contribute to sustainable development”.
Indeed, it is the law that should prevent antisocial and thermal investment. If not, a business of “SRI certified savings” labels has developed. A survey was conducted on the occasion of the week of responsible finance. The result is clear: two out of three people have never heard of SRI.
So what are the priority subjects for the French? Pollution, human rights, climate change, but also well-being at work, equality between men and women and employment. In contrast, executive pay or “tax avoidance” affects only a minority of people. Boss, cheat and fill up, the French agree!
City to the rescue?
In this area, it is up to the elected officials to act first. We can therefore welcome the initiative of cities like Paris, Bordeaux or Besançon which have decided to borrow only from banks that are not too dirty. As stated by Jean-François Debat, the socialist mayor of Besançon, “The big banking networks cannot lie. If they get distorted, we’ll know. “
Today, the city of Lyon has adopted a resolution by which it undertakes to borrow from the banks that “To position oneself in a strategy to contain the negative environmental and social impacts of their financing”. Specifically, a questionnaire will be sent to the bankers on the financing of fossil fuels, on the fight against “laundering” of money originating from crime, on discrimination or on their settlement in tax havens. The answers will be verified, with the help of NGOs such as Oxfam or Reclaim Finance (“taking back control of finance”).
It is a start. Last year, the city of Lyon borrowed 20 million euros from the Banque Postale and the NEF, a “solidarity finance” cooperative, for their “ethical guarantees”. According to Audrey Hénocque, first assistant responsible for finance and public procurement, “The Postal Bank has announced the abandonment of loans to fossil fuel operations”. We have doubts, but hey.
Furthermore, the ecological majority of Lyon has launched a “green” bond that will be marketed to savers by … Crédit Agricole, the bank that has been actively financing the pollution of all the country’s fertile soils for decades. In short, these are first steps, but very small.
But ok. The real economy is polluting and uneven. If banks also lent to companies while respecting equal pay between women and men, they would not be able to make many people pass money! It is therefore up to the law to change, which requires a very different political majority from the current one. And to apply, which would imply a political power really determined to impose its will on companies. •