Did you hear the one about the Big Banks?

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BNP Paribas' Bob Hawley reveals the work BNP Paribas is doing to address SDG1, the target to end poverty

Banks and other large institutions have a key role to play in the support of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) because their unique position at the crossroads of financial markets provides them with plenty of opportunities to take positive action. BNP Paribas aims to recognize and promote new solutions alongside other corporates, governments, NGOs, and investors globally to finance the impact projects that will effectively change our world for the better.

A major crisis listed as the number one goal on the UN's 2030 Agenda is eradicating world poverty. One in 10 people in developing countries today are living on the internationally accepted poverty line - which symbolically means less than $1.90 a day - and a staggering 780 million people are living below it. Therefore, we at BNP Paribas had to take a closer look at being efficient and targeted to feel a sense of accomplishment in this fight.

Recently, we established a partnership with the Environment Programme of the United Nations, with the goal of securing large-scale financing by investors designed with NGOs capable of creating change at a national level, where the intersection of biodiversity and the fight against poverty collide.

We're also investing in a new form of active philanthropy to further our support of the SDGs: enabling employees to use their existing skills to make a positive impact on our society and in underprivileged communities. This is something that our employees, partners and clients consistently ask for and about when trying to understand what forms of bottom-up work we're doing in the space.

In the Americas, we launched a two-week, skill-based volunteering opportunity, allowing a group of US-based employees to share their professional expertise with underserved communities. The pilot project included five carefully chosen fellows to support La Comunidad de Ninos Sagrada Familia in Lima's Ventanilla district in Peru. It is one of the largest youth centers in the country, hosting a school, an orphanage and a daycare clinic, and their goal was to help improve the daily lives of over 1,500 children who live and/or attend school there, as they were fully immersed on-site.

While many missions take place all over the world, this one had concrete successes:

  • In terms of infrastructure, the priority was to find a solution for running water. Our team provided funding for a contractor and a plumbing engineer to assess resolutions for the water situation. Major improvements were made in the kitchen area, where two industrial refrigerators were repaired to enable more than 3,600 meals per day to kids in need, and the addition of a new roof over the main pantry was completed.

  • On the accounting front, our employees were able to create a tool to capture all transactions and identify all expenses and revenues to ensure better planning for the Comunidad. Staff were trained on this tool and weekly follow-ups have been scheduled to continue the set up.

In addition to participating in daily activities such as cooking, tutoring, and giving and observing classes, our volunteers also hosted events for the children. Through communication with the orphanage staff and their own personal experiences on-site, the fellows identified other immediate needs and directed funds to those areas for ongoing projects.

This is just the beginning for us. With the 2019 UN Week quickly approaching in September, where finance industry leaders from around the world will strive to create more responsible and sustainable businesses through the SDGs, it remains a top priority for us at BNP Paribas to address the root causes of poverty. Our hope is to improve poverty in all its forms as much as possible, via key partnerships and our continued success of linking purposeful capital with socially and environmentally impactful projects. We encourage all of our colleagues who are still contemplating their own SDG strategy to join the UN and firms like BNP Paribas in this worthy effort.

Bob Hawley is CEO of CIB Americas and head of global markets Americas at BNP Paribas

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