Three years ago, world leaders approved Agenda 2030, a global plan of action for sustainable development. This initiative aims to end poverty, reduce inequality, and combat climate change. Agenda 2030 has defined 17 high level sustainable development goals (SDGs) with 169 integrated and indivisible targets that address the economic, social, and environmental dimensions of sustainability. To fulfill the SDGs, governments, the private sector, and society as a whole must unify efforts. Thus, the final SDG – number 17 – aims to revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development. BBVA contributes to all the SDGs. But this one, more than the others, entails a direct commitment to the communities the bank serves and the industries where it does business.
Partnerships are essential. So asserts the United Nations. "These inclusive partnerships built upon principles and values, a shared vision, and shared goals that place people and the planet at the centre, are needed at the global, regional, national and local level.”
Although more and more organizations and companies are establishing partnerships for the fulfillment of a more sustainable future, there are not enough. More financing partnerships are needed, especially to address the massive need for services in the developing world, services that come at too high a cost.
To this end, urgent action is needed to mobilize, redirect, and unlock the transformative power of trillions of dollars of privates resources in order to meet the sustainable development goals. Developing countries require more long-term investments in important sectors such as renewable energy, infrastructure, transportation, IT, and communications. The public sector will need to take the helm as the world faces this challenge. "Review and monitoring frameworks, regulations and incentive structures that enable such investments must be retooled to attract investments and reinforce sustainable development. National oversight mechanisms such as supreme audit institutions and oversight functions by legislatures should be strengthened,” the UN explains.
The backbone of sustainable development consists of, if nothing else, the endorsement of initiatives aimed at delivering on the SDGs. The successful fulfillment of the SDGs can only be achieved with an unfaltering commitment to global partnerships and collaboration. Still, the world has never been as interconnected as it is now. This is why it is so important to improve access to technology and knowledge – in order to encourage the exchange of ideas and to nurture innovation. In this vein, to achieve growth and sustainable development, it is critical that policies are coordinated to help developing countries manage their debt and to promote investment in the least developed regions.
Not everything depends on government involvement. Everyone who has signed up to Agenda 2030 will need to mobilize existing resources in addition to committing to additional activities like technology development and sustainable finance initiatives. "To this end, we need solid, inclusive, and comprehensive partnerships at all levels,” the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon declared. Furthermore, developed countries will have to live up to their promises because their involvement in these partnerships is fundamental to leveraging the correlations between the sustainable development goals. This is key to accelerating the progress toward achieving the goals, as well as improving the efficacy and impact of the goals themselves.
Banks: essential to sustainable development
Because the financial sector is the primary fund-raising agent, it plays a central role in this final SDG. For example, BBVA has established different strategic partnerships based on its extensive relationships with multilateral financial institutions. These institutions facilitate the financing of sectors and projects that contribute to societal development. These partnerships encompass the already mentioned Sustainable Development Goals as well as the Paris Agreement, the G20, and the United Nations Guiding Principles on Human Rights.
- Paris Agreement. In 2015, 195 countries signed the first binding global agreement on climate. In order to prevent dangerous climate change, the agreement establishes a global action plan that defines a limit to the rise in global warming. The agreed limit is well below 2ºC from pre-industrial levels.
- G20. The G20 meets annually in the country that holds the Group's presidency for the given year. Finance ministers and central bank governors from the member countries, the president of the World Bank, and the managing director and chairperson of the IMF attend the G20 meetings. Representatives from institutions like the Financial Stability Forum and experts from the private sector are also invited.
- The United Nations Guiding Principles on Human Rights. In order to strengthen their processes related to the identification and assessment of risks related to human rights, BBVA contracted an external consulting company to conduct a due diligence exercise across all the countries within its footprint. The primary goal of the exercise was to ensure BBVA complied with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Human Rights and was living up to its responsibility to prevent, mitigate, and remedy potential human rights impacts arising from its operations across all its businesses. The process used to identify and assess these risks and/or impacts was based on the framework of the UN Principles themselves.
Last year's preliminary release of the Principles for Responsible Banking represented one of the bank’s most important milestones within its sustainable development strategy. Published in November 2018, these principles – a joint response from 28 banks together with the United Nations – aim to tackle the challenges related to climate change and sustainability that currently face society. By committing themselves to this new framework, banks will align their businesses to the UN SDGs and the Paris Agreement on climate change. The Principles for Responsible Banking revolve around six areas of focus: alignment; impact and target-setting; clients and customers; stakeholders; governance and culture; and transparency and accountability.
The signatories pledge to publicly report back on their significant – both positive and negative – social, environmental, and economic impacts. Similarly, they agree to establish public targets in order to address their most significant negative impacts, while seeking to heighten their positive impacts. Institutions who breach the transparency requirements or fail to define targets and demonstrate progress can be removed from the list of signatories. A consultation version of the Principles was made available to different stakeholders for review in advance of their formally agreeing to the Principles, which are scheduled to be ratified in September 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly.
BBVA plays a part in major international sustainable development initiatives and working groups. Such initiatives include the United Nations Global Compact; the Equator Principles; Spainsif; CDP (previously the Carbon Disclosure Project); the Thun Group, which addresses human rights in banking; the Green Bond Principles; the Social Bond Principles; the Green Loan Principles; the RE100 initiative, and Science Based Targets. Recently, BBVA's Global Head Of Responsible Business, Antoni Ballabriga, was appointed co-chair of the UNEP-FI Global Steering Committee. UNEP-FI is the United Nations Environment Programme - Finance Initiative, the partnership between the United Nations and the financial sector created in 1992 in order to promote sustainable finance. BBVA has set itself an objective for 2025: to engage all stakeholders in order to collectively back the financial sector’s contribution to sustainable development. Supervisors and regulators, customers, corporate clients, investors, employees, suppliers, competitors, and even interested bystanders.
BBVA and the SDGs
BBVA’s Pledge 2025 is an initiative that demonstrates BBVA's efforts to contribute to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Spearheaded by the United Nations, the 17 SDGs are a worldwide call for the adoption of measures to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. Included among the priorities defined by the 17 goals are domains such as climate change, economic inequality, innovation, sustainable consumption, peace, and justice. On the whole, given the wide range of its business activity, BBVA contributes to all the SDGs, with both its global presence and the many activities of the BBVA Microfinance Foundation.
With its ‘Pledge 2025’ BBVA is actively fighting climate change, demonstrating the stake it has taken in sustainable development. Under the auspices of this initiative, the bank aims to raise €1 billion by 2025 to fight climate change and promote the development of sustainable infrastructure. As part of its pledge, BBVA will also reduce its environmental footprint and engage the banking industry in the promotion of sustainable development.