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Toni Ballabriga: "Banks’ Collective Commitment in New York is the industry’s most ambitious milestone yet for the climate"

“The financial sector’s Collective Commitment for Climate Action is an important step toward working as a true global coalition. It is the industry’s most ambitious commitment to the climate,” explained Antoni Ballabriga, the Global Head of Responsible Business at BBVA, during his presentation at one of the round table discussions taking place in parallel to the climate conference held in New York this week.

This is how he referred to the 31 financial institutions that joined this climate commitment. In his opinion, “Joining forces is fundamental in order to have a positive impact on the climate – one of the most urgent global challenges we face as society. This is something that is already reflected in our Pledge 2025, which seeks to progressively align our activity with the Paris Agreement.”

On September 23rd, Toni Ballabriga participated in the round table discussion entitled “Driving Change, Realizing Impact: Implementing the Principles for Responsible Banking” together with the sustainability directors from other banks. He underscored the joint institutional effort that was necessary to launch this Collective Commitment, under the auspices of the United Nations (UN). “In December we joined the Katowice Commitment,  along with ING, BNP, Societé General and Standard Chartered. Today we are pleased to confirm that there are now a total of 31 financial institutions that have joined this commitment, which translates the Principles for Responsible Banking into a set of more clearly defined goals.”

In his presentation he shared what he considers the key factors behind the path BBVA has taken to achieve its sustainability goals: “In this journey, it is essential to involve all stakeholders in the process, and to set specific times to reach the goals.” He also defined the Principles for Responsible Banking as “the perfect excuse to put the topic on the table again and contemplate what steps we should take next in this long process.”

This round table was part of the more technical sessions held following the declaration and signature of the UN Principles for Responsible Banking, which took place on Sunday at this New York summit. It was moderated by Santiago Lorenzo, Director of Sustainable Finance at the Climate Action Network. Other participants included Paul Taylor, Global Head of Shipping & Offshore at Societe Generale CIB and Slobhan Toohill, Sustainability Director at the Westpac Group, who summarized the challenges they faced when introducing concrete sustainability plans for the financial sector.

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Taylor maintained that the key to attaining the goals was to involve all stakeholders, starting with the bank’s employees. “Once you have convinced everyone in your own organization that the climate risk is there, and will become greater and greater, everything is much easier”.

Meanwhile, Toohill focused on the importance of intra-sector collaboration: “We have learned a great deal in the past 18 months from collaborating with other banks. We shouldn’t underestimate these kind of initiatives and the power we can amass when the entire sector works together”.

Nearly 400 people attended the event, including CEOs, UN members, experts in sustainable finance, investors, regulators, scholars, civil society organizations and international media.

BBVA’s commitment to sustainable development is reflected in its global environmental commitment, Pledge 2025. Similarly, in 2018 BBVA presented its climate change and sustainable development strategy to help attain the UN Sustainable Development Goals and overcome the challenges stemming from the Paris Agreement on climate change. Pledge 2025 is aligned with the Paris Agreement and aims to strike a balance between sustainable energy and investments in fossil fuels. It is based on three pillars of action: BBVA commits to mobilize €100 billion in green financing, sustainable infrastructure and agribusiness, entrepreneurship and financial inclusion; BBVA will manage the environmental and social risks associated with its activities in order to minimize potential negative impacts, both direct and indirect; and finally, BBVA will involve all stakeholder groups to collectively promote the financial sector’s contribution to sustainable development.

BBVA was also recently included, yet again, in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI), the market’s leading index measuring the performance of the largest companies by market capitalization on economic, environmental and social issues.

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