Episode 1

The Sustainable Development Goals

Episode 1/7

The pursuit of sustainability

The most widely accepted definition of the concept of sustainability comes from the report "Our Common Future" prepared by the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development dated 1987. The report states that "humanity has the ability to make development sustainable to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The concept of sustainable development does imply limits - not absolute limits but limitations imposed by the present state of technology and social organization on environmental resources and by the ability of the biosphere to absorb the effects of human activities."

Achieving sustainable economic growth that increases people's well-being and ensures a future for the next generations requires generating equitable economic growth, improving social inclusion and protecting the environment so that natural resources remain sustainable.

The Sustainable Development Goals

In September 2015, the global community, represented by 193 countries belonging to the United Nations, agreed on a set of global goals, called Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These goals aim to end poverty, protect the planet, set the world on the path to peace and ensure prosperity and economic growth. These objectives were approved as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to be achieved in the following 15 years, thus until 2030.


Sustainable development goal

Key facts and figure

According to the 2020 Sustainable Development Goals Report of the United Nations, there has been significant progress, during the first five years. However, the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 generated clear negative effects. It is necessary now to increase our efforts to achieve the goals by 2030. Some relevant milestones are:


Global population living in extreme poverty (people living with less than US$1.90 per day) was 15.7% in 2010, 10.0% in 2015, and estimated at 8.2% in 2019. However, the pandemic crisis generated the first increase in poverty since 1998 with an increase of around 71 million people encountering extreme poverty, and an estimated rate of 8.7% for 2021.

raw material icon

The amount of raw material, referring to footprint material, required to meet basic needs for food, clothing, water, or shelter increased by 17% from 2010 to 2017. Natural resources consumption remains unsustainable.

Pictogram greenhouse

To comply with the Paris Agreement to limit global temperature rise, greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced at a rate of 7.6% per year as from 2020. Despite the economic slowdown due to the pandemic crisis, the estimated reduction was of only 6% during the year 2020.

71% of water accessibility

World's population with access to safe drinking water rose from 61% in 2000 to 71% in 2017. Nevertheless, 785 million people still do not have access to clean water.
Regarding access to electric power, the percentage has improved from 83% in 2010 to 90% in 2018.

How the challenge is addressed by the financial industry:

Economic growth is increasingly dependent on the health of the planet and the stability of the global economy. In this sense, the achievement of the SDGs is a clear economic growth driver, which enables the development of a viable model for the future and a better risk management regarding international economies.

In its 2014 report, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) estimated a deficit of investment for the SDGs of USD 2.5 trillion per year. In its 2020 report on world investments, it estimates that sustainability-oriented funds, investing in SDG-related areas, will reach USD 1.2-1.3 trillion per year (mutual funds related to sustainability themes, green bonds, and social bonds). The financial industry is de facto fully involved in the process to obtain the necessary funds.

Since the approval of the SDGs, 55 countries have approved 200 sector-related policies; the majority to facilitate investments in agriculture, food, or health. According to SDG 17, “Partnership for the Goals”, this requires the participation of the private sector and a great international cooperation in order to achieve all defined goals by 2030.

How BNP Paribas addresses the issue:

The Group’s strategy in terms of social responsibility is completely in line with the SDGs’ ambitions. It covers economic growth priorities, inclusion of vulnerable populations and preservation of resources. BNP Paribas continuously develops new products and services to promote the realisation of these goals. Therefore as an example:

  • BNP Paribas acted as joint lead manager in the issue of the 1billion-euro bond in response to the Covid-19 pandemic;
  •  In 2019, the total capital invested by BNP Paribas in green bonds amounted to 9.8 billion dollars and 12.2 billion euros in sustainable bonds;
  • BNP Paribas is committed to respecting and promoting non-discrimination with respect to every human right defined by law (origin, customs, sexual orientation, political opinions, religious beliefs...).
  •  By supporting microfinance, the Group is actively engaged in poverty reduction via financial inclusion. 30 years of action in this area have seen more than 2 million people benefiting from microloans, indirectly funded by BNP Paribas via Microfinance Institutions (MFIs).
  • BNP Paribas has implemented a proactive strategy for the financing of renewable energies with the funding of 15.9 billion euros in 2019 and has set an objective to reach 18 billion euros by the end of 2021.

Discover our other episodes throughout the summer. Around the theme of sustainability, they will address the role of the financial sector in other Sustainable Development Goals, and will allow you to identify how you, as an investor, can act for a better and more sustainable future.