Sustainable Innovation

Why banks can make a difference – and so do you
December 7, 2009, 11:50 am
Filed under: Sustainability in France | Tags: , , , ,

The banking and insurance sector creates overall the largest carbon footprint : 3680 MTons CO2, compared to 925 Mtons CO2 of the 2nd largest sector, those of civil airplanes.

These are results of a recent published study of 10 French business sectors by the French auditor and consultancy Vigeo and the WWF (1). Likely to be representative for other Western countries.


Green house emissions in 10 industry sector according to analyses ofVigeo and WWF.

You may be surprised. How could banks only using ‘just some electricity and paper’ count for the largest green house effects ?

Using Life Cycle Analyses principles, the carbon footprint of a compay (or a sector) is based on 3 perimeters : (1) The companies production process (production phase impact) (2) The production process of used materials (suppliers impact) (3) The effects of the products of the companies (product use impact)

The direct created carbon footprint (lever 1) may not be very high, nor does the production of energy to warm the buildings (lever 2).  However, by financing other industry projects (lever 3), like energy, property development, transport, the overall impact of the banking and insurance sector ends up to be the most significant of all sectors.

Banks carry therefore a high responsiblity to pull the right levers. They should not reduce their own and direct impact by reducing energy, water, paper use. If they make sustainability part of their company strategy, they notably carry a responsibility to choose sustainable over green house gas emitting technologies.

Investments in renewable energy – a banks choice

And you, what can you do ? Ask your bank how it makes its finance sustainable choices ! Does the bank set requirements on maximum green house emissions for property development ?  Do they preveal clean and sustainable technologies ? Do they favour renewable energy projects  ? In France, Banque Populaire, now BPCE, is seen as a good exemple. See also the BPCE ‘Best Practices’.

For those who do not believe in the power of customer pressure : Just remember the recent collapse of the Dutch DSB bank, a small bank that offered loans and mortages. The bank went bankrupt this year, after a group of dissatisfied customers asked people to withdraw all their savings – which they did.  

Source : ‘Entreprises et changement climatique’, nov 2009, Vigeo et WWF,


Salon Entreprise Durable I


‘Entreprise Durable’ 130 suppliers and 6000 visitors were gathered 20 and 21 of Oct 2009 at the Porte de Versailles. Topics were Sustainable Management, Green Tech and New Business Models.

A variety of organisations presented their services : Editors like ABCVert (B2B) and Neoplanete (B2C), the French National Norm Institute AFNOR, responsable for ISO and Eco-labels, the Association gathering French ‘Responsable’ companies ORSE and a great number of specialised industries, consultancies and IT firms. Visitors were managers, consultants, marketeers, sustainability representatives and suppliers.

A returning question was : How to mesure social and ecological results ?

Carbon Footprint Analyses are likely to be the first step. Smaller and larger software companies are coming up with their solutions. This can be quickscans via Internet. But often this solution would not fit as many data are required which requires a tool installed at the customer premises.  Among the solutions proposed were the one of IBM and its partner Eliadas. Eliadas offers ‘Elicarbon’, a customised Carbon Footprint Calculation software tool. Authorisation is dispatched among the appropriate company representatives (Sales Director to fill in Car Fleet of Sales Reps, Operations Manager to fill in Production Details). The tool is approved by ADEME.

CSR Dashboards. There is an increasing request to track the performance of combined economical, environmental and social indicators.  Different IT vendors are responding to this growing demand with a ‘Tableaux de Bord’ solution. Among them are Prodware, a French IT provider. The Prodware Solution, approved by ADEME, translates existing ERP data into an overview with 25 indicators based on the GRI Guidelines. At the German IT giant SAP, the chemical sector has been driver for Environmental and Health Dashboards notably after the introduction of REACH legislation in 2007.  Now all sectors require environmental, health and other dashboards, SAP has developed, extending existing SAP IT architecture and data, a  Carbon Impact Tool, and a more extensive management tool (PCM) that shows a variety of indicators (financial, health, environment).

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Another recurring question was : How to mobilise and educate our employees  ?

Training of employees. Apart from a technical training to understand new tools, education and training about environmental and social matters is essential to create behavioural change . We have seen this earlier at La Poste (Eco-Conduite Trainings to reduce car petrol use) Most oconsultancies and suppliers are offering extensive trainings for ‘sensibilisation’ (mobilisation) of the workforce, together with their core product or services.

Master Courses. Many French universities are starting Master Programs around Sustainable Development, two of them were Ecole de Management de Strassbourg and IHEDREA.

In-company Collaborative Tools. Collaborative tools  and social media can be very useful to create an fertile ground for cross-functional and informal working. This is  essential in the process of innovaton and mobilisation of employees. IBM is piloting in 170 countries around the world IBM-media like ‘IBM Beehive’ (internal Facebook, 58000 users), WikiCentral (internal Wikipedia, 370.000 users), Blog Central (internal blog, 730.000 users). IBM is eager to explain how the collaborative tools are not just ‘good fun’ but contribute to internal efficiency and employee satisfaction : An internal survey showed that 84% of participants find IBMs internal experts earlier than before, 74% confirm to have an increased productivity and 64% believes his or her personal reputation has increased.

Corporate Responsability in France : Corporate Image still Key Driver

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Corporate Responsability Strategy in Place. Nearly all French companies (90%) have now a ‘Developpement Durable‘ (DD) strategy in place (76% in 2008, according to a recent study of Limelight Consulting (1)). As well, many companies (62%) have created a decidated departments for DD (55% in 2008).

Strategic Reason : Corporate Image. ‘The Company’s  Corporate Image‘ is mentioned as the most important strategic motivation for DD (36%). Other plausible reasons seem less manifest, such as ‘responding to customer requirements ‘ (13%), or ‘new ways of innovation’ (7%) or ‘cost reduction‘ (5%). 69% of respondents take environmental impact into account in their communication activities.

Performance Indicators still Rare. Not many companies have still quantitatied nor are measuring their specific environmental or social objectives. 16% has created performance indicators,  14% calculates regularly calculates its carbon footprint.

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Sustainable Products are Upcoming. Despite the focus on communication, an encouraging 80% of the companies state to have started development of sustainable products and services last year.

Source : 1. Study of Limelight Consulting Study (Sept 2009) with 129 participating French companies.