In 2022, it is difficult for us, business leaders, not to question our role in the face of the ecological and social challenges of the century. But it is even more difficult to extract ourselves from a daily reality, from constraints and exacerbated competition. The temptation is often great to focus on the development of our structures, believing that it is up to the political world to fulfill its function.
Responsibility and sustainability
This wait-and-see attitude is not only contrary to our responsibilities, but also to our interests. This is First of all, of course, a question of responsibility. We cannot ignore the urgency of ecological and social crises when we have some of the most powerful levers for action. How can we justify that global finance has invested 4.6 trillion dollars in fossil fuels since the signing of the Paris Agreement, while scientific authorities are calling for the cessation of all new oil and gas projects to achieve carbon neutrality in 2050? ? Everyone can estimate on their individual scale that they are only responding to a very real request, but the accumulation of these behaviors delays the transition and leads us into a wall. The ecological reorientation of the economy is necessary to collectively and quickly develop the solutions that will keep the world livable.
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But getting involved is not just a matter of responsibility. It is much more prosaically to defend our most basic interest, namely the sustainability of our company. The lack of commitment will now be sanctioned in one way or another. By the force of economic realities first, then that of public opinion and finally that of the law, a company deaf to the challenges of the century can only experience a disastrous fate.
By the force of economic realities first. Investing in fossil fuels is not just about disrupting the climate. It means taking the risk of holding illiquid and devalued forward assets, which are dangerous for one’s financial health. The Bank of England estimates that with its current level of exposure to climate risk, British finance will face loss rates of 10 to 15% of its annual profits. For an insurer like me, the risk is even greater. While climatic claims have cost 75 billion euros to French insurers over the past 30 years, it is estimated that the bill will be doubled by 2050. Waiting to act is preparing for bankruptcy.
Prove your commitment to recruit
Then by force of opinion. While the phenomenon of great resignation is observed across the Atlantic and that of the ecological bifurcation is born in our schools, who can still hope to recruit the talents of tomorrow without providing proof of their commitment? Even more immediately, as we have seen in the dependency sector, companies that are too indifferent to their impact suffer the wrath of public opinion and see their stock market value plummet. To wait to act is to guarantee its marginalization.
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Finally, by force of law. If the tightening of ecological and social regulations sometimes experiences occasional slowdowns or setbacks, the horizon is in fact very clear: tomorrow carbon will be increasingly taxed, thermal cars will be prohibited, the remuneration of managers will be partly indexed to climatic criteria and the demand for ethical transparency vis-à-vis companies will increase. To wait to act is to be tossed about by politics.
Commitment, a source of performance
My conviction is that all these transformations are so many opportunities when we agree to take the lead. Commitment is not only a question of conviction, it is a source of performance. In the world to come, this is what attracts, builds loyalty, makes profitable and lasts.
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The whole difficulty is to install this ethic at the heart of its governance, its organization, its profession and its corporate culture in a world where the dictatorship of the short term reigns. The adoption of the status of company with a mission makes it possible to initiate this transformation by obliging the company to align its core business and its stakeholders with its raison d’être. Many have understood this and are taking the plunge: after 3 years of existence, the movement includes more than 500,000 employees and has representatives among the favorite brands of the French. I call on the public authorities to take the regulatory, tax and prudential measures that will support this dynamic, by rewarding companies that take short-term risks in the service of the long term. But above all, I call on all business leaders to join the movement, in their well-understood interest.