PwC and Societé Générale: Investing in sustainability

Recently, Christine Lagarde, president of the Central European Bank pointed out that tackling climate change is a collective endeavor and she is undoubtedly right. It is no surprise that these words…
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8 Jun 2021

Recently, Christine Lagarde, president of the Central European Bank pointed out that tackling climate change is a collective endeavor and she is undoubtedly right. It is no surprise that these words came from someone at the heart of the banking world as it is widely recognized that the financial industry has a strong role to play in counteracting climate change. Indeed, the right financial strategy will be central to achieving a greater good.

EDHEC Business School and MINES ParisTech are launching their new double degree MSc in Climate Change & Sustainable Finance in July 2021. This degree comes in answer to real market needs. The MSc will provide the job market with trained professionals who have both financial and on the edge technical expertise in the field of sustainable finance.  The unique partnership fostered by EDHEC Business School and MINES ParisTech will address a real skills gap as many companies search for proficient professionals with both financial and technical backgrounds. This 360° approach to sustainability will certainly give their graduates a wider vision when implementing sustainable strategies and advising their clients. It is certainly a big step in the domain of financial education.

France has always been a pioneer when it comes to sustainable finance. Businesses in both banking and consulting reflect this and are currently investing huge resources in sustainable finance and without doubt, this will continue.  Two excellent examples of this would be Société Générale and PwC.  Indeed, both companies demonstrated great foresight when over 20 years ago they started developing teams dedicated to developing sustainable finance.


PwC: Worldwide expertise in Sustainable Finance

PwC partner sustainability, Emilie Bobin, fondly recounts the beginnings of the PwC sustainable finance team in Paris commenting on how it had run at a loss during its early years.  Now, with a sound knowledge base developed over many years, they have gone on to develop a worldwide team of experts. Based in 60 countries, PwC has 2000 of its employees committed to sustainable Finance. Their teams are both multi-lingual and multi-national.  PwC currently employs 60 collaborators in France, but they are rapidly expanding and hope to employ up to 100 employees in this area by next year.  As more countries recognize the important role finance will play in climate change, the need for expertise is constantly growing. Changes in government policies such as in the USA have made this even more apparent.  

PwC’s sustainable finance teams work on pure finance and actively on regulations at a European level in all sectors, including the agricultural industry. Their teams are based around the world.  Whether in the Americas, Australia, Asia, or Europe, they are in constant exchange; creating together powerful mindshare of knowledge and concepts. Quick to recognize the importance of a local expertise base to ensure excellence for all clients, Emilie used their Morocco office as an example of how local presence is key. She explained how the mix of professional expertise and inside knowledge of a country was vital to providing a seamless service to their clients while also growing their knowledge in the field.  This structure is particularly important as French investors take an increasing interest in African countries.  PwC works with many of these investors, such as Africinvest as wells as NGOs.  The pattern is similar in Anglo-African countries. Emma Cox, PwC Partner & Head of purpose is at the helm of a team of 100 employees in the UK-based sustainability and Climate Change Team. Clearly, there is a wide scope for those interested in career opportunities in sustainable finance both in and out-with Europe. 


Société Générale: Banking on Climate Change

When it comes to the banking sector, Société Générale is most certainly a leader. They were quick to realize the huge leverage the banking world can have on making an impact on climate change.  They joined the UNEP F1 in 2001. Societé Générale’s head of Impact Finance Solutions, Hacina Py described how by 2007, they had signed the Equator Principles and were developing specialized teams in charge of analyzing environmental and social aspects of their project finance division to ensure that they were in line with EP commitments. Since then they have never looked back. They have developed a strong framework of sectorial policies detailing how they wish to operate in even the most sensitive sectors such as oil and gas, mining, hydropower, or biodiversity.  2007 was just a starting point and since then Société Générale has developed sustainable solutions such as the structuring of green bonds, social bonds, loans with sustainability KPIs, and ESG advisory for their clients.

Hacina pointed out that the next step will be to embed this culture on each team in the CIB world.  Sustainable banking is not and cannot be a matter of a few specialists, she commented.  It is vital that each officer with a customer interface needs to have an ESG culture and have the ability to understand the environmental and social issues facing their clients in not only the short term but in the long term as well.


EDHEC FE Track: Making an Impact on Climate Change

Both of these companies are clear examples of what lies ahead in the finance industry. Specialized financial professionals doted with technical knowledge will be golden. The path to achieving the Paris Agreement goals looks extremely positive. The hard work of companies such as PwC and Société Générale are paving the way and Hacina Py and Emilie Bobin are both very clear that job opportunities are growing. However, education in this race to tackle climate change has a vital role to play.  It is, after all, a tool that propagates new ideas and shapes the way we think. This new MSc in Climate Change & Sustainable Finance is therefore a bold and logical step that will undoubtedly be golden for EDHEC Business School’s future graduates as increasingly companies seek to benefit from the good.

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