Could you introduce yourself and tell us about your role at BNP Paribas Asset Management (BNPP AM)?

BNPP AM IS A LEADER
IN SUSTAINABILITY,
BUT WE WON’T BE FOR
LONG IF WE STAND STILL

I’m BNPP AM’s Co-Head of Global Product Strategy. In my role, I contribute to defining the strategies and services we offer to our clients, taking into account their current needs and what they are likely to want in the future. A big part of my job is determining how sustainable our new products should be. Beyond product characteristics, I have been involved in our sustainability transformation, and I’m a member of our Sustainability Committee. I think about how to educate our salesforce, including our network of 60+ ESG1 champions within our Global Client Group to talk about sustainability, how to make sure all our investment strategies are truly integrating sustainability, and how we report on sustainability to our clients. I also spend a fair amount of my time thinking about what we need to focus on next. BNPP AM is a leader in sustainability, but we won’t be for long if we stand still.

BNPP AM IS A LEADER
IN SUSTAINABILITY,
BUT WE WON’T BE FOR
LONG IF WE STAND STILL



What’s your personal interest in sustainability?

I spent a lot of my working life in Hong Kong, and during my time there I witnessed first-hand just what human beings are capable of in terms of pollution. I took part in a lot of beach clean-ups. There was all sorts of rubbish on the beaches, including medical waste. Children play there and swim in the sea. And there were dead fish. When those fish were cut open they were full of plastic. Another consideration for me is that I’m Dutch. Over the years we’ve been very good in the Netherlands at protecting ourselves from the sea, but as sea levels rise it’s going to become even more expensive and technologically challenging to keep the country above water. So the climate emergency is very real to me. We all need to change our behaviours. Even if you only make a small change, it might start a snowball effect, with everyone realizing they have a role to play as the snowball gets bigger and bigger.

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interview

Why do you feel investing sustainably is so important?

THE ENERGY TRANSITION
IS PROBABLY
THE GREATEST INVESTMENT
OPPORTUNITY THERE IS

If you don't take sustainability into account in your investments, you’re essentially saying it’s ok not to be sustainable. So, for example, if you buy a mainstream index, you’re basically supporting all of the companies in that index, regardless of whether they integrate sustainability, whether they’re part of the energy transition, whether they care about environmental pollution. Investors are realizing that not making an active choice to invest sustainably is essentially an active choice to maintain the status quo.
And investment is all about making a return, too. In my mind, the energy transition is probably the greatest investment opportunity there is, at least in my generation. So incorporating sustainability makes a lot of sense, both from an investment risk-return perspective and from the perspective of doing good.

THE ENERGY TRANSITION
IS PROBABLY
THE GREATEST INVESTMENT
OPPORTUNITY THERE IS

Does BNPP AM contribute to sustainability more than any other asset manager does?

BEING PART OF
BNP Paribas
GIVES US MORE
POWER TO INFLUENCE

I believe it does. We report on all our KPIs to our clients so they can see we are sincere and serious about investing sustainably. We also produce what we call the Green Book, which is a collection of slides demonstrating our credentials and our points of differentiation. It’s based not on what we say, but on what credible third-parties say about us. In addition to previous studies, a recent report by ShareAction2 indicates that BNPP AM is clearly a leader, if not the leader, in sustainable investment, particularly with respect to the way we engage with companies. We added this to the Green book, accompanied by a chart showing how we usually vote in favor of climate resolutions at Annual General Meetings – far more than our competitors do. We have many proof points about how our global sustainability strategy, how we integrate ESG, and how our responsible business conduct policy stand out from the crowd. If we couldn’t differentiate ourselves in this way, we wouldn’t be able to show how serious we are about ESG. And I believe that working for a larger organisation, like BNP Paribas, gives us much more power to influence and to make sure that we are all contributing to change towards a more sustainable world.

BEING PART OF
BNP Paribas
GIVES US MORE
POWER TO INFLUENCE

Is it difficult to ensure all of your investment teams incorporate ESG?

It’s a big challenge as we have lots of different investment teams across the world, each adopting a different investment process. One of the steps we’ve taken is to establish an ESG Integration Validation Committee, which gives guidance to our investment teams about what we expect of them in terms of ESG integration, and then the teams have to present back to the committee on what they’ve done. This is a key ingredient in ensuring we integrate ESG across our range consistently.

What ESG products can we look out for next?

Our sustainable thematic strategies have proven very popular because our clients want to invest in firms trying to solve the sustainability challenges the world is facing, such as the energy transition. In my view, they’re a critical component of our offering. The last strategy we launched is linked to the theme of biodiversity and ecosystem restoration. We believe it is a huge topic around the world, and we’re delighted to enable our investors to step in with their assets and to help combat this critical challenge.

IF YOU DON'T TAKE SUSTAINABILITY
INTO ACCOUNT IN YOUR INVESTMENTS,
YOU’RE ESSENTIALLY SAYING IT’S OK
NOT TO BE SUSTAINABLE

1 Environment, Social and Governance
2 ShareAction-Leading-Practice-2021.pdf

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