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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)

This interview is between Antoine Sire, Head of Company Engagement, BNP Paribas and Alice Spencer, Programme Director at the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL). BNP Paribas is a French international banking group. It is the world’s eighth largest bank by total assets and currently operates with a presence in 72 countries, employing 192,000 staff.

CISL and BNP Paribas have been working together for two years on the Positive Impact Business Training to support the bank’s ambition to lead its sector in driving impact through business model innovation and stakeholder engagement to be ‘the bank for a changing world’.


BNP Paribas interviewRead the full interview here

Read a short summary of the interview below.


Core topics

  • Critical risks and opportunities that motivated BNP Paribas’s ambition to be ‘The bank for a changing world’.
  • Shifting from philanthropy and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to positive impact business solutions embedded within the strategy.
  • The responsibility of being rated a ‘leading’ bank and how this impacts strategy.
  • BNP Paribas strategy for banking emerging economies.
  • Reconciling public high ambition with internal action eg on inequality and climate change.
  • Working with clients that may be profitable in the short term but unsustainable in the long term.
  • How to accelerate sustainable finance within the bank.
  • How to motivate the same level of urgency around climate, ecological and social emergencies as we have seen for Covid-19.
  • Lessons for leaders in driving significant, complex and long-term programmes.


"We developed community-centred programmes in retail and corporate banking that made us aware of what is happening in society, and we had hundreds of executives that became mentors for young disadvantaged people. This was an early important part of our story as a bank ."


"We are organising ourselves to do more for those who are moving in the right direction and do less for clients who are not making an effort to be sustainable."


"Being a leader is very important, it makes people proud and motivated to go even further. We will always keep the spirit of a challenger bank, no matter where we sit in the league tables, which means we can never relax. Our staff and stakeholders do not see the league tables and think ‘job done’. We will always struggle to prove we are one of the big players and having sustainability as central to our purpose is important in maintaining that position."