Living Sustainability | With Gianluca Soma, Societe Generale
The banking sector is a major driver for socio-economic and environmental change. Accordingly, Societe Generale’s mission has changed from its original purpose of 150 years ago (promoting trade and industry), to one that notably puts sustainability at its heart, based in the understanding that economic development and social and environmental change go hand-in-hand.
Gianluca Soma is Societe Generale’s Head of International Retail Banking, Europe and Group Country Head for Russia. In this interview he takes us behind the scenes of Societe Generale’s CSR agenda.
“Building together, with our clients, a better and sustainable future through responsible and innovative financial solutions.”
This revised purpose was shaped with 85,000 contributions from staff worldwide. Three business orientations now guide the influence the Group seeks to have on the world: climate change, social innovation and sustainable development in Africa. The commitments involve all levels of its governance, from entry level staff to the Management Committee and Board, from operations to control functions. Its ‘Group Responsible Business Committee’ addresses complex cases that present a high risk of reputational damage, or non- alignment with its standards regarding CSR, ethics or conduct.
Societe General on the Frontlines
On 4 May 1864, Napoleon III signed Societe Generale’s founding decree. Driven by the ideals of progress, the Bank’s mission was “to promote the development of trade and industry in France". During the interwar period, Societe Generale began to build an international reach by financing infrastructure essential to the economic development of a number of countries in Latin America, Europe and North Africa. This expansion was accompanied by the establishment of an international retail network and the acquisition of stakes in financial institutions in Central Europe.
Today the Group has 133,000 members of staff in 61 countries, “Building together, with our clients, a better and sustainable future through responsible and innovative financial solutions.”
The bank has taken a leading role in collaborative sustainability initiatives. For example it was a founding signatory to the UNEP-F1 Principles for Responsible Banking. It is a member of the Hydrogen Council, the Net-Zero Banking Alliance, and a contributor to the Sustainable IT Charter.
In its home market of France and since the start of 2020 Societe Generale distributed state-guaranteed loans of €21,6 bn, and participatory recovery loans (PPR). During Covid it has financed 27 projects to support medical research and healthcare workers, partnering with charities to support vulnerable people, and supported the cultural sector via sponsorships and grants. It has been supporting leading charities around the world to help communities and check the spread of the virus.
In the middle of the global pandemic, Societe Generale has continued to drive its sustainable purpose forward.
Read our full interview with Gianluca Soma, a 2021 winner of the CEOforLife award.