Tuesday 13 February 2018

What happens when multinationals, financial institutions and startups start working in partnership to solve a sustainability challenge?


The Fintech Taskforce marks a major milestone in our understanding of the new possibilities of fintech. Created in March 2017, it is organised by the Banking Environment Initiative, which is convened by the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL). Its recent report, Catalysing Fintech for Sustainability, convened by the Banking Environment Initiative (of which BNP Paribas is a member), outlines its recommendations on how we can tap into the collective know-how of multinationals, financial institutions and startups that could play a critical role in tackling the sustainability challenges of the real economy in the 21st century. 

The world is our oyster

With a mandate to address the practical challenges of collaborative multi-sector innovation, the task was to establish a way to set up "Fintech for Sustainability" catalysts for the various parties:
"The collective know-how of multinationals, financial institutions and startups could play a critical role in tackling the sustainability challenges in the 21st century"
each catalyst would support a portfolio of innovation projects, each with its own particular objectives. Every round should be commercially driven, with a capacity to implement a solution at scale and an aim of channelling capital to help deliver at least one UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG).

The most recent manifestation of this new approach is the deployment of blockchain technology to incentivise sustainable supply chains in tea production: by casting light on the production processes and making it easy to monitor and record social and environmental practices, financial institutions are able to structure financing that provides a financial incentive to meet sustainability objectives. 

The idea, then, is simple enough: bring together multiple specialists from across disparate sectors, align their interests, and make tech-driven sustainability happen. It is not without its challenges. But banks like BNP Paribas, which is part of this Fintech Taskforce and has taken major strides to speed up the energy transition, are working more and more with both startups and multinationals to overcome some of the more difficult obstacles.

While we take our first tentative steps, as the use of blockchain in the harvesting of tea shows, when we set our minds to it, almost anything is possible – and the world is our oyster.

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