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CEO Sustainability Series | Raphael Cheminat, Group Country Head for Singapore and Head of South East Asia Societe Generale

As part of the Sustainable Business initiative, the French Chamber of Commerce in Singapore presents a leadership interview series where we invite CEOs and key executives to discuss crucial management qualities that drive successful sustainable transformation

Question 1: What has your company’s sustainability journey been like so far?

Sustainable Finance is at the heart of our strategy, as inspired by our purpose “Building together, with our clients, a better and sustainable future through responsible and innovative financial solutions”. As far back as 2001, Societe Generale was a founding member of the Positive Impact Initiative within the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP-FI). We continue to play an active role in major industry initiatives to help drive sustainable change. Some examples include the Poseidon Principles, Paris Agreement Capital Transition Assessment (PACTA) commitment and the UN Principles for Responsible Banking. We were also the first bank to join the Investor Group of the Hydrogen Council and most recently joined the UNEP-FI Net-Zero Banking Alliance.

Helping to advance energy transition and sustainability efforts in the Asia Pacific (APAC) has been a key focus for us. We have supported our clients on more than 50 Renewable projects across APAC between 2015 and 2021. As we expand our footprint in the Renewables space, we aim to support the emerging key value chains and new technologies such as Electric Vehicle,
Hydrogen and energy storage in the region. We have been also acting for communities by pushing innovative sustainable financing solutions across areas like SME financing, social- economic advancement and empowerment, healthcare, education and vocational training.

ESG has become a must and our stakeholders demand the highest standards in business ethics, diversity and expect us to maximise our positive impact on society in the way we conduct our business. With over 20 years of experience in this space, we are well-positioned to support the unprecedented sustainable growth and value creation that is needed.

Q2: What role do Financial Institutions like Societe Generale play in facilitating the transition to a lower carbon economy?

We’re committed to reinventing our business to align with our clients’ changing needs and support the transformation to a sustainable future. Societe Generale is helping to drive the region’s energy transition through four key areas. First, by contributing to new standards.
As we have seen through our long history in Europe, standardised criteria improve trust in the market, bring confidence and assurance to investors, ultimately enabling more effective sustainable finance flows. That’s why we play an active role with industry groups globally to help create clear and consistent standards. In Singapore, we’re supporting the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s efforts to develop a local green taxonomy through the Green Finance Industry Taskforce.

Second, through our commitment to financing the renewable energy transition. We have been actively engaged in fighting against global warming by supporting clients and power producers towards a smart energy transition.

We also remain focused on leveraging innovative ESG solutions in financial markets to support our clients’ ESG strategies. For example, in April 2021, we helped UOB to successfully raise US$1.5bn in the first offshore sustainability bond offering from Singapore, with the proceeds used to finance or refinance loans related to renewable energy, green buildings, and employment generation.

Finally, acting for communities across geographies is a key priority for us. We are working to be a catalyst for positive societal and economic impact in emerging and developed economies, as we build sustainable solutions with our clients. There is much work to be done, but momentum is building and I believe that the environmental transition, and the accompanying shift to cleaner technologies, is a generational opportunity for countries and companies in Southeast Asia to work together to lead the transition to a sustainable future and deliver a positive impact for the entire region.

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