From the unavoidable to the sustainable

Concepción Blanco, BBVAMF Commercial Innovation

Reasonable doubt can no longer be harbored about the existence of worldwide climate change. It is a fact. Such change is now one of the most crucial challenges facing humanity because of its widespread impact on the most diverse aspects of our globalized society. Its consequences are already tangible in the economy, society, geopolitics, demographics, health… And the list goes on…

BBVAMF is taking a leading role as an agent of progress and a driving force in transforming our reality

To mark the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 22) held in Marrakech in November 2016, the World Bank released its report Unbreakable: Building the Resilience of the Poor in the Face of Natural Disasters, stating that the impact of extreme weather phenomena on poverty is much more devastating than had been thought, causing annual losses worth USD 520 billion in spending terms (60% more than the asset losses) and preventing 26 million people a year from escaping poverty.

Nor is there any doubt about the contribution of human activity to the genesis and exacerbation of this widespread phenomenon. The scientific community has coined the term “Anthropocene” to define the current era, characterized by the intense impact of human activity on the environment and land ecosystems, and its involvement in the degradation of the equilibriums that support them.

Becoming increasingly aware of this reality, the international community has mobilized. It is designing actions to implement an alternative sustainable development model to mitigate the negative consequences that the current model of economic and social development has for the health of the planet and the welfare of future generations.  The sustainable development model is underpinned by a holistic concept of development, in which the different facets of human life cannot be kept separate from one another.

Society, economics and environment are all melded in a sustainable development model driven by the United Nations’ Agenda 2030. When it was approved by its General Assembly in 2015, many saw it as the foundational event of a new economic paradigm. The Agenda drives forward a transformative vision for achieving the economic, social and environmental sustainability of the 193 UN-member countries. The over-arching goal of sustainable development is presented as a necessary consequence of balancing three key elements: economic growth, social inclusion and environmental protection. These factors are all inextricably linked to the wellbeing of people and their communities. In pursuit of this balance between them, the Agenda specifies a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Establishing targets to be reached over the next few decades helps to bring us closer to this sustainable, inclusive development model, in which poverty reduction and climate change are profoundly interconnected.

Aware of this world-wide challenge and of the particular vulnerability in the areas of Latin America where it conducts its activity, the BBVA Microfinance Foundation (BBVAMF) was an early adopter of the new model of sustainable finance. It designed a Sustainability Strategy that supports microfinance solutions linked to our clients’ productive activities with business templates focused on low-carbon sustainable growth. The Strategy protects natural capital, improves environmental quality and governance and achieves resilient growth that reduces people’s vulnerability to natural risks and to climate change.


Concepción Blanco, BBVAMF Commercial Innovation

Promoting this strategy has taken the form of many initiatives supported by the BBVAMF Group, among which the numerous agreements and partnerships with recognized development entities and agencies play a significant part. The partnership reached with the UN Environment Program (UNEP) is an important example. It has enabled Banco de las Microfinanzas (Bancamía) in Colombia (since 2011) and Banco de Ahorro y Crédito Adopem in the Dominican Republic (since 2018) to develop the Microfinance for Ecosystems based Adaptation (MEbA) program, which provides vulnerable rural populations with personalized advice and technical assistance, together with specific products and services to make it easier to adapt their productive activities to environmental imperatives, thus making their production unit and its performance more robust. Or with housing programs, such as the “Adopem Eco Home” product, for financing, designing and promoting environmentally friendly rural housing in the Dominican Republic, which links into the Rural Finance & Environment (FRA in the Spanish acronym) program, part of the “Improving the aggregate social value in microfinance” project sponsored by Redcamif and (Appui au Développement Autonome (ADA).

With a diversified offering of greener products in savings, lending and insurance, our microfinance institutions not only open up access to more efficient technologies and processes that reduce resource consumption, increasing both cost-savings and competitiveness, but also help to transform the habits and attitudes of the people, companies and communities that our activity targets. Thus, they come more into line with the aims that inspired the United Nations’ Responsible Banking Principles, currently going being debated within the approval process.

In this new global development approach, the BBVAMF is taking a leading role as an agent of progress and a driving force in transforming our reality. Microfinance has the potential to catalyze our small-scale producers’ adaptation to climate change, because small-scale positive action with this goal can be transformed into a large-scale positive change for the most disadvantaged population groups and those at the greatest risk.

As the General Secretary of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon urged, on the twentieth anniversary of the Social Development Summit held in Copenhagen in 1995: “We are the first generation that can wipe out extreme poverty. We are the last generation that can address the worst impacts of climate change before it is too late”. It is not possible to overcome one challenge successfully without tackling the other. Starting from this premise, in BBVAMF we are working to turn that hope of a better future into reality, promoting a sustainable and inclusive development model so that “no-one is left behind”.