Sustainability forces shaping the future

Hear from Craig Leeson on how global cooperation, innovation and consumer power are moving the climate change paradigm.


Amidst a climate and biodiversity crisis, Craig Leeson, award winning filmmaker, storyteller, sustainability advocate and BNP Paribas’ partner, is known worldwide for his enthusiasm about the solutions emerging on the global stage. With his experience as a journalist, Craig uses the power of films to raise awareness and inspire action on various sustainability issues. He is the film director behind A Plastic Ocean and The Last Glaciers. Craig empowers individuals, communities, companies and governments to take action, spark behavioral change towards action on climate and biodiversity challenges.

During a conversation with BNP Paribas’ Sarisher Mann, CIB Global Head of Sustainable Finance Communications and Marketing, Leeson shares his thoughts.

Collaboration, innovation, and investment in the low carbon economy

As estimated in the IPCC’s recent climate assessment, the world must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 60% by 2035. The transition to a low carbon economy presents an exceptional opportunity, particularly for young entrepreneurs and new businesses. “I’m thrilled to see that we are driving towards solutions”, explains Leeson, as “this is a global problem that requires global coordination, and we’re making progress in many different sectors across nature, policy and capital.”

Craig Leeson

This is a global problem that requires global coordination, and we’re making progress in many different sectors across nature, policy and capital.

Craig Leeson
Award winning sustainability filmmaker

“The commercialisation of this transition offers a catalyst for emerging markets”, Leeson continues. “The potential for innovation and growth is immense.”

When it comes to mobilising the Bank’s teams to support sectors in the shift towards net zero, BNP Paribas teams have been actively working on this transformation. For example, BNP Paribas’ Low Carbon Transition Group was created in October 2021 as a global ecosystem of 200 specialists with a mandate to support the Bank’s customers in their transition to low carbon business models. 

The filmmaker stresses the importance of collaboration and coordination to build infrastructure that works for everyone. “We don’t want to build different infrastructure at great cost in various areas around the world” he said, focusing on the “need to ensure that we’re all on the same page and working towards a common goal.”

This is particularly relevant for emerging markets and developing countries, where around US$2 trillion will be needed annually to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, according to International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates. Ultimately, sustainable finance plays a crucial role in driving this transition.

“We need to attract and channel investment in the right context to benefit everyone” Leeson emphasises. “It’s about using capital with purpose, creating value for all stakeholders, and attracting investors who share our vision for a sustainable future.”

Simultaneously, LinkedIn’s ‘Global Green Skills Report 2023 ’ highlighted that between 2022 and 2023, the share of job postings which required at least one green skill has risen by over 22%.

Forces shaping the future - episode 1

Consumers are driving positive change

A recent study conducted by Ipsos and BNP Paribas’ NEST (Network of Experts in Sustainability Transitions) shows that 70% of Europeans feel anxious about climate change. However, in a world where climate change and biodiversity loss is becoming ever more present in peoples’ daily lives, consumers are taking charge of their purchasing power as citizens. Realising that “every single dollar individuals spend sends a very important message to the producers of products and how we want them presented to us”, as Leeson promotes environmentally sound and socially responsible practices. This new mindset is particularly prevalent among the younger generation.

Young people are seeking employment at companies that prioritise strong Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) principles. In focusing on intergenerational issues, Leeson questions “what should our legacy be?”. Fueled by a desire to leave a sustainable legacy for future generations, individuals are making a difference – one purchase at a time. The same IPSOS study confirms it: 46% of Europeans consider the fight against global warming a priority and 92% have changed at least one daily habit. The movement of young people to engage on climate change is a growing trend that signifies a shift in consumer behavior, with people choosing to invest in companies that prioritise the well-being of the planet and its communities.

Forces shaping the future - episode 2

Partnering for a sustainable future

According to Craig Leeson, the partnership with BNP Paribas helping address three critical issues: the proliferation of single-use plastics, biodiversity loss, and the climate crisis. Leeson shares his optimism, saying, “This is so valuable to us because finance is such a big solution.”

Speaking about single-use plastics, Leeson expresses his concern: “we thought this product was so good to us, but we’ve found out that it has become so bad. The human health problems associated with the chemical components of this product are a significant concern”, advocating for a ban on single-use plastics. “We can’t clean it out of the ocean anymore, and yet we’re producing more than ever” Leeson explained, pointing that “we will have a massive problem in the future if we don’t deal with it now”.

BNP Paribas is committed to reducing its direct environmental impacts by reducing material inputs, such as single-use plastics. The Bank is working with teams around the world  tackle issues related to single use plastics , especially with its suppliers in many countries. Biodiversity loss is another pressing issue, where Leeson emphasized its importance as “the life support system we need to leave on this planet. Without every single other creature – the bees, the birds – we can’t sustain ourselves because they’re critical in maintaining the life”.

In recognising biodiversity loss, BNP Paribas has also recently strengthened its commitment towards biodiversity preservation, allocating €4bn in financing of companies helping to protect terrestrial and marine biodiversity by 2025.  Lastly, Leeson addresses the climate crisis, stating, “The reason we focus on glaciers in our movie ‘The Last Glaciers’ is because it’s a visual reference of what we’re doing and how we’re as humans inducing this climate change beyond natural cycles”. Leeson is confident that we can solve the climate issue, but it needs to be addressed urgently: ” We can solve the climate issue, but we need to do it today”.

Forces shaping the future - episode 3

Further partnerships for progress

Collaboration towards UN Sustainable Development Goals: To inspire further positive action on the UN SDGs, BNP Paribas is partnering with UN Young Leader for SDGs and artist AY Young, who is also an ambassador for the Joint SDG Fund. This builds upon BNP Paribas’ cinema platform heritage and positive impact with award-winning sustainability filmmaker Craig Leeson.