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Sustainable development: what exactly are we talking about?

European Sustainable Development Week begins on 18 September 2021. This is an opportunity for us to examine what is now a ubiquitous but ultimately somewhat misunderstood concept... A marketing argument for some, a synonym for ecology for others, what exactly are we talking about?

A concept established over 30 years ago

Sustainable development is a viable way of organising society in the long term. A definition was proposed in the Brundtland report back in 1987:

"Sustainable development is development of human societies that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”  
Ms Gro Harlem Brundtland, Norwegian Prime Minister, who initiated the report.

The concept was formalised and the definition was endorsed at the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio in 1992.

Sustainable development: what exactly are we talking about?

Not just environmental... 

Sustainable development goes much further than economic development because it is based on three complementary pillars: environmental, social (or societal) and economic. 

It is the balance between these three major components that underlies the notion of sustainable development. This balance determines whether the future can be simultaneously: 

•    fair (because economic imperatives do not take precedence over the interests of people),
•    viable (as production methods do not impinge upon the availability of resources),
•    and liveable (because society does not deteriorate due to its environment and health conditions).

Sustainable development is therefore a global approach to the development of our societies. It can encompass numerous concepts and more targeted initiatives such as the circular economy, biodiversity protection, energy transition, integration, eco-design and many more, including the 17 UN goals to transform our world!

 

A trigger for companies

Many companies have embraced this issue by implementing a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy which stems from this general concept of sustainable development. 

The Crédit Agricole Assurances CSR strategy revolves around powerful commitments that inspire every action and create value for the company. In this way, we act as a responsible insurer but also as a responsible investor and company.

We are a responsible insurer, as illustrated by our offerings, which include protecting farmers from climate risks, rolling out responsible savings solutions, and supporting the replanting of French forests (via our "1 policy signed = 1 tree planted” operation). We are also a responsible investor, supporting a low-carbon economy by reducing the share of “brown” assets (coal) in our investments and by increasing the “green” share (renewable energy sources). As a responsible employer, our priorities include promoting the employment of young people and diversity (gender mix, disability). We have also been supporting caregivers for over 10 years.

Learn more about our CSR policy

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