"The company is the most important institution of our time". This creed does not come from the mouth of a financier but from that of Pavan Sukhdev, new president of WWF International, convinced that entrepreneurs have a "moral" duty to protect the environment.
The purpose of the company "goes well beyond profit," says the Indian economist, in an interview with AFP. The former banker was in Paris Wednesday and Thursday, while he took the reins of the environmental NGO, present in more than 80 countries to preserve species and wild areas at risk. It has been forming partnerships with companies for about ten years.
"To survive, I have to breathe, but breathing is not my goal." In the same way, the company needs to make a profit. to exist, but the benefits are not its end, it's just part of the mechanism, "he says.
Fine glasses, impeccable tie suit, Pavan Sukhdev challenges" the creed "of the liberal economist Milton Friedman "that the company is simply a cash machine for the shareholders", during a meeting at WWF France headquarters in the Paris suburbs.
In his view, the goal of private companies must be "societal : solve problems, add value, serve society "because they cause damage to the planet. "It's a moral and economic imperative."
The economist, 57, gives a concrete example: "I'm selling a car, I'm making a profit, I'm happy … You're driving the car (…) you're happy, but a third person may not be, because the emissions from your car can affect his lungs, and a fourth person may not be happy either because these emissions contribute to climate change and his house on board of sea was destroyed by the rise of the waters and the storms. "
" These people suffer from the + externalities + of our economic activity (…) ", that is to say of collateral effects.
Today, "CEOs and economic leaders have a moral imperative to recognize the existence of these" + externalities ", to measure them (…) and to reduce them to the extent possible."
– Atypical Profile –
If a trend in this direction is initiated, "changes must be accelerated", both by "encouraging good behavior" and "overwhelming the bad". To achieve this, "we all have a role to play," insists the Indian, who took advantage of his stay in Paris to meet the Secretary of State for the Transition Brune Poirson ecological or representatives of the OECD. 19659002] He pleads for "a more responsible mode of consumption, which recognizes its impact" on the environment and "does not encourage you to consume in a way that is damaging to nature, society."
Pavan Sukhdev has an atypical profile in the world of NGOs: he spent 11 years in the Australian bank AZN, then 14 years in the German group Deutsche Bank, in Asia and London, working in particular on derivatives. But his "passion" for the environment has finally taken over, he says.
He was director of the UN's green initiative and led the study on the economics of the environment. Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), published in 2010, which helped to popularize the concept of "natural capital". The idea is to evaluate the value of the services rendered by biodiversity, now made free of charge. According to this work, the erosion of biodiversity costs between 1,350 and 3,100 billion euros per year.
Even today, this concept remains poorly understood, which can lead to "resistance", recognizes the economist.
"It's not about privatizing the commons, it's the exact opposite: it's about finding a rational reason to ensure that the public wealth of nature – central to our lives – be kept ". From theory to practice, there is still a chasm, he admits.