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Companies to face greater scrutiny on ESG in wake of pandemic, Desjardins CEO says

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The chief executive of Desjardins Group says the coronavirus pandemic is increasing the pressure on companies to embrace environmental and social factors, a trend that Desjardins, Canada’s largest financial co-operative, is prepared to take advantage of.

COVID-19 has given people time to think about the society they want to live in, said Guy Cormier, the president and CEO of Desjardins Group, which has around seven million members and clients and approximately $350 billion in assets.

The time to reflect will also get people asking questions of companies, financial institutions and governments, such as why they were able to work together on responses to the pandemic but not on issues such as climate change and diversity, according to Cormier. Pressure is likely to come not just from clients and investors, but employees, too.

We are totally convinced that our growth must drive social progress

Guy Cormier, the president and CEO of Desjardins Group

“I think the pandemic has just been a moment where people realize … how interdependent we are,” he said in an interview on Monday. “No one has enough money, no one has enough power, no one has enough tools or capacity to fix an issue like the pandemic, or to fix many, many of the issues that we’re facing. And we must work together to fix all these issues.”

Cormier had warned before the pandemic that short-term thinking was contributing to problems such as climate change and income inequality. His latest comments come, though, amid a pandemic that has pushed many people and businesses to the brink and forced governments and financial institutions to partner up to provide assistance.

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