The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation has come a long way since it was founded in those two cities to finance international trade in 1865. Headquartered in London, UK, since 1991, the HSBC group was listed by Forbes magazine as the second largest bank in the world in 2010.
It is one of a small number of financial institutions that has a truly international influence. It has a significant presence in all of the world’s major financial markets and, unusually even for a global bank, it is listed on five stock exchanges.
Through an international network spanning 87 countries, HSBC provides financial services to individuals, businesses and institutions. Some 300,000 employees of the firm serve 95 million personal customers and over 3.5 million commercial customers. At the end of 2010, the bank’s assets amounted to over US$2.5 trillion.
The company segments its business according to customer requirements into the divisions of retail, commercial, investment and private banking. The Retail Banking and Wealth Management division offers products and services to customers based on their individual needs. This may include bank accounts and payment methods, loans, insurance, investment management and financial planning services.
HSBC is known in financial circles for a relatively risk-averse approach. This, along with the global nature of its investments and operations, means that the group as a whole is less vulnerable to regional market volatility than some competitors. Despite restructuring taking place in the period 2011-2013, the firm’s global outlook is strong.
HSBC’s Corporate Sustainability Committee is responsible for advising the Board and top managers. The company educates and engages its employees on climate change issues throughout the group.
With many investments around the world that may be susceptible to the effects of climate change, the bank recognizes that it must take a far-sighted view of risk, and must operate within environmental limits.
HSBC has recognized that early participants in a Clean Revolution will reap considerable rewards if they can manage risks effectively. The Group’s far-reaching and decisive strategies are helping it to face the challenges and to take advantage of the opportunities presented by climate change.
HSBC Climate Partnership
In 2007, the company made a US$100 million, five-year commitment to work with The Climate Group and three other NGOs to reduce the impact of climate change on people, forests, freshwater and cities, and to accelerate the adoption of low carbon policies.
With The Climate Group, the Partnership has helped set up programs to catalyze the adoption of three proven technologies: LEDs, electric vehicles and smart ICT. HSBC helped The Climate Group to set up offices in China and India to work with regional and national governments to ameliorate climate impacts of rapid development in those countries.
In 2005 it became the first bank and the first FTSE 100 company to become carbon neutral. It achieved this by increasing energy efficiency, reducing business travel, and purchasing renewable energy; remaining emissions were offset by purchasing verified carbon credits.
Sustainable finance and investment
As a leading financial institution with a global reach and respected brand, it plays an important role in leading a transition towards a low carbon economy. It encourages sustainable finance through the UNEP Finance Initiative, of which it is a founder signatory, and it chairs the steering committee of The Climate Group’s Climate Principles. It has formulated a set of Group-wide sustainability policies to guide its approach to each industry sector it deals with.
In the UK, HSBC has a 49% stake in Partnerships for Renewables (PfR), a US$49 million commitment with further investment capital available. It aims to develop a 500 megawatt portfolio of renewable energy projects using public sector land across the UK by 2014.