When banks are bad we know about it. The term ‘banker’ has become a pariah in our conversation said so often between gritted teeth. We have, it seems, been conditioned to mistrust them, dislike them and resent everything they do. Even those working within the financial system are condemning their actions. Paul Abberley, CEO of Aviva Investors only last week described the financial system and the City as ‘amoral’. This came in his wider criticism of the lack of sustainable thinking in the financial sector especially in their pursuit of short term ”profitable investment opportunities, even when it was clear they caused damage to the environment or the social fabric of society.”.
We know when banks are bad because the media tells us but what about when they are good? Well, it appears that is less news worthy or so it seems. This week HSBC announced its 3 year progress in its Climate Partnership Programme and the penetration of this news in to the mainstream media has so far been minimal despite some impressive achievements.
The Climate Partnership is a $100m five-year environmental programme between HSBC, The Climate Group, Earthwatch Institute, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and WWF to reduce the impact of climate change on people, forests, freshwater and cities, and accelerate the adoption of low-carbon policies. 3 years in to the programme and the following has been achieved:
- 3m hectares of forest have been protected
- Freshwater sources have been improved for 28m people
- 18.5m hectares of wetland areas have been put under management
- 12 cities have been engaged in scaling up key low carbon technologies
- Engagement of 300 000 staff with 1700 all completing Earthwatch programme
- Set up of the WWF and the Climate Group operations in China
The climate partnership is a perfect example of what can be achieved when a business goes further than just the most basic corporate social responsibility or sponsorship and instead looks at a collaborative partnership with an NGO or in this case several NGOs. Collaborative solutions will be essential in driving the sustainability agenda forward and HSBC have given us a glimpse of what can be achieved especially by a huge multinational bank. In an era where banks too readily receive bad press HSBC should be praised. They have shown and demonstrated sustainable thinking in a sector where too often the most unsustainable behaviour takes place. It’s just a shame the mainstream media has failed to notice this.