It was in 2020 when HSBC first announced its aim of becoming a net zero bank by 2050 – a time when many of its competitors were making similar pledges to an ever-environmentally-conscious customer base.
But plans are only as good as the expected foundation from which you make them. The COVID-19 pandemic immediately shifted the focus of global banking organisations from forward-thinking to firefighting a macroeconomic storm.
In the four years since 2020, banks have had to grapple with volatile market conditions, rising inflation and increased competition from challenger banks.
But as the economic outlook brightens somewhat and predictions of a recession are swept aside by a consistently resistant economy, banks like HSBC can once again chart a course for the long term, with sustainability front of mind.
HSBC: Charting a course to net zero by 2050
In the release of its Net Zero Transition Plan, HSBC sets out a three-pronged strategy to achieve net zero by 2050.
The first is a new mantra for its future vision and strategic approach. HSBC intends to use its strengths in financing, facilitation and investment to help prioritise support for industries that it believes will have a meaningful impact on decarbonisation in the real economy.
Secondly, HSBC plans to capitalise on expected transitions in key economic sectors, using sector pathways to engage with clients on the future of their industries and financial needs, promoting sustainability in all areas of a client’s transition process.
It also lays out a new approach to setting and evolving sectoral financed emissions targets and details how it can make progress towards them.
Lastly, HSBC details a new implementation plan for how it is transforming itself, particularly in how it supports its clients and customers, embeds net zero into its business and strikes the right partnerships for system change.
Systemic change front of mind on path to net zero
Indeed, systemic change is something HSBC is keen to highlight throughout its Net Zero Transition Plan.
That’s because it is perfectly positioned to help drive it. HSBC is present in a range of different sectors, with partners at varying levels of development. The net-zero and sustainability goals of these partners, therefore, vary from one to the next.
But that doesn’t mean net zero is unattainable, it just means it’s difficult to achieve. Despite the challenge, HSBC aims to leverage its position to support its partners in three key ways:
- Support the development of an enabling environment for climate action and investment.
- Mobilise customers, investors, partners and the wider financial sector to help finance the transition and build inclusion and resilience.
- Transform by engaging employees, suppliers, and investors to be fit for a net zero future.
HSBC Group Chief Executive, Noel Quinn, says: “As one of the world’s largest international banks, HSBC is well placed to help support and finance the economic transformation required to reach net zero.”
The bank’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Celine Herweijer, adds that it is HSBC’s presence in markets with the biggest impact on emissions that makes it well-positioned to positively impact future emissions output.
“We are present in the regions, the markets and the sectors that arguably make the biggest impact in terms of future emissions,” she says.
“We have an opportunity to support them to make the transition and catalyse the new economy, following the science and leveraging our entrepreneurial spirit.”