HSBC net-zero promises brought into question by shareholders

Lucy Harley-McKeown
·2-min read
A Swiss International aircraft flies past the HSBC headquarters building in the Canary Wharf financial district in east London February 15, 2015. HSBC apologised to customers and investors on Sunday for past practices at its Swiss private bank after allegations that it helped hundreds of clients to dodge taxes. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls (BRITAIN - Tags: BUSINESS CRIME LAW TRANSPORT TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
HSBC faces calls from its shareholders to take climate change more seriously. Photo: REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

HSBC (HSBA.L) is facing pressure from its shareholders for its links to financing the fossil fuel industry, with pressure mounting ahead of its AGM in April.

According to the Financial Times, a group of investors including Amundi and Man Group filed a resolution ahead of the meeting, which said the bank was failing to take climate change seriously.

HSBC, along with other banks and oil industry giants, has made pledges to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, but — the resolution noted — the bank has not made any specific pledges to reduce its funding for fossil fuels.

It has previously said its target is to "align its financed emissions — the carbon emissions of its portfolio of customers — to the Paris Agreement goal to achieve net zero by 2050 or sooner."

"The bank also aims to be net zero in its operations and supply chain by 2030."

It added that it has earmarked between $750bn (£553bn) and $1.0tn of finance and investment to assist the transition.

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At the time of the pledge the bank also faced criticism from campaigners, who said the plan lacked credibility, as Europe’s second biggest backer of fossil fuels had not laid out a timeline for when it would begin to phase out support for coal and companies involved in oil and gas extraction.

“A 550-word statement and not a single concrete commitment made by HSBC. This is zero ambition, not ‘Net Zero Ambition,’” said Adam McGibbon, UK energy finance Campaigner, at Market Forces in October.

The calls ahead of the AGM were backed by 15 institutional investors and 117 individual shareholders, which were rounded up by ShareAction, according to the FT.

Climate campaigns are increasingly looking to financial institutions to strengthen their position on climate change.

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