BfG News Issue 8 - Expert View: HSBC’s commitment to tackling Climate Change

08 Jan 2008|Added Value

Each month News invites an expert to give us their view on a topical issue.  This month we approached one of our expert speakers at the ‘Green 2.0:  Avoid the Greenwash’ summit in March this year – Chris Clark, Head of Marketing, HSBC Group. Chris joined HSBC Holdings plc in 2001 and since then has been an integral part of the team responsible for managing the HSBC brand globally.  At the ‘Branding for Good’ summit, Chris will share both the complexities and learnings that HSBC has encountered when faced with mixing cultural diversities and attitudes to ethical issues on a global scale.

At the beginning of 2007, HSBC commissioned Lightspeed Research to conduct one of the biggest research projects of its kind with 9,000 respondents completing an on-line survey in nine countries. The result is the Climate Change Confidence Index which indicates the levels of concern about climate change across Brazil, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong SAR, India, Mexico, UK and USA.  Overall, the survey revealed that people in China and India are actually the most optimistic that the problem of climate change can be overcome, compared with the more pessimistic Europeans  who are least optimistic that a solution will be found.

The research makes two points for companies.  The primary message is one of opportunity.  Companies can help people to take action, given their high level of commitment.  The challenge is that people are least ready to spend money on helping to reduce climate change, compared with other actions.  In terms of climate-friendly choices that companies offer to customers, the imperative is to offer these at no additional cost to the customer e.g. sustainable practices and materials built into business-as-usual processes, or offer solutions with a direct value beyond the benefit to the planet.

The second message for companies is the need to communicate the constructive steps they are taking in sustainability. This means using segmentation to understand customers’ attitudes and priorities to better target different propositions and messages. This is, of course, normal marketing practice, but it differs from a conventional corporate responsibility perspective.  Given the polarisation of attitudes as demonstrated in this survey, a multinational business trying to engage its customers and other stakeholders in initiatives on climate change needs to target its actions and messages carefully.

The launch of the HSBC Climate Confidence Index is part of HSBC’s broader strategy to contribute to tackling climate change.  Other initiatives include the Global Environmental Efficiency Programme, a US$90m commitment to reduce its own direct environmental impacts; the Carbon Finance Strategy, to help clients respond to the challenges and opportunities of creating a low-carbon economy; and the HSBC Climate Partnership, a US$100m programme involving four of the world’s most respected environmental groups (including WWF) and HSBC’s 315,000 employees in helping reduce the impacts of climate change worldwide. HSBC has also recently announced the appointment of Sir Nicholas Stern as its Special Adviser on Economic Development and Climate Change.”

For more information on HSBC’s environmental committment, visit

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