Your Banking Dollars Can Make a Green Statement

Over the past few months I’ve been to countless lectures, talks and events by industry experts on going green, how to go green, or what they’ve done to go green. Last week I spent the day volunteering at the Greener Gadgets Conference where industrial designers and leaders from the electronics industry spent the day talking about take-back/recycling programs, environmentally sensitive materials, renewable energy technologies, and cradle-to-cradle product lifecycles. Overall it was a great event, hosted by good people, with a keynote from Chris Jordan and an audience judged competition of innovative green gadgets submitted by the community.

But somewhere in the middle of the day, while listening to representatives of Nokia, HP and Phillips talk about their “green” movements, I thought to myself, really? Can you really call yourself a leader in sustainable design if your “goal” is to increase the percentage of sustainable products you offer from 12% to 30% by 2012? Is that the best we can do? And why are you continuing to avoid the issue that a new battery packs, power cords, ink cartridges, etc. for every manufacturer and product model is purely planned obsolescence.

In short, I was not impressed. It just sounded like corporate rhetoric and mentally I was drawn back to a presentation a couple of weeks ago where an amazing speaker educated me on a company truly doing great things, HSBC. Completely different from suits dolling out rehearsed lines, Nicole M. Rousseau, passionately led me on a journey of how HSBC is leading the way on how to be a socially responsible company from the top down and the bottom up.

I’ll never be able to tell you all the great things they are doing as well as Nicole, but here are a few things I noted.

1. Their commitment to the environment has taken hold in everything that the company does from the largest to the smallest initiatives.

2. They are the first financial services company to be carbon neutral and have made dramatic company wide changes to their lighting, heating, cooling, and computer systems. They purchase “green electricity” whenever possible and then purchase carbon offset credits for the remaining balance. Their calculations, data, and commitment to this is all public info published online here. I love that they have even included employee business travel.

3. They send their employees out on “Earthwatch Expeditions,” such as forestry expeditions and trips to the Artic to aid in climate change research and become keenly aware of the problems the Earth is facing first hand.

4. In 2003, they adopted a review system called the Equator Principles. Before loaning money to a business they assess the social and environmental impact this company/initiative may create. Then they impose guidelines that this company must follow as part of the terms of the loan, or they won’t loan them the money…

5. Through their Climate Change Partnership they are actively funding research and initiatives to advance business and government leadership in the area of climate change.

Not a bad start and with full company support like this, I think we can only expect better things to come from HSBC in the future.

Recently HSBC started a green campaign to let you know about all these initiatives. They also offer a green bank account where you receive a CFL light bulb and coupon for 1,000 TerraPass credits by agreeing to receive paperless statements and making online transactions.

Most importantly by supporting businesses like HSBC your “voting dollars” are supporting a company that is striving to do good. That’s more than you can say for your average bank.