In response to comments about climate change by Stuart Kirk, Global Head of Responsible Investing at HSBC Asset Management on 19 May, Veronica Oakeshott, Head of Forests Policy and Advocacy at Global Witness, said: 

“These comments are shocking and misinformed, but Kirk’s candour arguably cuts through the usual greenwashing PR and indicates the kind of conversations and thinking that is really going on behind the scenes in the financial sector with regards to the climate crisis.”  

“The fact that this comes from the Global Head of Responsible Investing of all people makes me shudder to think what is going on in other parts of the business.” 

“This is not just about one bad apple executive though, but about a sector that continues bankrolling deforestation, fossil fuels and climate breakdown. Take our findings that top global banks and investors in the UK, EU, US, and China ploughed $157 billion into agribusiness firms linked to the destruction of climate-critical forests and associated human rights abuses since the Paris Climate Agreement.”

“HSBC is one of the worst offenders, making deals worth an estimated $6.85 billion with some of the world’s worst deforesters between 2016 and 2020 and likely pocketing around $36.4 million in proceeds from the deforestation-risk parts of their clients’ businesses, according to a Global Witness investigation. This is more than any other British financial institution. HSBC has also reportedly financed fossil fuel operations to the tune of $110.7 billion since 2016.”

“Kirk’s comments are yet another urgent reminder that we cannot rely on the goodwill of financial institutions to voluntarily do the right thing. We need governments to introduce legislation that makes it illegal for banks and asset managers to continue backing climate-wrecking companies.”