Miguel Ángel Laporta
Director of Corporate Sustainability
HSBC México

Client Engagement Key for Sustainability

Wed, 02/19/2014 - 12:07

The world’s largest bank in terms of assets takes its history seriously. Having been around since 1865, HSBC considers the reputation it has accumulated over close to 150 years to be sacrosanct. It is now relying on its sustainability strategy, revolving around community and client engagement, to anchor its reputation going forward. “We are a business and we have to create profits, but if we do so sustainably, we are going to be able to do more for society and the communities where we operate,” says Miguel Ángel Laporta, HSBC Mexico’s Corporate Sustainability Director. As such, the bank dedicates 0.5% of its profit before tax to its sustainability strategy. This money is then divided to the tune of 50% to education projects, 25% in environmental projects, and 25% to various community projects. Further funds are raised for social programs by inviting clients to make a donation every time they access HSBC’s network of over 6,000 ATMs across Mexico. As well as being an effective way to fundraise, Laporta states that this action fits into another of HSBC’s priorities, namely how much engagement it is able to create among clients, staff and stakeholders.

As indicated by its budget allocation, HSBC has long considered education a priority. Three years ago, the bank started the Solo Levanta La Mano (Just Raise Your Hand) program. Since HSBC divides Mexico into eight administrative regions, the goal was for the bank’s operations in each region to adopt a school, enhance its infrastructure and improve the quality of education by implementing three strategies. “We provide scholarships to 100% of students in these schools, we help the schools build needed infrastructure, such as clean bathrooms, and we train the teachers so that they can better teach the students.” The program has grown and HSBC now sponsors 26 schools in 22 states, supporting more than 5,000 students. This form of community engagement also gets the bank’s clients involved as they can choose to sponsor a student at one of the schools, described as “giving an added value to the clients by letting them become involved with the community.” The bank’s CSR goals also state that every year, 10% of the total staff of HSBC Mexico must participate in different social activities. Making sure that these numbers are reached involves a major effort but in 2012, HSBC logged more than 32,000 hours generated by more than 2,500 employees.

Another of the bank’s major achievements toward sustainability can be seen by looking at the Mexico City skyline. To “remain in the market for another 150 years, HSBC has long known sustainability is the way to go. The HSBC Tower in Mexico City was the first building in Latin America to gain LEED Gold certification in 2007. In 2012, the tower obtained LEED Platinum certification for its maintenance and operation, which means that the HSBC Tower is saving 60% of the water and up to 40% of the energy used by a similar sized tower. But Laporta explains that HSBC’s LEED efforts are not reserved only for its Mexico HQ. “By January 2014, we are going to have 25 branches with LEED certification while six of those branches will have solar panels installed. Almost 60% of the energy of these branches will be generated by solar power.” HSBC has made important strides on energy efficiency across the board, with operations in each country needing to reduce their energy and water consumption, as well as their CO2 emissions and waste production by 10% every year. The bank also recently moved away from being a carbon neutral bank. Disappointed that the carbon trade market did not progress as expected, Laporta states that the group now invests the same amount of money in water programs.

HSBC’s sustainable actions do not stop at their buildings and charitable programs. The way the bank finances programs and gives credits has also been completely transformed since it signed on to the Equator Principles. “When we give a credit, we do not only analyze the financial perspective but we also consider the social and environmental impact of our investments,” says Laporta. Adopting the Equator Principles was hard for HSBC at first as it meant letting go of some business deals that were soon snapped up by competitors. HSBC also has a policy that dictates that a certain percentage of the company’s total portfolio has to be invested in clients creating sustainable projects, ranging from ranging from renewable energy to green technology. Laporta says that 10 years ago, sustainability was a nice feather in a company’s cap but today, it is essential. “Clients are deciding who to work with depending on the company’s principles. 80% of recent graduates prefer to work for a company that is implementing sustainability principles,” he explains.