HSBC Meets Targets for Emissions, Waste and Energy

by | May 27, 2009

hsbcc02emissionsHSBC Holding plc, one of the world’s largest banking and financial services companies, says it has achieved several of its environmental performance goals in 2008 including reduction targets for energy, waste and carbon dioxide, according to its Sustainability Report 2008.

In 2008, HSBC set new four-year targets for reducing energy and water consumption, and production of waste and carbon dioxide from energy. Over the last year, total emissions from energy use in all buildings have increased by 1.5 percent. However, for those parts of the group where targets have been set (excluding data centers), energy use reduced by 4.6 percent in 2008 when normalized by the number of full-time equivalent employees, says the company.

Travel-related emissions accounted for 21 percent of the group’s total carbon dioxide footprint in 2008 of which 64 percent comes from air travel. Emissions from travel decreased by 7 percent in 2008. In 2009, the company targets a 10 percent reduction in carbon dioxide per full-time employee from combined long- and short-haul flights (based on a 2008 baseline), with an additional 5 percent reduction each year in 2010 and 2011.

HSBC’s energy use in all buildings has increased by 2.8 percent over the last year. However, for those parts of the group where targets have been set (excluding data centers), energy use was reduced by 4.6 percent in 2008 when normalized by the number of full-time equivalent employees, says the company. This was achieved through the implementation of several environmental initiatives such as the installation of “intelligent” lighting systems, and efficient air conditioning and heating equipment; and the use of renewable technologies such as ground source heat pumps, solar thermal and photovoltaic panels, and micro wind turbines.

HSBC says total energy consumption increased overall for a number of reasons including additional data centers coming online and a 10 percent increase in the number of employees.

In 2008, HSBC’s carbon dioxide emissions dropped by 4.7 percent per employee in the branches and offices subject to targets, but total carbon dioxide emissions from energy in buildings increased by 2 percent. Overall, carbon dioxide emissions stayed approximately the same as in 2007, due to the reductions in emissions from business travel, says the company.

Operations in France, Switzerland and Brazil achieved savings of more than 10 percent by procuring lower carbon emission energy from local generators. The company also achieved a 10 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions in North America when the company moved to new Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold-accredited offices and in HSBC’s global technology centers in India.

HSBC has been carbon neutral since 2005 thanks to several initiatives that cut energy consumption. The company offsets any remaining emissions by purchasing verified emission reductions (VERs). In 2008, these included industrial energy efficiency projects in China and India, a Hungarian biomass project, as well as several small hydro-electric projects in China, according to the report.

In February 2009, First Direct, a division of HSBC Bank plc, says it was the first bank to receive the Carbon Trust Standard certification, after reducing its carbon emissions by more than 14 percent. This equals an annual reduction of 1,500 tons of CO2 emissions from 2007 levels, according to the company.

In 2008, the company reduced waste disposed to landfills by 15.5 percent. The total volume of waste HSBC generated increased by 26 percent to 80,900 tons; 51 percent of which was recycled.

HSBC’s water consumption has decreased by nearly 10 percent per employee in offices and branches. Total water consumption increased by 4 percent 2008 due to business expansion in the Asia-Pacific region, the conversion to more energy-efficient water-cooled chillers at the Hong Kong head office, and increased demand for cooling at new data centers, says the company.

Other environmental highlights in 2008 include the installation of 617-square-meters of solar photovoltaic panels on the roof of the company’s headquarters in London, and the software rollout across the group that enables the automatic shutdown of 300,000 computers, which saves about $30 million annually in energy cost and 1,915 tons of CO2 emissions.

HSBC’s Global Environmental Efficiency Program is investing $90 million over five years (2007-2011) to promote innovative and technology-driven environmental initiatives. Since the program’s launch in 2007, HSBC has invested over $60 million. In 2008, the money was used, for example, to install solar panels in the UK, the USA, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Hong Kong and Malta, covering a total of 1,500-square-meters.

The company also applied environmental benchmarks to eight of HSBC’s main buildings, with 17 more currently being constructed or refurbished to international standards such as the UK’s Building Research Establishment’s Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) and LEED green building certification systems.

In September 2008, HSBC’s data center in southern England earned the first BREEAM “Excellent” rating in the UK.

HSBC says it did not grow sustainable and responsible investments in 2008 due to market conditions.

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