HSBC pledges carbon neutrality

U.K.-based banking company HSBC has announced a management plan aimed at reaching carbon neutrality by 2006. With 10,000 banks in 76 countries, HSBC estimates it will cost up to $7 million to account for the more than 600,000 tons of carbon dioxide the company adds to the atmosphere every year via energy use and business travel. HSBC will use a variety of methods to achieve its goal, including buying green electricity, increasing energy efficiency at its facilities, participating in carbon-emission trading programs, and planting trees. While enviros welcomed the commitment — rare in the financial-services industry — some pointed out that the biggest impact HSBC has on the environment is through loans for dams, oil exploration, mines, and other earth-unfriendly projects. Greenpeace’s chief U.K. scientist had a peculiarly deflationary take on the tree-planting efforts, asking, “What if there is a forest fire?”