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OPINION

Greenwasher: Stuart Kirk is as mad as hell, and he’s not going to take it any more

HSBC Asset Management’s head of responsible investing has had it up to here with consultants and regulators lecturing him on climate change risk.

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Pixabay

Stuart Kirk’s now infamous conference presentation claiming that “climate change is not a financial risk we need to worry about” has led to speculation that he might have planned a departure from HSBC before unburdening himself, though for now he is in professional limbo as the bank decides whether or not to dismiss him.

There is a niche but growing market for disillusioned former practitioners of sustainable investing at large financial institutions.

This in turn is creating an unusual risk for banks and asset managers that staff may turn against their employers with condemnation of their business models in a twist on traditional whistleblowing about demonstrable malpractice.

Tariq Fancy, former chief investment officer for sustainable investing at BlackRock, is the best-known of these renegades, along with Desiree Fixler, former head of sustainability at DWS (where she was a colleague of HSBC’s Kirk for a time).

Both have criticised financial industry environmental, social and governance practices as hypocritical, with Fancy recently accusing asset managers and consultants of selling “a dangerous time-wasting placebo”.

Naming

The presentation delivered by Kirk was unusual in his willingness to name individuals – in the form of Sharon Thorne, global board chair at Deloitte, and Mark Carney, former governor of the Bank of England and now head of transition investing at Brookfield Asset Management, as well as UN special envoy for climate action and finance.

Kirk

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