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HSBC goes greener

HSBC is going ?carbon neutral.? It plans to plant trees, buy green electricity and trade emission allowances to abate its contribution to the release of greenhouse gas.

HSBC's C02 emissions from using electricity, natural gas, fuel oil and business travel were more than 550,000 tonnes in 2003. Going carbon neutral will involve improving the bank's environmental impact.

Corporate social responsibility is high on the agenda now for bulge-bracket banks and Steve Howard, chief executive of non-profit organization The Climate Group, says the bank's decision sets a ?new benchmark for the financial sector.?

HSBC is setting up a carbon management task force to determine the best way to implement the programme. ?At present, not all allowances and offsets that can be bought have the same environmental value, and as a matter of principle we will ensure that ours are of the highest credibility, and are genuinely incremental,? says Stephen Green, group CEO of HSBC, who will oversee the carbon management.

Francis Sullivan, HSBC's adviser on environmental issues, says finding cost-effective and viable projects to invest in is a priority. ?The programme could cost up to $7 million in the first year but this is expected to fall,? he says.