Todd Wilcox, CEO and Deputy Chairperson of HSBC, said the bank has a long history of supporting national development in Egypt, and today it is committed to supporting the country’s sustainable development.
Wilcox spoke to Daily News Egypt on the bank’s corporate sustainability goals and how they did face the coronavirus crisis in the previous period.
What are the goals of HSBC in terms of corporate sustainability?
At HSBC, we recognise that how we do business is as important as what we do. Our global sustainability strategy sets common themes to enable the bank’s network to have maximum impact, but our real strength is in the deployment of that strategy to address regional and local priorities. This global approach to local challenges helps us integrate sustainability across everything we do, supporting our clients, our communities and our employees.
We are committed to building a business for the long term and developing relationships that last by balancing social, environmental and economic considerations in the decisions we make.
In Egypt, our sustainability strategy is guided by our global strategy focusing on future skills, sustainable networks, entrepreneurship, and sustainable finance. It is also tied to national priorities.
We also work with leading partner organisations to ensure our programmes deliver the highest impact, and we do much more than just fund projects. We work with our partners throughout the design and implementation phase and we are actively involved in every step of the journey to build capabilities and ensure their continued success far beyond the tenure of the project.
As part of that responsibility, we do our utmost to reduce the negative impact of our operations and we aim to help the global transition to a low-carbon economy. We’re playing a leading role in mobilising the transition to a global net zero economy, not just by financing it, but by helping to shape and influence the global policy agenda.
We also understand that we can only achieve success by having a diverse and inclusive workforce, with different work styles, experiences and perspectives. This helps us to adapt and achieve our strategy and purpose.
Finally, we acknowledge the need to be transparent and open about our impact on people and the planet.
What are the most prominent areas that the bank supports?
We’re committed to a net zero future and reducing our footprint through our operations, supply chain and financing portfolio. We are doing that by helping our customers to transition to net zero; by providing up to $1trn of financing and investment by 2030, scaling up new technologies by investing in climate solutions in collaboration with partners and investors, and building global partnerships to create common standards. We are also committing to achieve net zero in our own operations and supply chain by 2030 or sooner
We believe collaboration is the best way to protect the planet. Climate change impacts us all, humanity has not faced a challenge of this scale before. However, starting points are flexible depending on the industry and country.
There is a growing impact of changing climate on Africa and the Middle East, which hits the most vulnerable hardest. The financial sector has an outsized role to play in financing new solutions to this challenge. Public-private partnerships can foster innovation and direct investment to where it is most needed.
Egypt is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change and urgent action is needed to mitigate and adapt. HSBC has a long history in Egypt, supporting national development and today we are committed to supporting its sustainable development.
We want to partner towards new solutions which build climate resilience – enabling industries to transform, supporting coastal areas, and addressing biodiversity loss, including the wonderful coral reefs.
Earlier this year, HSBC committed funding to a coastal ecosystem project in Egypt as part of the bank’s $100m global Climate Solutions Partnership.
Our aim in this project is to expand mangrove forests as a means for carbon sequestration. Doing so also boosts the resilience of local community ecosystems, creating jobs and new business opportunities.
The Water Academy, in partnership with the American University in Cairo, is another great example of HSBC supporting local programmes, serving as a learning hub and research centre for water efficiency best management practices. It includes capacity building where we train HSBC Egypt volunteers as well as a professional capacity building programme, aiming to qualify professionals in the agricultural field to use modern irrigation techniques to save water and avoid water scarcity in the future.
HSBC also played a pivotal role to support the Ministry of Finance in the issuance of the first sovereign green bond in the region late 2020, for $750m. It was a model of interests aligning where Public infrastructure is being financed by the private sector. The demand for the bonds far exceeded supply and it also created a benchmark where the private sector issuance has now started.
Entrepreneurship is also booming and there has been a shift in how startups talk about issues like energy and the environment, and it is our role to support those startups to unlock their growth potential bringing truly global solutions to local SMEs.
As COP 27 moves to Egypt this year, this puts a clear focus on the critical role that developing countries in Africa and the Middle East have as the world makes the transition to net zero.
We look forward to supporting the government of Egypt in its journey to COP 27 and also supporting all of our customers – sovereign, corporate and personal – on their journeys as part of our pledge to help lead the transition to a net zero global economy.
What was the response of HSBC to COVID-19 in terms of corporate sustainability?
We have acted quickly to the urgent call for support by putting our resources to work where they have the biggest impact and donating to specific projects so that we are able to ensure accountability and track the real impact our funding has had on people’s lives.
We carefully selected local charity partners that have track records of being able to identify and help vulnerable communities by supporting them with food, medicine and education resources.
We pivoted our annual Ramadan campaign to support the most vulnerable families impacted by COVID-19, as we helped more than 34,000 in Egypt individuals as an immediate response to the emerging crisis. We focused on providing hygiene kits and medical supplies in addition to tackling food insecurity.
As part of our long-term response, we worked with our partners to avoid disruption in our programmes, and we provided crisis management support and business continuity training to entrepreneurs.
We also pivoted our HSBC MENAT’s student-focused future skills programme to be delivered remotely, using e-learning channels, while entrepreneur-targeted programmes, such as the Social Impact Accelerator (C3), adopted virtual and online sessions.
What were the key CSR projects carried out by the bank?
Employment-linked skills and the ability to manage money are essential to reducing both the skills gap and wealth gap.
That’s why HSBC is focusing the social component of its sustainability strategy on increasing levels of employability and financial capability, helping people to thrive long-term.
Our focus on future skills as part of our broader sustainability strategy when combined with HSBC’s global footprint puts us in a great position to make a real difference in the world today, building a sustainable future for us all.
Advancements in digital technology and events such as COVID-19 are rapidly changing how we work and live, and affecting people’s finances and livelihoods. That’s why we are committed to building future skills – for our customers, employees and people in the communities we serve.
Our recent projects on employment-related skills include “Tatawwar” which brings together students aged 15-18, schools, parents and the business community to help innovate for a shared future. In the academic year 2020-2021 we had more than 5,000 students participate from 1,900 schools across 8 countries.
We’ve worked with Rawafed charity to implement their innovative “Tamkeen” project focusing on availing a literacy program and attain the Egyptian Standard Literacy Exam to a total of 400 beneficiaries in Upper Egypt then giving them access to vocational training. In addition, we also focused on assisting youth without parental care through the “Creating source of Income” project where we focus on empowering wheelchair users in Egypt through generating a source of income for them and their families and providing them with all the available resources to help them live an active life.
We also recently launched a new Initiative to promote sustainable finance skills for Middle Eastern Youth supported by HSBC and the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. The new programme will promote the development of sustainable finance skills for university students in the Middle East. The four-month learning experience will focus on environmental and sustainable practices when making financial decisions.
We have theC3 Social Impact Accelerator. This unique accelerator programme aims to support entrepreneurs with innovative concepts that help widen their impact on society and the environment at the same time, enhancing their business growth and financial performance. Egyptian startup “Baramoda” won the top prize at this year’s programme final.
These examples sit alongside many other programs including Financial Capability for Low Income Workers and Building a Financially Capable Generation, which both focus on building financial skills.
In conclusion, HSBC has won Euromoney’s Best Bank for Sustainable Finance award in the Middle East for the past three years, reflecting the strategic importance of sustainability to the bank and its customers. We have evolved our approach dramatically over the last few years, focusing on tackling issues at root and embedding sustainability in everything we do. We leverage on our capacity as the leading international bank in the region, bringing international expertise to address local issues.