HSBC has suspended a senior banker who said climate crisis warnings were “groundless” and “sharp” in a conference address.
Stuart Kirk, HSBC’s head of responsible investment since July, will remain honest until the bank completes an internal investigation into the matter.
HSBC was pressured to fire after Kirk complained that he had to spend time highlighting major flood risks after giving a presentation in London “Why Investors Don’t Worry About Climate Risk”. It will happen in 20 or 30 years.”
HSBC declined to comment on Kirk’s disciplinary action, first reported by the Financial Times. Kirk did not respond to comment requests sent via LinkedIn or Twitter.
Kirk’s presentation referred to comments made by officials from the United Nations and the Bank of England who tried to raise alarms about global warming, saying, “The baseless, sharp, partisan, selfish, apocalyptic warnings are always wrong.” The slide was controversial. .
“Humans have been fantastic at adapting to change and adapting to climate emergencies,” Kirk told attendees at the Financial Times’ Moral Money conference on Thursday. We will continue to do that.” “Who cares if Miami is six meters deep in 100 years? Amsterdam has been around 6 meters underwater for a long time and it’s a really nice place.”
His remarks sparked a publicity debate about the bank, which is struggling to hone its green credentials despite its promise to achieve net zero by 2050.
This led presidents, including HSBC chief executive Noel Quinn, to criticize Kirk’s comments, claiming that they did not reflect the bank’s views on the climate crisis.
“I completely disagree with what you said at the FT Moral Money Summit last week” Quinn said in a LinkedIn post on Saturday:. “They do not align with HSBC’s strategy and do not reflect the views of HSBC or HSBC’s senior management of wealth. Our goal is to become a leading bank supporting the global economy in the transition to net zero.”
“We have a lot of work to do and we are confident that our team will not be in the way of last week’s comments,” Quinn added.
Climate activists welcomed Kirk’s honesty, but HSBC said it had questions to answer about the extent to which Kirk’s views were known or supported within the bank.
“Kirk may step down soon, but this will be a new can of worms for HSBC,” said Beau O’Sullivan, senior campaigner for the Bank on our Future campaign. “The bank now has to explain how such offensive and inaccurate comments were approved, to what extent other senior executives shared Kirk’s views, and what kind of culture HSBC was creating that allowed comments to pass without problems.
“More broadly, this is another huge ridicule of HSBC’s reputation for a climate that has been burning recently,” said O’Sullivan. “Investors, customers and regulators should rightly question and scrutinize the bank’s commitment to climate, including its upcoming oil and gas policy, not to forget that HSBC faces potential action from advertising regulators on greenwashing. do.”
Kirk, former editor-in-chief of the Financial Times’ Rex Column, has been appointed head of responsible investment. July 2021, entrusted him to a team responsible for analyzing the environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks that may affect investments in the asset management sector. His team was also responsible for helping develop new green products for customers.