By Dan Shapley
By Dan Shapley News Editor
The world's third largest bank will invest $100 million in a new climate change action initiative with four environmental groups. HSBC, headquartered in London, will spend $100 million on the five-year initiative with The Climate Group, Earthwatch Institute, The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and WWF. The international coalition is tackling major world environmental issues that reflect the bank's worldwide footprint, and the broad and diverse missions of the groups involved. The partnership seeks to study and inspire action in the world's tropical and temperate forests, four major river basins, five major cities and -- uniquely -- its own employees. More than 300,000 HSBC employees will be educated about climate change, many will participate in EarthWatch Institute research field trips along with scientists, and 3,000 will be designated "climate champions" and it will become part of their jobs to become "evangelists" for the climate, as Edward Wilson, president and CEO of EarthWatch said at a press conference in New York. Employees will be offered work time to devote to volunteer activities and other work toward the goals. The bank's plan is also unique in its deep focus on issues that lack the popular sex appeal that has typified some announcements. The emphases on ensuring fresh water supplies in developing parts of the world, and on understanding and mitigating the effects of climate change on the world's forests are unique. "This is something we want to deal with ourselves," Paul Lawrence, president and CEO of HSBC Bank USA, said. "The idea is to put it at the heart of the business we do -- with our clients and with our staff." The bank already has sustainability guidelines that it uses to vet proposed investments, Lawrence said, and it recently completed a five-year "Investing in Nature" program with EarthWatch. "Any solutions require two things if they are to be effective," Wilson said. "They must be based on sound, objective science, and they must engage communities."