Daily ESG Briefing: HSBC expects clients to have transition plans by end of 2023 as part of coal phase-out  

The latest developments in sustainable finance

HSBC has announced it will phase out thermal coal financing in the EU/OECD by 2030 and globally by 2040, and that it expects clients active in thermal coal to publish transition plans compatible with the bank’s Net Zero 2050 target by the end of 2023.  It will decline new financing, refinancing or advisory services to any thermal coal related client that fails to show a credible transition plan within an acceptable time-frame, and added the transition plans will be reviewed annually. The long-awaited announcement comes after HSBC faced investor pressure earlier this year from a climate motion proposed by a $2.3tn group of shareholders led by ShareAction. The shareholders agreed in March to withdraw the resolution in anticipation of the bank's updated coal policy. ShareAction welcomed today’s announcement but said there are loopholes in the policy, including that HSBC will be allowed to continue financing companies building new coal projects as long as these projects were announced before January 2021.   

Shareholder campaign group Follow This plans to file climate resolutions with Exxon Mobil Corp and Marathon Petroleum following shareholder support at other US companies this year. In 2022, the group plans to bring motions with at least eight US and European fossil fuel producers demanding more stringent emission targets aligned with the Paris agreement.  

More than half of the 10,000 respondents to a survey conducted by Aegon said they aren’t aware of or don’t understand the terms ‘responsible investment’, ‘sustainable investment’ or ‘ESG investing’. While nearly three quarters of respondents are concerned about environmental issues, just one in 10 invest in funds with sustainability criteria. Hilkka Komulainen, Head of Responsible Investment at Aegon UK, said: “Our research shows the disparity that exists between people’s concern about environmental, social and governance issues, and their understanding of the role that pension saving has to play in supporting a more sustainable world.”  

South African asset managers are not aligned with global best practice on climate risk reporting, according to a Just Share survey of 31 of South Africa’s largest asset managers. The shareholder activism non-profit assessed governance, stewardship and integration as core components of climate risk management and found that many of the surveyed managers did not appear to focus on climate risk but rather consider it is covered by a broader ESG-integration approach. In addition, the survey found very little uptake of TCFD-aligned reporting by managers.    

Normative, a carbon accounting specialist, has launched a tool to help companies reach Net Zero with science-based climate investments. It recommends investing only in impactful projects that pass four key requirements, including that the emissions reductions from the investment are additional; the investment results in a quantifiable piece of carbon being kept out of the air forever; the investment's emissions reductions are not double-counted and will not lead to carbon leakage elsewhere.   

85% of Canadian retail investors are concerned about climate change and want Canadian corporations to set goals for their businesses to achieve Net Zero emissions by 2050, according to the Responsible Investment Association (RIA) 2021 investor opinion survey. Most of the 1,000 investors surveyed also believe companies should partner with indigenous peoples on decisions around future energy transitions.