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HSBC Holdings plc
Sustainability Report 2012

Who we are and what we do
HSBC is one of the world’s largest banking and financial
services organisations, with around 6,600 offices in both
established and faster-growing markets. We serve around
58 million customers through our four global businesses:
Retail Banking and Wealth Management, Commercial
Banking, Global Banking and Markets, and Global Private
Banking. Our network covers 81 countries and territories in
six geographical regions: Europe, Hong Kong, Rest of AsiaPacific, Middle East and North Africa, North America and Latin America. Our aim is to be acknowledged as the world’s leading international bank.

Listed on the London, Hong Kong, New York, Paris and
Bermuda stock exchanges, shares in HSBC Holdings plc
are held by about 220,000 shareholders in 129 countries
and territories.

HSBC’s vision

Table of contents
1 Overview
2 Group Chairman’s Introduction
Chapter 1. Strategy
4 Our Strategy
5 Our Approach
6 Our Purpose, Values and Conduct
Chapter 2. Customers
9 Global Businesses
14 Climate Business
Chapter 3. Sustainability Risk
16 Our Sustainability Risk Framework
Chapter 4. Operations
20 Our Sustainable Operations Strategy


Chapter 5. People
24 Valuing our Employees

Reason why we exist
Throughout our history we have been where the growth
is, connecting customers to opportunities. We enable
businesses to thrive and economies to prosper, helping
people fulfil their hopes and dreams and realise their
ambitions. This is our role and purpose.

Chapter 6. Community Investment
27 Education
30 HSBC Water Programme

How we behave and conduct business
We act with courageous integrity by being:
– dependable and doing the right thing

32 Key Facts
35 Assurance Report
36 About this Report

– open to different ideas and cultures; and
– connected to customers, regulators and each other.

Where and how we compete
– international network connecting faster-growing
and developed markets
– develop Wealth Management services and invest in
Retail Banking only in markets where we can achieve
profitable scale

Being the world’s leading international bank
Cover image
Financing trade has always been at the heart of HSBC’s business, especially in our home market of Hong Kong. Today, Hong Kong International Airport is the world’s busiest air cargo hub, with its freight volume accounting for over one-third of the total value of Hong Kong’s external trade.

The airport is home to Cathay Pacific Airways, Hong Kong’s flagship carrier (foreground). The airline has made significant investments to build a modern, fuel-efficient fleet that can contribute to a more sustainable, low carbon economy.

Photography: Matthew Mawson

This annual Sustainability Report sits alongside our Annual Report and Accounts 2012 and Annual Review 2012. It reports on progress made in 2012, issues of importance to us, and our future aspirations. Our report articulates what sustainability means to HSBC and how we manage it, both in terms of incorporating sustainability throughout our business and how our sustainability commitments shape the way we do business.


Strategy – how sustainability fits
into our organisational strategy
and values, helping us to achieve
our purpose as an organisation





it y



People – how we attract,
retain and develop the best
talent in an international
market-place in order to
deliver our strategy


Community Investment – our
approach to helping young people
realise their potential and achieve their
ambitions, and working with charity
partners to protect freshwater and
provide sanitation through the
HSBC Water Programme


ti o


S u st Risk

Customers – how we connect
our customers to our products
and services through our four
global businesses, including a
focus on commercial
opportunities with a reduced
impact on natural resources,
i.e. ‘climate business’

Sustainability Risk – helping to
manage our risks and support
customers through our sustainability
risk policies to ensure customers act
responsibly towards the environment
and communities

Operations – how we
will achieve our goal to cut annual
employee carbon emissions from 3.5
to 2.5 tonnes by 2020

Highlights 2012







employees trained in
sustainability risk since 2011

our contribution to the fiveyear HSBC Water Programme

donated to community
investment programmes

employees trained in
HSBC values since 2011

female representation on our
Group Management Board

tonnes of carbon avoided

HSBC Holdings plc Sustainability Report 2012


Group Chairman’s Introduction

“The quality of our relationships
is the foundation of our success
as a business.”

Douglas Flint
Group Chairman

There has never been a more
important time to ensure that
our business is sustainable and
committed to the long term.
At HSBC, we know how
important it is that banks play
a positive role in the economies
and communities we serve and
that we meet or surpass the
expectations of society, our
customers, regulators and
investors. We are defined and
judged by our behaviour towards
and within the communities
we serve.

Throughout our history, we have succeeded by helping our
customers operate where the growth is. Our day-to-day
business activities are focused on helping our customers
achieve their aspirations and thereby achieving sustainable
profits for our shareholders, building long-lasting connections with customers, valuing our highly committed employees,
respecting environmental limits and investing in communities. The quality of our relationships is the foundation of our
success as a business.

Global outlook
HSBC Global Research shows a significant shift in the world
economy is taking place; by 2050, we expect economies
currently deemed ‘emerging’ to have increased fivefold in size. Our customers and other stakeholders are becoming
increasingly mobile, with a greater access to education, better communications and technologies, and an increasing demand
for global connectivity.
There is a lot to be thankful for. The development of fastgrowing economies over the past 30 years, notably China, India and Brazil, has raised hundreds of millions of people out of the most abject poverty and lifted living standards for many more. Data from the World Bank shows that the number of

people living in extreme poverty (defined as living on less than US$1.25 a day) has been halved since 1990, exceeding the
target of the first of the Millennium Development Goals. This has seen the middle class – those with US$10-US$100 daily
disposable income – growing significantly, with researchers at McKinsey predicting that the global middle class population will have grown from two billion in 2010 to five billion by 2030. These shifts offer tremendous opportunities for individual

advancement but have also increased the demand for
resources: the food, water and energy nexus requires
particular attention. We recognise that, if the world
continues to overshoot its resource capacity, there is the
risk of localised, and eventually global, constraints on
economic activity. We believe we have a role to play in
helping to safeguard the natural resources that underpin
economic growth.


HSBC Holdings plc Sustainability Report 2012

“We will create a robust,
resilient and sustainable business
in which our clients can have
confidence, our employees can
take pride, and our communities
can trust.”

HSBC’s role in the economy,
environment and society
By understanding the shifts taking place in the technologies and regulations reshaping sustainable growth, we can support our customers to connect to business opportunities in the low carbon economy, harnessing HSBC’s international network to support global trade for businesses of all sizes. In 2012, for example our Global Banking business led one of the largest

project financings in Latin America in the renewables sector. I am pleased to report that we have recently signed
up to the UN’s Principles for Sustainable Insurance, a
global sustainability framework and initiative of the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative, launched
in 2012. Its aim is to help insurance companies manage
their environmental, social and governance (ESG) challenges. The principles ensure that signatories embed ESG in
decision-making and work together with clients, partners
and governments to raise awareness of ESG issues.
We are reducing our own impact through our 2020 goal to
cut HSBC’s annual employee carbon emissions by one tonne,
from 3.5 to 2.5 tonnes. Our operational teams have engaged
employees across our businesses to deliver our sustainable
operations strategy and we have already seen reductions in
paper use and travel carbon emissions.
Water will be one of the most important resources
for the world to harvest and protect over the next 20 to
30 years and it was, therefore, very important to me to
participate in the launch of the HSBC Water Programme
in 2012. This is a five-year, US$100 million commitment to
support Earthwatch, WaterAid and WWF to deliver water
provision, protection, information and education. It is a huge project that can make a real difference and it goes to the heart of HSBC’s values.
In 2012, we extended our commitment to support
disadvantaged and vulnerable young people who are not in
education, employment or training. We support local and
international charities working in this area, and also run our own people-driven ‘Future First’ programme, which helps
street children, children in care and orphans to access
education. Initiatives under this programme are developed
and supported by HSBC colleagues around the world and,
in 2012, 2,717 members of staff volunteered to support
the programme.

Learning lessons from our past
During 2012 the banking sector, including HSBC, faced
continuing and unprecedented challenges. Our role in society has been questioned and, in our 148 years of business,
this has been one of the toughest for everyone at HSBC.
This period has been damaging to our reputation and to our
perception of ourselves. We were greatly exercised by the
major US regulatory and law enforcement investigations we
faced, and by our serious failings both in the application of our standards and in our ability to identify, and so prevent, misuse and abuse of the financial system through our networks.
We have apologised unreservedly to all our stakeholders
and have paid significant penalties both in monetary cost
and reputational damage. More important than apologies,
however, are the steps being taken to prevent recurrence
and we are determined to restore HSBC’s reputation, thereby regaining society’s trust. We must ensure that the decisions we take now are right for the long term, for those who will
lead the business in future generations.
The Chinese characters which together represent ‘crisis’ consist of ‘danger’ and ‘opportunity’, serving as a reminder that every crisis provides a catalyst for reflection, for learning, and for changing direction. We understand that, if we do not perform a role acceptable to society, then it will reject us and replace us with a model suited to its requirements. Now is

our opportunity to restore confidence, to learn lessons and
so avoid repeating mistakes. We will do this by creating a
robust, resilient and sustainable business in which our clients can have confidence, our employees can take pride, and our
communities can trust.

Douglas Flint
Group Chairman
May 2013
HSBC Holdings plc Sustainability Report 2012


Chapter 1. Strategy

Our Strategy

Becoming the
world’s leading
international bank

Alignment to long-term trends
Our strategy is aligned to two
long-term trends:

International trade
and capital flows
The world economy is becoming
ever more connected. Growth in
world trade and cross-border capital
flows continues to outstrip growth
in average gross domestic product.
Financial flows between countries
and regions are highly concentrated.
Over the next decade, we expect
35 markets to account for 90 per cent
of world trade growth and a similar
degree of concentration in cross-border
capital flows.

Economic development
and wealth creation
By 2050, we expect economies
currently deemed ‘emerging’ to have
increased five-fold in size, benefiting
from demographics and urbanisation,
and they will be larger than the
developed world. By then, 19 of the 30
largest economies will be markets that
are currently described as ‘emerging’.


In May 2011, HSBC set out its vision
for the long-term direction of the Group,
together with a clear strategy that will
help us achieve it. It guides where
and how we seek to compete. We
constantly assess our progress against
this strategy, and provide regular
updates to stakeholders.

Strategic direction
Based on these long-term trends and
our competitive position, our strategy
has two parts:

Network of businesses
connecting the world
HSBC is well positioned to capture
growing international financial flows.
Our global reach and range of services
put us in a strong position to serve
corporate clients as they grow from
small enterprises into large and
international corporates, and personal
clients as they become more affluent.
Access to local retail funding and our
suite of international products allow us
to offer distinctive, profitable solutions
to these clients. We will focus on
‘South-South’ trade, connecting fastergrowing economies with each other.

Wealth management and
retail with local scale
Social mobility and wealth creation
in the faster-growing markets will
generate demand for financial services
which we will meet through our
Wealth Management and Private
Banking businesses. We will only
invest in retail businesses in markets
where we can achieve profitable scale.

HSBC Holdings plc Sustainability Report 2012

This relies on action in three areas
to grow, simplify and restructure
the Group.

1. Growing HSBC
We continue to position HSBC for
growth. We will deploy capital in our
home and priority growth markets,
access faster-growing markets,
and cover all major trade corridors.
The Group will benefit from closer
co-ordination and increased referrals
among HSBC’s four global businesses,
with the collective aim of maximising
revenue opportunities.

2. Simplifying HSBC
We are making HSBC easier to
manage and control. Since the
start of 2011, we have announced
47 transactions to dispose of
non-strategic businesses, and
made headway with programmes to
improve organisational efficiency.

3. Restructuring HSBC
We are restructuring certain
businesses to adapt to a changing
environment. Our Global Banking
and Markets business is managing
down its legacy credit exposures.
We are reshaping our US operations to
focus on core activities, i.e. servicing
international businesses. Global Private
Banking is focusing on priority markets
and improving operational standards
such as strengthening its compliance
and risk framework.

Our Approach

How we manage
our business

Our good governance, values,
commitment to operating sustainably
and robust risk management guide the
way we manage our business and help
us deliver value to our shareholders
and customers.

Good governance

Strengthening our values

HSBC’s governance structure is focused on delivering
sustainable value to our shareholders. The strategy and
risk appetite for HSBC is set by the Board, which delegates
the day-to-day running of the business to the Group
Management Board.

In line with our ambition to be recognised as the world’s
leading international bank, we aspire to lead the industry in our standards of conduct. We expect all HSBC employees to
act with courageous integrity in the execution of their duties by being:

The Board has established non-executive committees
including the Group Audit Committee, which oversees
financial reporting matters; the Group Risk Committee,
which oversees risk-related matters; the Group
Remuneration Committee, which sets remuneration policy
and senior pay; the Nomination Committee, which leads
the process for Board appointments; the Corporate
Sustainability Committee, which advises on environmental,
social and ethical issues; and recently the Financial System Vulnerabilities Committee which oversees controls and
procedures designed to: 1) identify areas where
HSBC may become exposed to financial
crime or system abuse and 2) ensure the
continuing obligations to regulatory and
law enforcement agencies are met.

• dependable and doing the right thing;

These values are embedded in the way we do business
and in our selection, assessment, recognition and training
programmes. Values are crucial to our reputation; so too is
the effectiveness of our efforts to secure HSBC’s integrity.



b il

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Managing our risks

• connected with customers, communities, regulators and
each other.


Global businesses and functions
have established operating, financial
reporting and management reporting
standards for application throughout

• open to different ideas and cultures; and

As with all financial services organisations,
we have to manage risks in our business.
Our focus is on identifying, understanding and
dealing with those risks in line with our agreed
risk appetite. Robust risk governance and accountability is
embedded across HSBC and the Group Risk Committee
monitors the effectiveness of our overall risk management.
The Board, assisted by the Group Risk Committee, approves
HSBC’s risk appetite.
Our strong balance sheet and diverse lending portfolio
are key factors in managing our risk profile. Our risk
management framework also helps us to identify both
current and emerging risks, and ensures that our portfolios
remain aligned to our risk appetite. We then use this to
carry out stress tests to evaluate the impact of those risks.

u st


A sustainable business

Financial institutions have responsibilities
not only towards their customers,
shareholders and employees, but also to
the wider communities and environment in
which they operate. For HSBC, acting sustainably means
building our business for the long term by living up to these responsibilities and valuing relationships with stakeholders.


We connect customers to commercial opportunities which
also support the transition to a low carbon economy.
Applying environmental and social criteria to our lending
decisions in such sectors as forestry and energy is integral to our approach. We have committed to cut our own annual
employee carbon emissions by one tonne, from 3.5 to
2.5 tonnes, by 2020.
We also seek to help the communities in which we operate
to develop, focusing our investment on education and
environmental programmes which help them to flourish
for the long term.
HSBC Holdings plc Sustainability Report 2012


Chapter 1. Strategy (continued)

Our Purpose, Values and Conduct

We aim to be where the economic
growth is, connecting customers to
opportunities, enabling businesses to
thrive and economies to prosper, and
ultimately helping people fulfil their
hopes and dreams and realise their
ambitions. This is our purpose as
an organisation.

2012 was a very difficult year for HSBC; our reputation has
been damaged and we have admitted past mistakes in not
ensuring our compliance controls were being met rigorously
enough. However, we want to use the lessons we have
learned to drive change and become industry leaders in
compliance and control. We have strengthened our new
strategy, instilling our values throughout the business and
our employees. We have implemented Global Standards
across the whole of HSBC, in the face of an increasingly
sophisticated and heightened risk of financial crime. These
are articulated on page 25 of HSBC’s Annual Review 2012,
which can be found at
We continue to enhance our values-led culture by embedding
HSBC’s Values in how we conduct our business and in
the selection, assessment, recognition and training of
employees. Our values are integral to our commitment to
implement Global Standards. We expect our executives
and other employees to act with courageous integrity in the
execution of their duties by being: dependable and doing
the right thing; open to different ideas and cultures; and
connected with our customers, communities, regulators and
each other.
In line with our ambition to be recognised as the world’s
leading international bank, we aspire to lead the industry in our standards of conduct. As international markets become
more interconnected and complex and, as threats to the
global financial system grow, we are strengthening further
the policies and practices which govern how we do business
and with whom.
Like any business, we greatly value our reputation. HSBC’s success over the years is due in no small part to our
reputation for trustworthiness and integrity. In April 2012, as part of this effort, we committed to adopting and enforcing
the highest compliance standards across HSBC. Doing so will
help us to achieve three key objectives:

HSBC Holdings plc Sustainability Report 2012

• Strengthen our capabilities to combat the ongoing threat of financial crime;
• Make consistent – and therefore simplify – how we
monitor and enforce high standards at HSBC; and
• Ensure that we consistently apply our values so as to serve positively the customers and societies who entrust their
financial needs to HSBC.
Under the supervision of HSBC’s Global Standards Steering
Meetings of the Group Management Board, we are already
strengthening policies and processes in a number of
important areas. This includes the addition of our ‘financial crime risk filter’ which was added to the five financial filters which help us determine where to do business and the type
of business we can do in line with our values and financial
return objectives. The sixth filter requires an analysis of
all new and existing business to limit activity and client
acquisition in jurisdictions with a high risk of financial crime. We are also reinforcing the status of compliance and
standards as an important element of how we assess and
reward senior executives, and rolling out communication,
training and assurance programmes to ensure that our staff
understand and meet their responsibilities.
A new committee of the HSBC Holdings Board, the Financial
System Vulnerabilities Committee, will provide governance,
oversight and policy guidance over the framework of controls and procedures designed to identify areas where HSBC may
be exposed and, through that exposure, expose the financial
system more broadly to financial crime or system abuse.
For discussion and disclosure of compliance and legal issues raised in 2012, including money laundering, LIBOR rate-fixing, payment protection insurance mis-selling and data protection please refer to our Annual Report and Accounts 2012,

which is available at

In all we do, our aim is to be open and to become trusted
partners with policy makers globally to find solutions
to past failures and current challenges; and develop future

Engaging with governments
and regulators
Governments and regulators are tasked with formulating
and enforcing the rules and regulations that shape the
environment in which we operate. In this process, we have
a responsibility to share our knowledge and expertise to help public officials develop practical solutions which meet their policy objectives; and to work hard to ensure that we meet
fully the terms of the rules that govern our industry.
At a Group level, our engagement is focused on supranational authorities tasked with finding global solutions to financial issues; jurisdictions that are helping to shape and/ or implement the global response; and countries which are

taking specific approaches to these issues. At a local level, our subsidiaries keep their local public officials informed
on the issues of mutual interest, and engage openly and
constructively on proposed changes to conduct regulation.
In 2012, we engaged policy makers across the world on
the major themes of capital, bank structure, recovery and
resolution, and financial markets developments. Discussions
on bank culture were more focused on the UK and US.
On the growth agenda, we shared our ideas in Europe
and in Asia on helping small and medium sized companies
access finance; and provided parliamentarians with data on
our lending to their local economies. We also shared our
thoughts on financial policy and the sustainability of the
financial system with officials around the globe.
We have engaged policy makers and regulators, particularly
in the US, on a number of anti-money laundering failures
that were the subject of public attention in 2012. We
acknowledged our shortcomings, explained how it happened,
shared the lessons learnt and set out the comprehensive
changes we are implementing to ensure that our controls
are fit for purpose going forward.

Breakdown of total tax paid by region 2012


US and Canada

Latin America



By running a sustainable business, HSBC is able to make a
valuable contribution to the economy by paying dividends to
our shareholders; salaries to our employees; payments to our suppliers; and tax revenues to governments in the countries
and territories where we operate. We also finance companies
so that they, in turn, can create employment.
Following requests from shareholders and non-governmental
organisations (NGOs) for more transparent data on taxation,
we have provided a breakdown of our tax payments by
country for our priority markets in the ‘Key Facts’ section of this report on page 32.
HSBC has adopted the UK Code of Practice for the Taxation
of Banks and seeks to apply the spirit as well as the letter of the law in all the territories in which it operates. In
2012, the Global Standards Steering Meeting of the Group
Management Board agreed terms of a new Global Standard
on ‘tax transparency’ to ensure that HSBC’s banking services are not associated with any arrangements which are known
or suspected to be designed to facilitate tax evasion by
a customer. This builds on our already significant level of
anti-money laundering and ‘Know Your Customer’ checks.
Employees are being trained on how to identify possible
tax evasion by customers and the procedures for reporting
and escalating such situations and exiting customers
as necessary.

Taxes collected for government 2012



Other jurisdictions


Our economic contribution

US and Canada




Rest of Europe



Rest of Europe


Latin America


Other jurisdictions

HSBC Holdings plc Sustainability Report 2012


Chapter 1. Strategy (continued)

Business Growth Fund
In July 2010, during a difficult time for the UK economy,
major banks established a Business Finance Taskforce to
consider initiatives to help the country return to sustainable growth. HSBC proposed the creation of a Business
Growth Fund to provide long-term capital to SMEs facing
difficulties. Launched in 2011, the fund provided finance of £2 million to £10 million to growing SMEs typically turning over £5 million to £10 million, in return for a minority stake in a business and a seat on the board. The fund addresses

an historical gap where smaller companies have been
unable to find investors which are often focused on a
limited number of larger and potentially higher return deals. Through a capital treatment which reflects the expected
diversity of the investment and with funding of up to

Net cash tax outflow1
Distributions to shareholders and
non-controlling interests
Employee compensation and benefits
General administrative expenses
including premises and procurement

The fund is now an established business with over
70 staff and six offices and has already invested over
£100 million. It plans to add a further £200 million during 2013, and increase the number of its employees to over
100. In addition, a number of governments in Europe
and elsewhere in the world have asked HSBC to see if
the model can be adapted to expand the global financial
capacity available to SMEs. The fund has supported 25
businesses since its inception.

HSBC’s net cash tax contribution 2012

Distribution of economic benefits 2012

£2.5 billion from the major banks which are its
shareholders, the fund has been able to create a
commercial model for smaller investments on acceptable
terms to growing British businesses.

















Tax on profits


Employer taxes (National Insurance)


Bank levy


Irrecoverable value-added tax


Other duties and levies




1 Includes cash outflows of corporation tax, employer payroll tax, irrecoverable value-added tax and other taxes.

Pro forma post-tax profit allocation
HSBC’s Board of Directors is responsible...

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