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HSBC campaigners

Published on 22 March 2021

HSBC take another step towards a Big Shift away from fossil fuels

Christian Aid campaigner Luke Harman shares the story of continued success of the Big Shift campaign you took part in during 2018-2019


During these dark times. I’m delighted to share some good news.

I’m reminded yet again, that campaigning success can often come many weeks, months or even years after the act. During lent in 2019 hundreds of people like you, spurred on by a belief in a most just world, visited HSBC branches across the UK and called on them make the Big Shift out of fossil fuels.

Since then, HSBC have taken various steps in the right direction

  1. A few days after their highly secretive AGM last year, HSBC closed a loophole in their coal prohibition policy that, until then, had allowed HSBC to fund new coal power stations in Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Vietnam - despite coal being the most polluting energy source and a major contributor to the climate crisis
  2. And more recently (in March 2021), HSBC – announced a new coal policy which will commit the bank to phasing out its finance to coal companies by 2040.  

Whilst these actions lag behind many other banks, and the 20-year timetable for phasing out this finance is way, way too slow, HSBC have definitely taken steps in the right direction to reduce their finance of fossil fuels

Your actions make a difference

So, over the course of 2018, 30,000 of you emailed the CEO and 7,000 of you sent him postcards, asking him to close this loophole. Local churches and Christian Aid groups also visited over 150 local HSBC branches across the UK with personalised letters to the CEO.

Simultaneously environmental organisations and activists around the world – and increasingly investors too - were calling on HSBC to phase out its finance of fossil fuels. Indeed, HSBC’s recent policy announcement came in the wake of collective pressure on the bank from some of its biggest investors. But your actions played a major part in putting the issue on HSBC’s agenda.

At the time, it may have felt like we weren’t making any headway but, as ever, some of our biggest campaign victories happen after we’ve moved on to another campaign. Change in some of the world’s most powerful and entrenched institutions takes time!

HSBC branch visit

Big Shift campaigners visiting an HSBC branch

Work to do

These victories are soured by the fact that HSBC’s new resolution sets 2040 as the target date for phasing out the financing of companies involved in coal-fired power and thermal coal mining. For the most climate-vulnerable countries, action is needed now.

But it’s clear these changes to HSBC policies would not have happened without your actions. In turn, HSBC’s new policies increase the pressure on the fossil fuel laggards in the private finance sector to stop financing coal.

Above all, it shows that however much we feel like David in the face of a hugely powerful and wealthy ‘Goliath’ like HSBC, our campaigning can still make a difference.

Find out how you can be part of our latest campaigns