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Reference No. 15/002C Publication Year 2015
Author(s) Amy Yip, W H Lo
Company HSBC
Industry Banks and Diversified Financials
Geographic setting Hong Kong, Worldwide
Functional Area Ethics and Social Responsibility


HSBC was a huge financial institution: for the financial year 2014, its 266,000 employees, in 6,100 offices in 73 countries, served 51 million customers.  Its sheer size meant that it touched the lives of millions, and its decisions and actions impacted the thousands of communities in which it operated. The bank’s responsibilities, therefore, went beyond generating profits for its shareholders. It had obligations to those communities and millions of stakeholders. To HSBC, sustainable business meant both generating profits and fulfilling those obligations.

To allow transparency into its workings, and, more importantly, to its achievements on sustainability issues, HSBC published a yearly sustainability report, compiled by following the Global Reporting Initiatives (“GRI”) Reporting Framework and the GRI’s financial services sector supplement. It actively sought to be the industry’s leading organization in terms of corporate sustainability.

How did HSBC ensure that its sustainability policy was implemented consistently? What were its strategic priorities and how did they contribute to HSBC’s business sustainability? What were the metrics against which the bank measured its sustainability performance? From a shareholder and business-sustainability perspective, were all these efforts and investments in environmental, climate and community issues worth it?

Recent years saw the bank facing an increasingly hostile institutional environment and a number of allegations of ethically problematic practices. What were these issues? How did they impact the bank? What were its responses to these issues from a sustainability perspective?

Learning Objective

1. To introduce the concept of CSR and the pros and the cons of its practice.
2. To understand the drivers of CSR practices in global corporations.
3. To discuss the importance of CSR reporting and how such reporting should be done.

Suggested Questions:

1. What is CSR?
2. What are the arguments for and against CSR practices?
3. Why and how should a company report its CSR practices?

This case was fully supported by a grant from the Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China (UGC/IDS12/14).