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60-Second Earth

Teaching Bankers about Climate Change

Why is HSBC teaching its employees about global warming? David Biello reports

Field science isn't usually the province of bankers. Particularly when it involves precisely measuring the circumference of tree trunks. Yet that's exactly what employees of international banking giant HSBC have been doing, according to the Washington Post.

The British bank partnered with the Earthwatch Institute and other environmental groups in 2007 to teach bank employees climate science. Their field study is the largest ever about climate change's long-term influence on forests.

Despite the $100 million price tag for the training, the goal is to save money. For example, the bank's employees new climate awareness drove them to create a program that automatically shuts down computers at night. That saved the bank's North American offices alone $300,000 in the past year.

Of course, banks have an enormous role in determining our climate future: from the kinds of mortgages they give out to the kind of projects they fund. HSBC, for its part, has pledged to work to emit no more greenhouse gases than it saves through its activities as well as helping create a set of "climate principles" for the banking industry.

But until the day comes when financial institutions can't profitably lend to coal mines or coastline housing developments, measuring trees is a small step toward climate change awareness you can bank on.

—David Biello

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