HSBC launching sustainable finance options for small and medium businesses

TORONTO — HSBC it is bringing a suite of sustainable finance tools to Canada the bank says will help small and medium businesses meet increasing expectations around environmental commitments.

Larger companies and institutions are increasingly evaluating the sustainability performance of their supply chains to meet their own green goals, said Alan Turner, head of commercial banking at HSBC Bank Canada, so smaller companies have to demonstrate too.

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"There’s a need for the smaller businesses to be able to demonstrate that they are aligned to what the large corporate institutions have set out is their position," Turner said.

The products announced Tuesday by HSBC include green deposits, which makes a company's cash reserves available to support green projects, sustainable financing tools around trade and equipment, and a general loan whose interest rate is tied to environmental targets.

Turner says they contrast with green bonds and green loans, which have focused on government lending and large corporations.

Multinational banks like Standard Chartered PLC and Citigroup Inc., as well as several U.S. banks have launched green deposits in recent years, but HSBC says that they are the first to bring the option to Canada.

BMO is also active in the sustainable finance space, having launched its first sustainability-linked loan in 2019 in a deal with Maple Leaf Foods. Earlier this year it announced a green loan for Atlantic Packaging that aligns with a set of standards for the space known as the Green Loan Principles.

Sustainability in the financial services industry is evolving quickly as products like green loans become more standardized and a growing number of banks make commitments to reducing the environmental impacts of their operations and loan portfolios.

In April the industry-led, UN-convened Net-Zero Banking Alliance launched with 57 banks committed to aligning their lending and investment portfolios with net-zero emissions by 2050.

Vancity and HSBC were the only banks operating in Canada that initially signed on to the alliance, though in the last year Toronto-Dominion Bank, Royal Bank of Canada, Bank of Montreal and most recently Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce have made their own net-zero-by-2050 commitments.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 28, 2021.

Companies in this story: (TSX:BMO, TSX:TD, TSX:RY, TSX:CIBC)

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