Despite the physically demanding fieldwork that entails trekking through forests to measure the growth of tree trunks and leaves, HSBC employee Jean Qan appreciates the experience of volunteering at the China Climate Centre in Zhejiang.
The management associate, who works with the bank's assets, liabilities and capital management department in Hong Kong, spent two weeks at the centre last summer, where she helped collect data to support research into the amount of carbon stored in the forests and the ability of forests to isolate the element from the atmosphere.
Qan is one of the bank's 'climate champions' involved in the Climate Partnership programme, a five-year, US$100 million campaign launched in 2007. As part of the initiative, HSBC works with four leading environmental non-profit groups: The Climate Group, Earthwatch Institute, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and WWF.
Through an array of activities, including those engaging 'climate champions' in research projects (see fact box), the global initiative seeks to raise environmental awareness and work with governments and companies to create and promote greener cities, and protect major rivers. It is also deigned to help scientists find out more about the relationship between forests, carbon and different climates.
HSBC hopes an increase in its employees' awareness of the business implications of climate change will help make its business more sustainable.
'[We] aim to build a green taskforce of employees who will work with customers to identify ways in which they can adapt sustainable business practices, [and find] business opportunities arising from climate change. They will also champion activities to lead changes in their workplace and local communities,' says Teresa Au, HSBC's head of corporate sustainability for Asia-Pacific Region.
The bank has so far trained 1,000 employees from around the world as 'climate champions', and another 1,000 are expected to take part.
The China Climate Centre where Qan visited was set up in September 2009, and brings together scientists from Earthwatch and the Institute of Botany under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and HSBC's 'climate champions' in Asia who will share their experience with their communities at home.
And that is what Qan is doing, as she applies her new knowledge to assess projects that aim to bring renewable energy to rural areas on the mainland and India.
'I have been conducting feasibility studies of clean energy proposals [submitted by companies],' she says. 'We need to ensure that the projects are economically viable and environmentally friendly.'
Under HSBC's Climate Partnership, The Climate Group has worked with 20 firms and communities in the Pearl River Delta on the needs for low-carbon development
The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute has set up temperate-zone plots in Brazil, Britain and the United States to collect data on the effect of climate change on forests, and initiated the reforestation of more than 100 hectares in the Panama Canal Watershed
The WWF has set up a Protected Area Network covering 15,000 square kilometres along the Yangtze River and conducted successful trials of a new bioremediation sewage treatment solution at a village in India