$50 Million Invested in Nature

LONDON, England, February 22, 2002 (ENS) - A US$50 million contribution from financial service's giant HSBC Group will fund a five year partnership to support conservation projects around the world, including several in the United States. The partnership, dubbed Investing in Nature, will augment contributions already made by HSBC Bank USA to various environmental groups.

The commitment by HSBC includes the largest ever single donations to three charities - World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) and Earthwatch.

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The project will seek to restore habitat around the Amazon River in Brazil. Here, the Greenpeace ship Amazon Guardian escorts a confiscated raft of illegal logs on the Amazon. (Photo courtesy Greenpeace)
"Companies as well as individuals have a responsibility for the stewardship of this planet, which we hold in trust for the future," said HSBC chair Sir John Bond, at the launch of Investing in Nature in London on Thursday. "If we don't act now, by 2025 over 60 percent of the world's population could face a water shortage. We are also facing a global extinction crisis with thousands of species and habitats under threat."

Headquartered in London, HSBC Holdings plc is one of the largest banking and financial services organizations in the world.

The partnership aims to clean up three of the world's major rivers for the benefit of the 50 million people and thousands of other species that depend upon them. Other project goals are to help save 20,000 rare plant species from extinction, train 200 scientists and send 2,000 staff to work on vital conservation research projects worldwide.

"With WWF, BGCI and Earthwatch, Investing in Nature will breathe new life into rivers, protect endangered species, and fund conservation research and education around the world," added Bond. "Our investment is not simply financial - 2,000 staff will take part in fieldwork and become environmental champions within the Group."

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Among the wetlands areas that will benefit from the project is the Florida Everglades (Photo courtesy South Florida Water Management District)
With US$18.4 million in funding from HSBC, the WWF will restore two million hectares of river basin habitats in the Amazon in Brazil, the Yangtze in China and the Rio Grande in the U.S., returning the natural flow of rivers, protecting fish and other freshwater species, and securing fresh drinking water for millions. A special two year component of the project will also focus on restoring the Florida Everglades in the U.S., and ensuring that state and federal agencies fully implement the federal Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.

In the United Kingdom (UK), WWF will work to protect and restore freshwater habitats in line with new European Union legislation, and create a public awareness program about water and water usage.

"WWF believes that, globally, freshwater is a critical environmental issue with perhaps the greatest risk of conflict between peoples," said Dr Garo Batmanian, chief executive of WWF Brazil. "Over 1.2 billion of the world's poorest people don't have access to safe drinking water. We want to help turn this around, and with HSBC's support we can embark on a major new program to stem the decline in three of the world's key freshwater systems."

A US$11.6 million donation to Botanic Gardens Conservation International will fund a living gene bank in botanic gardens around the world to protect 20,000 endangered plant species. BGCI will also raise public awareness of the value of plants through its 500 member gardens in 111 countries, revitalizing conservation in 16 major gardens in Argentina, Brazil, India, Indonesia and the Middle East, and funding education programs in Canada, China, Japan, the UK and the U.S.

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HSBC is donating US$11.6 million to help preserve plant diversity through botanic gardens. The Herbarium at Kew in the UK contains the world's largest collection of historical plant specimens. (Photo courtesy Royal Botanic Gardens)
"Botanic gardens are like a 'Noah's Ark' for endangered plant life," said Dr. Peter Wyse Jackson, secretary general of BGCI. "Our partnership with HSBC will help fill this ark with 20,000 of the rarest plants, helping reverse the current extinction crisis and protecting the world's greatest renewable natural resource for the future."

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden, a member of BGCI, will coordinate initiatives in the United States.

"This unprecedented project will enable U.S. botanic gardens to partner with our colleagues around the world, to raise international awareness of the value of plants and the threats that they face in a way never before attempted," said Judith Zuk, secretary-treasurer of the board of BGCI (U.S.) and president of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

Some 2,000 HSBC staff will work alongside Earthwatch scientists on conservation projects worldwide, yielding the equivalent of 100 man years of research. This will create a network of environmental ambassadors in the Group, who will be given grants for local conservation projects when they return to their communities.

The US$16 million donation to Earthwatch will also help train 200 scientists in developing countries.

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The Australian National Botanic Gardens are helping to preserve the blue gum tree, a species vital to the survival of the endangered swift parrot (Photo courtesy Australian National Botanic Gardens)
"This donation provides the people and the funds to help us continue our long term support of environmental field research, whilst providing a unique opportunity for HSBC employees to get directly involved in conservation issues," said Dr. Robert Barrington, chief executive of Earthwatch Europe.

Linda Styker-Luftig, senior vice president for public affairs at HSBC Bank USA, noted that the problems the new partnership will tackle affect people around the globe.

"No matter where in the world we live, we all feel the impact, to one extent or another, of the environmental issues that these conservation projects address," said Styker-Luftig.

More information is available at: http://www.investinginnature.org/