HSBC suspends responsible investing head after climate comments

Stuart Kirk called climate change concern 'unsubstantiated' and 'shrill'

HSBC Asset Management has suspended global head of responsible investing Stuart Kirk after he dismissed climate change concerns as “unsubstantiated” and “shrill” during a presentation last week.

At a talk entitled ‘Why investors need not worry about climate risk’ at an FT Moral Money conference on Thursday, Kirk (pictured) dismissed concerns of rising sea levels, complained about having to spend time “looking at something that’s going to happen in 20 or 30 years” and made comparisons between climate concerns and conspiracists.

Accompanying slides to his presentation read: “Unsubstantiated, shrill, partisan, self-serving, apocalyptic warnings are ALWAYS wrong”.

He has now been suspended pending an internal investigation into the presentation.

Over the weekend, HSBC CEO Noel Quinn distanced himself from the comments by posting on LinkedIn that they were “inconsistent with HSBC’s strategy” and “do not reflect the views of the senior leadership of HSBC or HSBC Asset Management”.

But commentators have said it may not be as simple as ousting one bad egg.

“The bank must now explain how such offensive and inaccurate comments were signed off, to what extend other senior execs share Kirk’s views, and what sort of culture HSBC is breeding that allowed the comments to pass unchallenged,” said Beau O’Sullivan, senior campaigner on the Bank on our Future campaign. 

“There is more than one Stuart Kirk in the woodwork, given the bank’s level of fossil fuel financing,” he added, in reference to findings such as those from the Rainforest Action Network that HSBC funded £14.3bn of fossil fuels last year.

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Kirk has been head of responsible investing at HSBC since July 2021, overseeing the asset management arm’s ESG investment and developing new products.


Natasha Turner

Natasha is global editor at ESG Clarity, part of the Bonhill Group, and has been a financial journalist for seven years. She has been shortlisted for Story of the Year and Investment Journalist of the...