The bank has allocated between US$750bn and US$1 trillion over the next ten years to help its customers achieve the new target, in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.
“COVID has been a wake-up call to us all, including me personally. We have seen how fragile the global economy is to a major event, in this case a health event, and it brings home the reality of what a major climate event could do,” chief executive Noel Quinn told Reuters.
“What we have given the market is an ambition that our total financing by 2050 will be net-zero, that is a far bigger prize or goal than picking a sub-segment of our portfolio and saying ‘I am not going to bank you’ because that’s not what the world needs.”
“That industry or that customer may then just go to Bank X, Bank Y or Bank Z. They won’t have changed their business model.”
Other banks, such as NatWest and BNP Paribas, have already announced net-zero goals but this HSBC is so far the most ambitious as it involves all its Asian customers.
The FTSE 100 corporation has been pressured by activists and shareholders for financing projects harming the environment.
Responsible investment charity Share Action welcomed the initiative but said net-zero ambitions need to be backed-up by fossil fuel phase out targets to be credible.
“We want to see HSBC commit to phase out coal and take immediate steps to curb fossil fuel financing,” the organisation commented on Twitter.
According to a report by non-profit organisations 350.org, Platform London, People & Planet and The Sunrise Project published in April, HSBC is backing the fossil fuel industry with £67bn and continues to pursue financing a coal power plant in Vietnam and port-dredging in Bangladesh.
Shares dipped 1% to 312.25p on Friday afternoon.