Virtual Forest from HSBC

Virtual Forest from HSBCHSBC and first direct launch new programme to cut paper use

Customers of HSBC and first direct who choose not to receive paper bank statements will be helping to plant more than 20,000 trees as part of a new programme to cut back on paper usage, known as the Virtual Forest.

The Virtual Forest is a £112,500 co-sponsorship of Trees for Cities, an independent charity that works with local communities on tree planting projects, community education and training initiatives in urban areas.

All first direct customers and HSBC customers who have registered for Personal Internet Banking can elect to stop receiving their monthly current account statements through the post. HSBC customers can also turn off their quarterly savings account and twice-yearly mortgage account statements and view them online instead.

From this week, every time a customer switches off paper, HSBC and first direct will plant one tree in the online Virtual Forest. For every 20 virtual trees, Trees for Cities will plant one real tree in locations in London, Leeds, Manchester, Bristol or the Midlands. The programme will plant up to 22,500 trees in total.

More than 1 million HSBC and first direct customers have already stopped receiving statements and are saving more than 13 million pieces of paper and about 7 million envelopes each year.

Joe Garner, general manager of personal financial services, for HSBC and first direct said: “We have been offering customers the opportunity to turn off their paper statements for three years. This year we are increasing our drive to cut down on paper use through programmes such as Trees for Cities and other initiatives, such as a 50p donation to the WWF for the first 100,000 customers who registered for HSBC internet banking during our HSBC Green Sale in January.”

Graham Simmonds, chief executive of Trees for Cities, said: “The Virtual Forest is a great way to encourage less use of paper as well as getting more real trees planted in needy urban areas and Trees for Cities is delighted to be involved in such a creative initiative. Trees are a vital part of our urban landscape, providing a broad range of environmental, community and health benefits, and I would urge all HSBC and first direct customers to get online and consider switching off their paper statements.”

The development of the Virtual Forest also follows HSBC and first direct´s announcement that they have switched all their marketing material to paper from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified forests and recycled sources. In 2005, HSBC became the first big bank to become carbon neutral.

The HSBC Virtual Forest can be found at where HSBC customers can also personalise their virtual tree with a name and dedication and view their own and other people’s Virtual Trees.

The first direct Virtual Forest can be found at where customers can view a video podcast with celebrity gardener Diarmuid Gavin and vote for which of the locations they wish the real trees to be planted.

Posted by J Grant

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