Andy Maguire’s responsibilities include overseeing the bank’s “10 goals for 2020” to operate more sustainably and reduce its impact on the environment. The 10 goals include targets to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions, recycle 100 per cent of waste, source 100 per cent of paper sustainably, ensure buildings meet high environmental standards, and switch to lower-carbon sources of energy by helping to develop new wind and solar farms.

He explains how operating sustainably fits in with the bank’s broader strategy.

Why does operating sustainably matter?

Operating sustainably makes good business sense. Alongside the environmental benefits, there’s a strong business case for each of our 2020 goals.

Going paperless is a good example. What happens with paper statements and messages from your bank? In my house, they’re binned and forgotten. It doesn’t make sense to keep pumping out paper in a frankly 19th century way when we can make it more convenient for customers to stay in control using technology.

The same argument applies to staff travel. Meeting people face-to-face can be a great way of building relationships, but you don’t need to fly around the world every time you need to talk. We have 21st century tools such as online conferencing that enable teams in different countries to collaborate in much more effective ways.

Our goals for operating sustainably are closely aligned with our broader strategy. Being sustainable means doing business more effectively – simpler, better and faster.

What makes HSBC’s commitment to sustainable operations different?

I was lucky to inherit a great sustainable operations programme. We are well on track to meet the goals for 2020 and this is a topic that really motivates teams worldwide.

The strength of the programme is that it is tied to measurable, practical targets. I’m not interested in just talking about how much we care, I’m interested in making change happen. In my experience that practical focus appeals to young people who might be considering joining HSBC too.

HSBC also has targets to make significant cost savings by the end of 2017. Do cost pressures make it harder to go green?

You don’t have to choose between going green and making savings. Seen as a whole, the changes we are making to manage our impact on the environment can contribute to cost savings over the long term.

HSBC has cut carbon emissions in its data centres

In some cases the pay-off is immediate. Although paper is a sustainable resource, reducing paper use offers clear cost savings the moment you do it. So does cutting out unnecessary travel. Or take the changes we have made in our data centres. Data centres contain big banks of computers that keep our systems running. Computers get hot and need cooling.

But we found that the air conditioning in some centres was colder than it needed to be. By allowing temperatures to fluctuate more widely, within safe limits, we have reduced our carbon emissions and our fuel bill.

Other 2020 goals call for investment and may have a longer pay-off. Refurbishing buildings to high environmental standards costs money, but investments such as energy-efficient LED lighting can help save money over the longer term.

The pay-off for investing in renewable power takes longer still. Oil is currently relatively cheap, but signing long-term agreements with wind farms and solar plants now can protect us from possible oil price rises in the coming years. Besides, switching to renewables can have other practical benefits. In some countries, a dedicated solar plant may offer a more predictable source of energy than the local power grid.

What are your priorities now?

We have a clear set of targets and we know what we’ve got to do. My priority is simple: get it done.