The degradation of the natural world threatens economic prosperity. It is in investors’ interests to step up and protect the planet.

It is a mere six months old, but 2020 has already been a bumper year for natural disasters. The devastating Australian bushfires in January, broken heat records, the most damaging locust plague in 70 years in parts of East Africa, a super-cyclone in the Bay of Bengal, and the worst drought in centuries in Central Europe.

Most damaging of all, of course, has been COVID-19 – a consequence of our increasingly close contact with hitherto remote ecosystems. The pandemic has revealed the massive and unpredictable interconnectedness between natural environments and global economies.

Paradise lost? (duration 3:25) Ashim Paun on why investors must address the biodiversity crisis

Damage to ecosystems across the world, and the resulting loss of biodiversity, has received less attention than other sustainability challenges – climate change risks, pollutants, poverty and conflict. Yet the biodiversity crisis is a direct risk to humankind. It is hard to quantify given the heterogeneity of ecosystems, and it is very hard to solve. However, what is certain is that we have not found a way to continue to grow and develop that interacts with the natural world in a sustainable way.

The effects of human action on the natural world are profoundly damaging: deforestation; land degradation; pollution of the water, air and soil; hunting and harvesting; and climate change. And as our population increases and our pursuit of economic growth continues, so the threat intensifies. We lost an average of 60 per cent of the population of vertebrate species between 1970 and 2014. Three-quarters of the land on earth has been ‘severely altered’ by human actions, as has two-thirds of the marine environment. Around a million species are at risk if we do nothing.

Our dependence on biodiversity for food, raw materials, medicine and weather regulation makes this trend extremely worrying. Around 70 per cent of cancer drugs are organic or derived from natural products, for instance. Production of over 75 per cent of global food crop types relies on animal pollination. In economic terms, the WWF estimates the cost of inaction on ecosystem decline at USD9.87 trillion over 2011-2050.

Fact: the WWF estimates that the cost of inaction on ecosystem decline between 2011 and 2050 is USD9.87 trillion.
Fact: around 1 million species are at risk.
Fact: production of 75 per cent of global food crop types relies on animal pollination.

Like many sustainable development challenges, protecting and restoring biodiversity remains extremely complex - for investors, policy-makers and communities around the world. So perhaps there is a risk, that as policymakers and companies focus on tackling COVID-19, and then on increased debts, balance sheet damage and weak profits, that other sustainability issues might get pushed into the background.

However, as we seek to build back better from the current social, economic and environmental crisis, we have an opportunity to integrate an urgent and sizeable response to the biodiversity crisis at global and systemic levels. And we think investors can take a lead in three key ways.

First, they can support the development of a robust methodology for measuring biodiversity loss, conservation and enhancement. More data will allow the measurement of biodiversity risks, and enable markets to integrate these in valuation.

Second, investors can allocate assets towards companies which operate in environmentally sustainable ways and which produce biodiversity-positive technologies. A simple analysis contains evidence to suggest that such companies have outperformed in recent years.

And third, asset management firms should embed biodiversity protection at the heart of their approach to responsible investment through engaging with issuers, proxy voting and disclosure.

If anything, the pandemic should accelerate the focus on sustainable investing, rather than distract from it. While governments are fire-fighting, investors can step up and play a pivotal role, with potential long-term benefits for themselves – and for the planet as a whole.

Global biodiversity in decline

Percentage of species under threat

Disclosure appendix
Analyst Certification

The following analyst(s), economist(s), or strategist(s) who is(are) primarily responsible for this report, including any analyst(s) whose name(s) appear(s) as author of an individual section or sections of the report and any analyst(s) named as the covering analyst(s) of a subsidiary company in a sum-of-the-parts valuation certifies(y) that the opinion(s) on the subject security(ies) or issuer(s), any views or forecasts expressed in the section(s) of which such individual(s) is(are) named as author(s), and any other views or forecasts expressed herein, including any views expressed on the back page of the research report, accurately reflect their personal view(s) and that no part of their compensation was, is or will be directly or indirectly related to the specific recommendation(s) or views contained in this research report: Ashim Paun,

Brazilian Securities Exchange Commission (CVM) Regulation No. 598

Pursuant to CVM Ruling No. 598 (May 2018), HSBC has obtained from the analyst(s) listed above under "Analyst Certification" and disclosed (where applicable), the statements set forth in Article 21 and have rendered (where applicable) the statements set forth in Article 22, under the sections titled "Analyst Certification" and "HSBC & Analyst Disclosures". The analyst(s) furthermore certifies(y) that the recommendations contained in this report have been prepared independently, even in relation to HSBC.

Additionally, for purposes of Article 20, the principal analyst responsible for compliance of the mentioned regulation is the first name in the list under "Analyst Certification" that has local certification, where applicable.

Important disclosures
Foreign exchange: Basis for financial analysis

This document has been prepared and is being distributed by the Research Department of HSBC and is intended solely for the clients of HSBC and is not for publication to other persons, whether through the press or by other means.

This document is for information purposes only and it should not be regarded as an offer to sell or as a solicitation of an offer to buy the securities or other investment products mentioned in it and/or to participate in any trading strategy. Advice in this document is general and should not be construed as personal advice, given it has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular investor. Accordingly, investors should, before acting on the advice, consider the appropriateness of the advice, having regard to their objectives, financial situation and needs. If necessary, seek professional investment and tax advice.

Certain investment products mentioned in this document may not be eligible for sale in some states or countries, and they may not be suitable for all types of investors. Investors should consult with their HSBC representative regarding the suitability of the investment products mentioned in this document and take into account their specific investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs before making a commitment to purchase investment products.

The value of and the income produced by the investment products mentioned in this document may fluctuate, so that an investor may get back less than originally invested. Certain high-volatility investments can be subject to sudden and large falls in value that could equal or exceed the amount invested. Value and income from investment products may be adversely affected by exchange rates, interest rates, or other factors. Past performance of a particular investment product is not indicative of future results.

HSBC believes that investors utilise various disciplines and investment horizons when making investment decisions, which depend largely on individual circumstances such as the investor's existing holdings, risk tolerance and other considerations. HSBC’s currency trade ideas on deliverable FX forwards (DF) or non-deliverable FX forwards (NDF) are usually identified on a time horizon of up to three months, although HSBC reserves the right to extend this time horizon on a discretionary, trade-by-trade basis.

HSBC believes an investor's decision to buy or sell an instrument should depend on individual circumstances such as the investor's existing holdings and other considerations. Different securities firms use a variety of terms as well as different systems to describe their recommendations. Investors should carefully read the definitions of the recommendations used in each research report. In addition, because research reports contain more complete information concerning the analysts' views, investors should carefully read the entire research report and should not infer its contents from the recommendation. In any case, recommendations should not be used or relied on in isolation as investment advice.

Definitions for currency trades on DFs and NDFs

Buy: refers to buying the first currency in the named pair in exchange for the second currency in the named pair.

Sell: refers to selling the first currency in the named pair in exchange for the second currency in the named pair.

The tenor of the instrument will be denoted and will refer to a settlement date relative to the opening date of the trade idea e.g. 1m refers to a settlement date 1 month forward from the open date of the trade idea. NDF trades normally fix two working days prior to the settlement date.

Distribution of currency trades

The nature of foreign exchange forward trade ideas is such that there will always be an equal number of buy and sell trades (buying one currency in exchange for selling another), both outstanding and historically.

Equities: Stock ratings and basis for financial analysis

HSBC and its affiliates, including the issuer of this report (“HSBC”) believes an investor's decision to buy or sell a stock should depend on individual circumstances such as the investor's existing holdings, risk tolerance and other considerations and that investors utilise various disciplines and investment horizons when making investment decisions. Ratings should not be used or relied on in isolation as investment advice. Different securities firms use a variety of ratings terms as well as different rating systems to describe their recommendations and therefore investors should carefully read the definitions of the ratings used in each research report. Further, investors should carefully read the entire research report and not infer its contents from the rating because research reports contain more complete information concerning the analysts' views and the basis for the rating.

From 23rd March 2015 HSBC has assigned ratings on the following basis:

The target price is based on the analyst’s assessment of the stock’s actual current value, although we expect it to take six to 12 months for the market price to reflect this. When the target price is more than 20% above the current share price, the stock will be classified as a Buy; when it is between 5% and 20% above the current share price, the stock may be classified as a Buy or a Hold; when it is between 5% below and 5% above the current share price, the stock will be classified as a Hold; when it is between 5% and 20% below the current share price, the stock may be classified as a Hold or a Reduce; and when it is more than 20% below the current share price, the stock will be classified as a Reduce.

Our ratings are re-calibrated against these bands at the time of any 'material change' (initiation or resumption of coverage, change in target price or estimates).

Upside/Downside is the percentage difference between the target price and the share price.

Prior to this date, HSBC’s rating structure was applied on the following basis:

For each stock we set a required rate of return calculated from the cost of equity for that stock’s domestic or, as appropriate, regional market established by our strategy team. The target price for a stock represented the value the analyst expected the stock to reach over our performance horizon. The performance horizon was 12 months. For a stock to be classified as Overweight, the potential return, which equals the percentage difference between the current share price and the target price, including the forecast dividend yield when indicated, had to exceed the required return by at least 5 percentage points over the succeeding 12 months (or 10 percentage points for a stock classified as Volatile*). For a stock to be classified as Underweight, the stock was expected to underperform its required return by at least 5 percentage points over the succeeding 12 months (or 10 percentage points for a stock classified as Volatile*). Stocks between these bands were classified as Neutral.

*A stock was classified as volatile if its historical volatility had exceeded 40%, if the stock had been listed for less than 12 months (unless it was in an industry or sector where volatility is low) or if the analyst expected significant volatility. However, stocks which we did not consider volatile may in fact also have behaved in such a way. Historical volatility was defined as the past month's average of the daily 365-day moving average volatilities. In order to avoid misleadingly frequent changes in rating, however, volatility had to move 2.5 percentage points past the 40% benchmark in either direction for a stock's status to change.

Rating distribution for long-term investment opportunities
As of 09 June 2020, the distribution of all independent ratings published by HSBC is as follows:

Buy 55% ( 31% of these provided with Investment Banking Services )
Hold 36% ( 31% of these provided with Investment Banking Services )
Sell 9% ( 22% of these provided with Investment Banking Services )

For the purposes of the distribution above the following mapping structure is used during the transition from the previous to current rating models: under our previous model, Overweight = Buy, Neutral = Hold and Underweight = Sell; under our current model Buy = Buy, Hold = Hold and Reduce = Sell. For rating definitions under both models, please see “Stock ratings and basis for financial analysis” above.

Fixed income: Basis for financial analysis

This report is designed for, and should only be utilised by, institutional investors. Furthermore, HSBC believes an investor's decision to make an investment should depend on individual circumstances such as the investor's existing holdings and other considerations.

HSBC believes that investors utilise various disciplines and investment horizons when making investment decisions, which depend largely on individual circumstances such as the investor's existing holdings, risk tolerance and other considerations. Given these differences, HSBC has two principal aims in its fixed income research: 1) to identify long-term investment opportunities based on particular themes or ideas that may affect the future earnings or cash flows of companies in corporate credit and based on country-specific ideas or themes that may affect the performance of these bonds in the case of covered bonds, in both cases on a six-month time horizon; 2) to identify trade ideas on a time horizon of up to four months, relating to specific instruments, which are predominantly derived from relative value considerations or driven by events and which, in the case of credit research, may differ from our long-term opinion on an issuer. Buy or Sell refer to a trade call to buy or sell that given instrument; HSBC has assigned a fundamental recommendation structure, as described below, only for its longer-term investment opportunities.

HSBC believes an investor's decision to buy or sell a bond should depend on individual circumstances such as the investor's existing holdings and other considerations. Different securities firms use a variety of terms as well as different systems to describe their recommendations. Investors should carefully read the definitions of the recommendations used in each research report. In addition, because research reports contain more complete information concerning the analysts' views, investors should carefully read the entire research report and should not infer its contents from the recommendation. In any case, recommendations should not be used or relied on in isolation as investment advice.

HSBC Global Research is not and does not hold itself out to be a Credit Rating Agency as defined under the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Ordinance.

Definitions for fundamental credit and covered bond recommendations

Overweight: For corporate credit, the issuer’s fundamental credit profile is expected to improve within the next six months. For covered bonds, the bonds issued in this country are expected to outperform those of the other countries in our coverage over the next six months.

Neutral: For corporate credit, the issuer’s fundamental credit profile is expected to remain stable for up to six months. For covered bonds, the bonds issued in this country are expected to perform in line with those of the other countries in our coverage over the next six months.

Underweight: For corporate credit, the issuer’s fundamental credit profile is expected to deteriorate within the next six months. For covered bonds, the bonds issued in this country are expected to underperform those of other countries in our coverage over the next six months.

Definitions for trades (Rates & Credit)

Buy and Sell refer to a trade call to buy or sell a bond, option on an interest rate swap ("swaption"), interest rate cap or floor, inflation cap or floor, or Total Return Swap ("TRS"). The buyer/seller of a TRS receives/pays the total return of the underlying instrument or index at the end of the period and pays/receives the funding leg.

Buy protection and Sell protection refer to a credit default swap (CDS): the protection buyer/seller is effectively selling/buying the reference entity's credit risk.

Pay and receive refer to a trade call to pay or receive the fixed leg of an interest rate swap (IRS), a non-deliverable IRS, the first-named leg of a basis swap, the realised inflation leg of an inflation swap, or a forward rate agreement (FRA). An investor that executes a pay or receive trade is said to be "paid" or "received."

Payer and receiver refer to inflation caps or floors and to swaptions: a payer is an option giving the right but not the obligation to enter a paid position in an interest rate or inflation swap, and a receiver is an option giving the right but not the obligation to enter a received position in an interest rate or inflation swap.

ASW (also asset-swap, Buy on asset swap, Buy on an asset-swapped basis): Buy a bond packaged with a swap that is tailored to eliminate the bond’s interest rate risk, effectively transforming the bond to a floating rate instrument whilst preserving the credit exposure to the bond issuer.

RASW (also reverse asset-swap, Sell on asset swap, Sell on an asset swapped basis): Sell a bond packaged with a swap that is tailored to eliminate the bond’s interest rate risk, effectively transforming the bond to a floating rate instrument whilst preserving the credit exposure to the bond issuer.

Distribution of fundamental credit and covered bond recommendations

As of 08 June 2020, the distribution of all independent fundamental credit recommendations published by HSBC is as follows:

All Covered issuers

Count

Percentage

Overweight

122

27

Neutral

203

44

Underweight

132

29


Source: HSBC

Issuers to whom HSBC has provided Investment Banking in the past 12 months

Count

Percentage

Overweight

78

64

Neutral

93

46

Underweight

52

39


Source: HSBC

For the purposes of the distribution above the following mapping structure is used: Overweight = Buy, Neutral = Hold and Underweight = Sell. For rating definitions under both models, please see "Definitions for fundamental credit and covered bond recommendations" above.

Distribution of trades
As of 31 March 2020, the distribution of all trades published by HSBC is as follows:

For the purposes of the distribution above the following mapping structure is used: Buy/Sell protection/Receive/Buy Receiver/Sell Payer = Buy; and Sell/Buy protection/Pay/Buy Payer/Sell Receiver = Sell. ASW is counted as a buy of the bond and a paid swap, and RASW as a sell of the bond and a received swap. For rating definitions under both models, please see "Definitions for trades (Rates and Credit)" above.

For the distribution of non-independent ratings published by HSBC, please see the disclosure page available at http://www.hsbcnet.com/gbm/financial-regulation/investment-recommendations-disclosures .

Recommendation changes for long-term investment opportunities

To view a list of all the independent fundamental ratings disseminated by HSBC during the preceding 12-month period, please use the following links to access the disclosure page:

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Analysts, economists, and strategists are paid in part by reference to the profitability of HSBC which includes investment banking, sales & trading, and principal trading revenues.

Whether, or in what time frame, an update of this analysis will be published is not determined in advance.

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Additional disclosures

  1. This report is dated as at 10 June 2020.

  2. All market data included in this report are dated as at close 04 June 2020, unless a different date and/or a specific time of day is indicated in the report.

  3. HSBC has procedures in place to identify and manage any potential conflicts of interest that arise in connection with its Research business. HSBC's analysts and its other staff who are involved in the preparation and dissemination of Research operate and have a management reporting line independent of HSBC's Investment Banking business. Information Barrier procedures are in place between the Investment Banking, Principal Trading, and Research businesses to ensure that any confidential and/or price sensitive information is handled in an appropriate manner.

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Production & distribution disclosures

  1. This report was produced and signed off by the author on 09 Jun 2020 13:37 GMT.

  2. In order to see when this report was first disseminated please see the disclosure page available at https://www.research.hsbc.com/R/34/lscDkqc

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