Katie Owens, an HSBC employee from Sheffield, is setting off for two weeks of wildlife conservation in Cameroon. Her expedition is part of Investing in Nature, an £11 million, five-year eco-partnership between HSBC and environmental NGO, Earthwatch Institute (Europe).
Katie, an HSBC typist will be leaving her desk in the Sheffield office and joining Earthwatch scientists working to conserve the grey-necked picathartes (the Cameroon rock fowl). The species nests exclusively on rock-faces, cliffs and in caves surrounded by dense vegetation. However, due to forest clearance and increasing human encroachment it is now classified as a 'vulnerable' species.
Working as part of an integrated research and conservation programme, Katie and an international team of volunteers will make observations of nesting and adult bird behaviour; they will conduct habitat surveys and assess the impact of human activities on the vegetation surrounding the nests. All of the data that Katie helps to collect will be used to develop recommendations for the rock fowl's conservation.
Katie says, ‘I am especially interested in forest areas and the wildlife that live there. Learning more about the areas that I love will help me to educate people locally about the need to be environmentally aware. I find the idea of making first hand discoveries, and seeing evidence that I have collected, extremely exciting.'
Katie was selected from more than 220 thousand HSBC employees around the world and is just one of 500 HSBC Environmental Fellows who will work on Earthwatch conservation projects in 2004, ranging from Spanish dolphins to zebras in Kenya.
Over a period of five years, HSBC is offering 2,000 employees the opportunity to become involved in scientific field research and take part in vital conservation projects worldwide. By 2006 HSBC employees will have contributed the equivalent of a century of environmental research and 200 talented scientists will have received valuable training. The HSBC fellows will also be eligible for a grant of up to £400 to initiate a local environmental project on their return home.
The five-year Investing in Nature partnership also involves Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), and WWF, and is the largest ever single donation to each of the environmental charities. In addition to Earthwatch's contribution, Investing in Nature will clean up three of the world's major rivers, benefiting 50 million people who depend upon them, and help save 20,000 rare plant species from extinction.
Irene Dorner, HSBC general manager for the Northern Division said: ‘Investing in Nature is well on the way to meeting its five year goals. It's HSBC's largest donation ever but it's about more than that, it's about people. Our employees will be investing a massive amount of time and energy in conservation and we expect it to change them, and us. We want HSBC Fellows to become environmental ambassadors within the company, sharing what they learn with colleagues. The benefits shared between environment, community, business and individuals are a sure sign of a sustainable approach.'
Frank Vorhies, CEO of Earthwatch, said, "Investing in Nature is a great example of how businesses and NGOs can work successfully together. We are able to link the network of HSBC employees worldwide with the environmental knowledge available from Earthwatch scientists to raise awareness and understanding of environmental issues on a global and local level."
"Our work with HSBC, allows us to fulfil our mission by engaging their employees in scientific research projects and at the same time we are all able to further support the efforts of HSBC in promoting a sustainable environment."
To date, 800 HSBC employees from over 45 countries have contributed the equivalent of over 40 years of one scientist on vital environmental research in projects around the world through the Earthwatch programme.
Photo credit: ©Doug Peters/EWE