Rory Sutherland wrote a column titled HSBC’s Stuart Kirk may be right or wrong. He is inarguably necessary about intolerance for dissenting viewpoints (June 7, 2022).

Rory Sutherland:

« HSBC’s Stuart Kirk was recently suspended from the bank as its head of responsible investing following a series of provocative comments made at an FT Conference. »

« You might want to watch the talk here: or you may prefer to follow the modern fashion of not bothering to hear what he has to say, and simply heading to social media to signal your disgust/approval to other members of your tribe. »

Stuart Kirk, Global Head of Responsible Investments, HSBC Asset Management presenting at the FT Moral Money Europe Summit:
[approximate time code from the video]

[6:20] « Adaption is going to be a key reason why not only the financial implications are going to be de minimis, that the actual lifestyle implications are going to be de minimis as well. Most people put up the charts of hurricanes and floods and they go up. What they don’t often put up are charts of the number of people who die from catastrophes, the amount of losses as a proportion of GDP or output—anything where you put a denominator on those statistics tend to look like that. »

[6:54] « Human beings have been fantastic at adapting to change, adapting to climate emergencies, and we will continue to do so. Who cares if Miami is 6 meters underwater in 100 years? Amsterdam has been 6 meters underwater for ages and that’s a really nice place. »

[7:20] « But we do need to adapt… If economic growth continues how I expect it to grow, we can solve this through adaption. And one of the tragedies of this whole debate and what we obsess about at HSBC is we spend way too much on mitigation financing and not enough of adaption financing. »

[7:50] « … this confusion between volume and value. Anyone who’s run money or anyone who’s been an analyst knows this very well, but the climate community doesn’t. There is a big difference between falling volumes and a falling price. Many things have to happen in between. Volumes can fall. Revenues may fall. But that doesn’t mean profits do. It doesn’t mean cash flows do. We don’t know how industries are going to respond. We don’t know what companies are going to do with CapEx. We don’t know what’s going to happen with all the other things that affect companies in between those two things. What happens to absolute and relative prices at the end of this process is completely divorced from the transition: winner and losers. My point being that there will be winners whose share prices go up and down; there will be losers whose share prices go up and down… Coal companies, industrials, cement companies. They’re going to see falling volumes… And there will be sorts of companies that see rising volumes: renewables, all that sort of good technological stuff.  But both of them – Some will destroy value. Some will create value. And it will depend on their CapEx, what they pay out… It’s very possible to build portfolios around winners and losers.  »

Rory Sutherland Vice Chairman of Ogilvy and the author of Alchemy: The Dark Art and Curious Science of Creating Magic in Brands, Business, and Life (UK subtitle: The Surprising Power of Ideas that Don’t Make Sense).

This post reminds me of a couple of phrases from Andrew Grove’s Only the Paranoid Survive: strategic dissonance and constructive confrontation. I’m also reminded of what Chris Argyris called assertive inquiry, which I read about in Playing to Win by A.G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin.

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