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Climate groups slam banks over senior PR hirings to deal with bad climate record

Climate groups slam banks over senior PR hirings to deal with bad climate record


11 September, 2023

Climate groups have criticised banks for hiring senior staff to deal with their poor image on climate change – instead of actually dealing with climate change. 

As reported in the Guardian today, Citi, Barclays and Royal Bank of Canada, which are among the biggest funders of the oil, gas and coal sectors, are hiring senior public relations and “engagement” roles while continuing to pump money into new and expanding fossil fuel industries.

The move comes as protesters, angry at financial institutions for bank-rolling the fossil fuel industry, prepare a wave of actions in New York in the coming days as UN Climate Week kicks off, including at Citi, KKR and Blackrock. The 60 biggest banks in the world have pumped $5.5 trillion into the fossil fuel sectors since 2016.

Citi is hiring a Vice President for ESG stakeholder engagement; Barclays is hiring a climate communications director and RBC is hiring a head of climate transition.

Climate groups have called out the banks over greenwashing.

Richard Brooks Climate Finance Director at Stand.Earth said

“Major banks hiring senior staff as spin doctors to green their bad images on climate issues rather than actually tackling their fossil fuel financing is utterly sickening, given the deaths in Hawaii, fires in Canada’s Arctic and extreme heat all over North America. This is tone deaf desperation by Citi, RBC and Barclays. This is part of a trend whereby major banks that fund the oil, gas and coal industries are doubling down on delay and deception, attempting to squash demands of shareholders, customers, and the public alike. Our pressure is only going to escalate, so we would urge them to take real action immediately.”

Joanna Warrington at Fossil Free London said

“In recent years we’ve seen campaigning pressure expand beyond the oil giants like Shell and Equinor, onto banks and the massive funding they provide to companies building new oil and gas projects that would be impossible without it. Barclays is clearly scared. This new PR role is just another way for it to armour itself up. But underneath, the bank is still filled to the brim with oil. The only meaningful climate action Barclays should take is to stop funding fossil fuel expansion, like leaders in Europe, and fund green energy now. No more spin doctors.”

All three banks have battled the public fallout recently over their roles in fuelling the climate crisis.

  • Citi is the second biggest fossil fuel funder in the world since 2016, pumping over $332 billion into the sector. Just two weeks ago Citi was named in a UN human rights complaint over its funding of the world’s biggest oil producer Saudi Aramco. Citi has faced years of backlash by investors over its Indigenous rights record and climate protests. The vice president role Citi is hiring for will be “related to sustainability issues, with a focus on human rights” and will “monitor Citi’s reputation”.
  • In 2022, RBC was the biggest global bank funder of fossil fuels and continues in 2023, to take a greater proportion of the global financing of fossil fuels by banks.. RBC’s new senior position will produce “lasting responses to Climate Activism” and follows pressure at this year’s annual general meeting over its fossil fuel funding. 
  • Barclays, the biggest fossil fuel funder in Europe, has faced pressure over its Wimbledon sponsorship, its connections to the UK’s National Trust and was even forced to deal with the fallout when a British pensioner refused to pay their council tax because of a link to the bank.

Information about each bank’s fossil fuel funding and the league table on banks funding of oil, gas and coal can be found in the Banking on Climate Chaos report.

Press Contact:Judith Crosbie, [email protected], +1 929 584 3344