Banks risk losing millions of customers due to fossil fuel investments

1st February 2021

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One in 10 customers would consider leaving their bank if they knew the extent of their investments in fossil fuels, new research suggests.

After polling over 2,000 HSBC and Barclays customers in the UK, researchers at ICM Unlimited found that 80% were unaware that their bank invests in fossil fuels.

However, when faced with the facts, 12.5% of respondents said that they would be “very likely” to consider switching banks, which is equivalent to three million customers.

The findings come as both banks come under increased pressure to divest from fossil fuels, with shareholders arguing that their investments are inconsistent with the Paris Agreement and net-zero targets.

“Funding fossil fuels has been Barclays and HSBC's dirty little secret,” said Adam McGibbon, UK campaigner at Market Forces, which commissioned the survey. “Strip away the slick marketing and they are two of the world's biggest funders of the climate crisis.

“They have been pulling the wool over their customers’ eyes for years. If you're upset about this, you're one of the millions of customers ready to move their money elsewhere.

“Customers have huge power this year because of the UN climate conference in Glasgow. Banks that continue funding fossil fuels are going to face an exodus.”

Barclays and HSBC have collectively invested over £149bn in coal, gas, oil, tar sands and fracking since 2015, according to the Rainforest Action Network, making them the seventh and twelfth worst banks in the world respectively, and the two worst in Europe, for financing climate change.

At the same time, UK savers have around £16bn held in Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs). If this were directed away from fossil fuels, the researchers said it would be equivalent to reducing carbon emissions by 3.65 million metric tonnes, or closing down a coal power plant for a year.

Bank On Our Future, a network of organisations, including Market Forces, is now campaigning for more sustainable practices in the finance industry, and calling on savers to switch to banks that are not financing climate change.

Personal finance expert and founder of the Young Money Blog, Iona Bain, said: “One of the most effective things we can do as consumers to fight climate change is to demand that our money is invested sustainably, even more than going vegan, taking fewer flights or using less plastic.”

Image credit: iStock


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