UK Watchdog Bans HSBC's Climate Change Adverts
HSBC Holdings plc
The UK's advertising watchdog banned two HSBC ads because they "misled" people about what the bank was doing to fight climate change.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) told the bank that it couldn't run the ads that promoted its plans to cut harmful emissions.
The watchdog said that the posters about HSBC's activities "left out important information." It is the first time the ASA has gone after a bank for "greenwashing."
The ads were seen at bus stops in London and Bristol last October, before the much-anticipated COP26 climate change summit of the United Nations.
The posters explained what HSBC was doing to plant trees and help its customers reach "net zero" emissions. Net zero means that you don't add to the amount of greenhouse gases already in the air by cutting emissions and trying to make them equal.
The ASA said that the ads "left out important information about HSBC's role in releasing carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases."
"Customers would not expect that HSBC, which makes unqualified claims about how good its work is for the environment, would also be involved in financing businesses that put out a lot of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases," the regulator said.
In the past few months, HSBC's efforts to deal with climate change have been closely looked at.
In February, activists said that big banks like HSBC were pumping billions of dollars into new oil and gas production even though they were part of a green banking group.
ShareAction, which is based in London, asked banks to make fossil fuel companies come up with green plans before giving them money.
ShareAction said that since 24 big banks joined the Net Zero Banking Alliance last year, they have given $33 billion (£29.1 billion) to new oil and gas projects.
At the time, an HSBC spokesman said that the bank was "committed to working with our customers to make the transition to a thriving low-carbon economy."
In May, a top executive at HSBC caused a stir when he said that central bankers and other government officials were exaggerating the dangers of climate change.
Stuart Kirk, who was the global head of responsible investing at the bank's asset management division, said: "There's always some nut job telling me about the end of the world."
His job was based in London, and he had to think about how investments affected the environment, society, and government. In July, Mr Kirk resigned from the bank and said that his comments had made his position "unsustainable".