What can you do?

When a huge financial institution like Barclays is pouring money into fossil fuels, it's easy to feel powerless. Can individuals help change anything?

Yes. Barclays has a long and somewhat questionable history, including substantial connections with South Africa's apartheid regime such as purchase of defence bonds and a Barclays director on the government-appointed defence advisory board . But anti-apartheid campaigning to turn Barclays into a pariah, including encouraging account closures, led to a huge drop in the number of student accounts (a key barometer of future income), as well as other account closures including 15 local government authorities. Barclays withdrew from South Africa in 1986, professedly for commercial reasons, but citing the growing pressure to do so.

You can be part of putting pressure on Barclays today to stop financing climate devasation, even if you don't have any Barclays accounts or investments - whether by simply writing a review, joining some of Extinction Rebellion's online actions, or anything in the sections below.

The more people that realise Barclays are bankrolling environmental disaster, the more damage to the bank's reputation, and the more pressure mounts for them to change. Here are things you can to do help expose them:

  • Tell friends and colleagues about the Sharklays campaign and this website
  • Like and share Sharklays YouTube videos like this one
  • If you use Twitter, follow @sharklays and retweet
  • Start referring to Barclays as Sharklays, then explain why
  • Subscribe to hear about other Sharklays news you can share

Banks take reputational damage very seriously - but don't take our word for that; here's what Barclays themselves have to say about it:

Customer or community perception of an organisation’s role and contribution to climate change creates a reputational risk for many sectors. Reputational damage can affect a company’s license to operate, ability to attract talent, or, most directly, revenues as consumers switch to alternatives.

Switch your current account

If you have a current account with Barclays, visit MotherTree to find a bank that cares more about preventing climate catastrophe. Switching current accounts is generally easy and comes with guarantees - you can find more information about that from the Current Account Switch Service. Barclays have already lost a lot of current accounts through customers switching to other banks - the Current Account Switch Service shows 4- or 5-figure net losses for Barclays in every quarter since 2017 for which data is available.

Barclays net current account quarterly change reported by CASS
2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2
-16,056 -10,164 -15,252 -15,871 -17,628 -4,420 -5,471 (no data) -6,398 -12,655 -10,988 -1,104 -3,547 -11,318 -3,325 -3,495 -6,398 -3,533 -3,596 -4,722 -11,669 -12,851

More customers switching puts more pressure on Barclays, especially if you make a complaint just before closing your account, telling them why you're closing it. Note: you may hear reassuring-but-meaningless spin about Barclays' "commitment to net zero". Don't be taken in:

Rather than backing a resolution that set out a clear pathway for Barclays to finally end its vast contribution to the climate emergency, the bank chose to hoodwink both shareholders and the public with an alternative option – one with distant targets and no substance.

Rosie Rogers, Greenpeace UK's head of climate finance, on Barclays 2020 AGM voting

Move your investments

If you have any other kind of account, pension or investment with Barclays, and you want to signal to Barclays that financing climate devastation is unacceptable, moving that money elsewhere sends an important message. Finding genuinely-green alternatives can be challenging, since there are (for instance) numerous supposedly-environmental funds that in fact finance dubious activity, not to mention funds that are more scrupulous but that are managed by companies that are very much part of the problem, such as BlackRock. As a starting point, visit Make My Money Matter and MotherTree for pensions and savings information, or look at the savings, investments and ISAs provided by Triodos.

Most Barclays staff probably have little idea of how destructive some of its investments are. Some, who are closer to those decisions, may be concerned about what they see or hear. If this includes you, and you think it would be in the public interest to bring something to light (and few things are more so than companies quietly driving the current headlong rush towards catastrophic climate change), you may wish to do so via truthteller.life. Whistleblowers have not always enjoyed the best treatment at Barclays, but the $15m fine from a US regulator and the £1.1m forfeited by CEO Jes Staley may have led Barclays to treat them better. Whatever the case, you are protected by law when whisteblowing, including specifically for matters relating to "risk or actual damage to the environment".

Tell Barclays you won't be their customer

As well as losing existing business when customers switch to another bank, losing new business puts more pressure on Barclays to change. The objective for anti-apartheid campaigners of giving Barclays pariah status helped keep individuals and companies away, to ensure there was "no reputational damage to their organisations" .

You can make it clear to Barclays that their actions are losing them business by writing to the manager of your local branch, or lodging a non-customer complaint. You can use details like those in this article and even point them towards this video. This also helps create discussions amongst Barclays staff, questioning their policies from within.

Stay in touch

The Sharklays team help co-ordinate activities that put pressure on Barclays to change their ways and stop financing climate devastation. Some of those activities can be undertaken from an armchair; others can involve a quiet or less-quiet intervention at a Barclays branch. If you think you might like to participate in any of these, please subscribe to hear about upcoming plans and other Sharklays news, and contact us if you'd like resources or help for an action you're planning.