Bank hiring prompts greenwash alert

Following Christian Aid’s decision to abandon Barclays, continued pressure on the National Trust and others to do the same, high-profile condemnation of Wimbledon’s links to it, an AGM dominated by environmental criticism, and other protests too numerous to mention,the bank could be forgiven for worrying about its reputation. But a decision to appoint a ‘climate communications director’ has left some wondering whether the response is more spin than substance. Condemnation of Barclays environmental policies is largely driven by facts, rather than a failure to put them across. The move follows Royal Bank of Canada - slammed for its fossil fuel financing - seeking a Head of Climate Transition whose responsibilities include “Develop and implement effective and lasting responses to Climate Activism”, and a similar move by Citigroup. 

Scepticism around these appointments is not hard to find. As Gill Browne of Propellor Group noted, “By making meaningful progress on the journey to Net Zero, far before they consider comms around their ‘green initiatives’, Barclays might stand a chance of being anything but yet another hated brand in ten or so years when consumers realise at scale just how bad things really are, and which businesses are responsible,” while climate finance directory at stand.earth Richard Brooks commented, “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.” Nevertheless, the appointments show that these banks are feeling the pressure caused by campaigners, who may therefore be encouraged to continue. With or without spin, Barclays' reputational problems may get worse before they get better.

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