(Toronto) – Canadian banks’ continued funding of fossil fuels undercuts their attempts to attract youth as customers through sponsorships and charitable giving, according to a new report from Greenpeace Canada and the youth-led organization Banking on a Better Future. Reputational risk is greatest amongst youth, a key demographic targeted by banks’ investments in charities and sponsorships but who are also the most concerned about climate change.
“You cannot buy our silence,” said Aliya Hirji, Banking on a Better Future organizer. “Young people will continue to demand divestment and fight for the world we deserve. Throwing us crumbs of the profit you accumulated by destroying our future is not philanthropy, it is hypocrisy.”
The report Money can’t buy our love: Fossil Fuels, Climate-concerned Youth and Reputational Risk in Canadian Banking details how Canadian banks target youth through their corporate sponsorship and charitable programs, such as RBC’s $500M Future Launch program.
Polling undertaken for the report found that young people are the most concerned about banks’ contribution to climate change and the obligation to respect Indigenous rights. They also have the least faith in banks to do the right thing . According to a 2018 study, Canadians under 40 are also more likely to take their business elsewhere, such as to a credit union. At the same time, Canadians tend to choose a bank when they are young and stick with it for the rest of their lives, so attracting and retaining youth is key to customer recruitment for banks.
Over the past year, youth climate activists held protests to disrupt banks’ business-as-usual. To coincide with the report’s release, Greenpeace and youth volunteers postered downtown Toronto to raise awareness of the role of banks in funding fossil fuels .
“In an era of growing alarm over climate change, Canadian banks’ support for fossil fuels poses the same reputational risks that tobacco did a generation ago,” said Tara Seucharan, who joined Greenpeace volunteers in postering downtown Toronto. “If banks want to avoid becoming the new tobacco, they need to drop the greenwash and take real action on climate change and Indigenous rights.”
Canadian banks will soon be announcing new 2030 climate targets. They have nevertheless provided over $800 billion to fossil fuel companies since the 2016 Paris climate agreement, and all of Canada’s Big 5 are within the top 25 of global funders of fossil fuels . To have credibility as climate leaders, Greenpeace and Banking on a Better Future say the banks must commit to targets and measures that achieve science-based, absolute reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from projects and companies that they finance. Respecting the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous peoples must be a core element of these plans.
Note to editors:
 Banks and climate change, polling
 More about the postering activity, blog
For more information, please contact:
Laura Bergamo, Communications officer, Greenpeace Canada
[email protected]; +1 (438) 928-5237
Evelyn Austin, Banking on a Better Future
[email protected]; +1 (519) 649-6381