Toronto – Canadian banks may increase the risk of facing legal action because their weak climate action contradicts their vocal climate claims, a new report from Greenpeace Canada finds. The report, So Sue Me, outlines how the failures of banks globally to meet their promises is spurring litigation from governments and civil society, and finds Canadian banks likely to encounter the same repercussions as they continue lauding their climate goals while financing the fossil fuel industry. 

“Banks around the world are being taken to task legally for failing to honour their promises towards tackling the climate crisis,” said Priyanka Vittal, legal counsel for Greenpeace Canada’s new investigation team. “Canada’s Big Banks should take heed if they continue down their road of climate hypocrisy.”

The report spotlights the discrepancy between the climate pledges and policies of two major Canadian banks – RBC and Scotiabank – over the past six years as a symptom of a broader trend in the financial sector. Canada’s Big Five Banks (RBC, Scotiabank, TD, BMO, and CIBC) provided more than $100 billion USD towards the fossil fuel industry in 2016 and more than $130 billion USD in 2021.

Juxtaposed against numerous public statements and commitments towards combating climate change, this financing raises the question of greenwashing, Greenpeace Canada’s report finds. 

Abroad, the numerous examples coming from the US, EU and UK show regulatory bodies are updating and enforcing consumer protection laws and advertising standards in response to industries engaging in false or misleading advertising – in this case regarding the climate. 

In Canada, the Competition Bureau provides avenues to legally challenge greenwashing practices. 

“Corporations like Volkswagen/Audi and Keurig have been held accountable under competition law for greenwashing, but this process can take years while the damage has already been done,” Vittal said. “Instead of risking being the next defendant in a greenwashing complaint, Canada’s banks should be the biggest players in our transition off of fossil fuels and our fight against climate change. They certainly have the ability.”


Notes to media

[1] The media backgrounder is available here

[2] The full report is available here.

For more information, please contact:

Adeoluwa Atayero, Communications officer, Greenpeace Canada

[email protected]; +1 (306) 501-1314