There are dogs and kittens, sunrises and swirling autumnal leaves, and a warm-voiced narrator reassures you he will invest your money… in dirty fossil fuels.
Unlike standard banking ads, which dish out heartwarming promises to stay “by your side” and help you achieve your goals, this spoof advert from anti-poverty NGO Christian Aid speaks to an uncomfortable truth the banking industry would no doubt rather we forgot: banks funnel our money into coal, oil and gas projects that contribute to climate change.
“Since the global financial crisis, every bank in the world wants to convince us that it’s our light-hearted, non-threatening friend. But friends don’t destroy the environment,” says Hannah Henderson from Christian Aid, who was involved in the production of the spoof video.
The ad was created to tie in with a new Christian Aid report, published on Thursday, which calculates that the world invests £3.24 in fossil fuels for every £1 in renewable energy.
“These investment patterns are not good enough, and will not enable us to achieve global climate ambitions,” says the report.
High street banks have a role in this. In the UK, HSBC, Barclays, RBS, Lloyds and Santander were calculated to have more than £66bn invested in coal, oil and gas extraction in 2012, according to grassroots organisation Move Your Money.
Banks have a vital role to play in meeting the Paris climate goals of keeping global temperature increases below two degrees by investing in renewable energy instead, the Christian Aid report says.
High street banks may be motivated to change knowing that most people in the UK are against investment in fossil fuels, according to a ComRes poll commissioned by Christian Aid, also published on Thursday. It found 80% do not want banks to invest their savings in projects that damage the environment and 77% agree banks should be stopped from doing so.
In response to the ComRes findings, Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury and chair of Christian Aid, has questioned the morality of British banks profiting from projects which cause “climate chaos”.
“Our call today is for the chief executives of our major banks to make clear and time-specific commitments to reducing and ultimately replacing fossil fuel investment, and to shift towards climate solutions,” he said.
Williams’ comments echo those from the growing fossil fuel divestment movement that has spread from university campuses into the financial mainstream.
In response to the claim that high street banks are contributing to climate change and the call for banks to redirect their investment, an RBS spokesperson said: “In recent years we have substantially reduced our lending to fossil fuel industries […] and expanded our lending to sustainable forms of energy in the UK.”
HSBC, Santander and Lloyds did not provide comment, and Barclays referred us to its lending policy.