29 January 2021
As climate change continues apace with 2020 one of the hottest years on record, a survey of consumers who bank with Barclays and HSBC shows that these banks risk losing up to three million customers due to financing fossil fuels.
The online survey, carried out by ICM Unlimited on behalf of Market Forces, an organisation campaigning to stop banks from financing environmental damage, shows that Barclays and HSBC benefit from a low level of awareness of their climate impacts, with four fifths (80%) of customers unaware that their bank is investing in fossil fuels.
When faced with the facts, however, the survey reveals that over one in ten (12.5%) customers say they would be very likely to consider switching banks. This would be the equivalent of 3 million customers leaving HSBC and Barclays for more ethical alternatives.
Barclays and HSBC have collectively invested over £149 billion in coal, gas, oil, tar sands and fracking since the Paris Climate Agreement was signed in 2015, making them the seventh and twelfth worst banks in the world respectively, and the two worst in Europe, for financing climate change.
The polling results come as both banks have come under pressure to rapidly phase out investment in fossil fuels from their portfolios, with many shareholders and activists pointing out the bank’s funding of fossil fuels is inconsistent with their support for the Paris climate agreement and their recent ‘net zero by 2050’ pledges.
Adam McGibbon, UK Campaigner at Market Forces said: “Funding fossil fuels has been Barclays and HSBC’s dirty little secret. Strip away the slick marketing and they are two of the world’s biggest funders of the climate crisis. They have been pulling the wool over their customers’ eyes for years. If you’re upset about this, you’re one of the millions of customers ready to move their money elsewhere. Customers have huge power this year because of the UN climate conference in Glasgow. Banks that continue funding fossil fuels are going to face an exodus.”
Bank On Our Future, a network of organisations including Market Forces campaigning for more sustainable practices in the finance industry, is laying down the gauntlet to environmentally conscious consumers who bank with HSBC and Barclays to switch to a more ethical bank today, which they have dubbed the Big Bank Detox Day. For those taking the challenge, Bank On Our Future is also calling on customers to inform their bank of the reason for their switch. Brits collectively have over £16 billion saved in ISAs.
Stats from the survey listed below:
- Four fifths (80%) of HSBC and Barclays customers are unaware that their bank is investing in fossil fuels.
- “Barclays is Europe’s biggest bank financier to fossil fuels, a key driver of climate change. Since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015, the bank has financed around £88.5 billion in fossil fuels. HSBC is Europe’s second-biggest bank financier to fossil fuels, a key driver of climate change. Since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015, the bank has financed £65 billion in fossil fuels according to the Banking on Climate Change report (2020).”
- When presented with the above information, 11% of Barclays customers and 14% of HSBC customers state that they would be very likely to consider changing banks.
Research was conducted by ICM Unlimited on behalf of Market Forces. ICM conducted online interviews with a representative sample of 1,002 HSBC customers and 1,000 Barclays customers aged 18+ in the UK. All figures have been weighted to the age and gender profile of Barclays and HSBC customers. Fieldwork took place between 7th and 15th December 2020. Full data tables are available here.