Why are environmentalists pursuing Canada’s largest bank for laundering the environment?

Kukpi7 (Chief) Jodi Wilson stands in the rain in downtown Montreal, raising her fist in defiance outside a branch of the Royal Bank of Canada. Wilson’s gesture goes largely unnoticed by shoppers rushing past, but her efforts to hold banks accountable for fossil fuel financing have certainly caught the attention of Canadian regulators.

Wilson, based in south-central British Columbia, is the head of the Skat’sin te Secwepemc-Neskonlith Indian Band and Treasurer of the Union of Indian Chiefs in British Columbia (UBCIC).

It is also one of six applicants to file a complaint with Canada’s Competition Bureau, accusing RBC of greenwashing – which has prompted the regulator to open an investigation into whether Canada’s largest bank misled customers about its climate measures.

“It’s time to be honest,” said Wilson, who spoke to CBC News while in Montreal for a meeting.

“[Climate change] Real, he’s here and we have to deal with him.”

Commander Jodi Wilson stands in the rain outside in downtown Montreal, raising her fist in front of the RBC branch.
Wilson says there is no time to lose in cutting emissions because indigenous people are disproportionately affected by climate change. (Gila Bernstein/CBC)

The allegations, made with the help of environmental law non-profit Ecojustice, indicate that the bank was marketing himself As being in line with the climate goals of the Paris Agreement, while continuing to fund the fossil fuel industry.

This is not the first time that RBC has been called up because of its support for the oil and gas sector.

separate report Published this year by a group of environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club and the Indigenous Environmental Network, RBC ranked 5th globally among the major banks that fund the fossil fuel industry.

But in Marketing materialsRBC said it was “fully committed” to supporting a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

“The claims and actual action for RBC do not stack,” said Matt Hulse, an Ecojustice attorney who helped draft the complaint and file it with the competition office.

Watch | RBC Climate Chart Announcement:

RBC says the complaint is unfounded

In response to the competition bureau’s investigation, the bank denied that it was misleading customers.

“RBC strongly disagrees with the allegations in the complaint, and believes the complaint is unfounded and inconsistent with Climate Canada,” RBC spokesman Andrew Block said in an email.

“It is critical that we go right to net zero in order to tackle climate change and we have taken a thoughtful, thoughtful and thoughtful approach to our climate strategy.”

In the past, RBC has said that its transition to net zero would have to be gradual for it to be successful.

The Royal Bank of Canada logo appears on Bay Street in the heart of Toronto’s financial district on January 22, 2015. The bank has been accused of misrepresenting its climate measures. (Mark Blench/Reuters)

Time is a luxury Wilson does not have, as her community is already suffering from the effects of climate change.

“Many of our people still fish and fish and harvest the land…so they can see up close what climate change is doing. The rivers are lower and warmer. And the forests are too dry,” she said.

“With climate-destroying fossil fuels and climate change disproportionately affecting indigenous peoples around the world, as well as in Canada, we have to make the right decision.”

Send a message to the industry

Responsible holding companies have worked through the competition bureau in the past. earlier this year, Keurig Canada ordered to pay $3 million in fine Single-use K-Cup capsules can be recycled.

The investigation could take more than a year, but environmentalists hope that if successful, other banks will take notice.

“RBC is a market leader. And what they’re doing, other banks are following – especially in Canada,” Huls said. “We thought going after Elder, if our complaint was upheld, would send a message across the industry.”

It has become common for banks to project an image of sustainable finance, said Dror Etzion, a professor who specializes in sustainability at McGill University’s Desautels School of Management.

“The key really is, how serious are, how honest are the self-reports on these topics?” Etzion said.

Dror Etzion, a professor in the Desautels School of Management at McGill University, said the result of the RBC investigation may be that banks are more careful with its wording. (Presented by Dor Etzion)

He said regulators could play an important role in holding companies accountable for climate promises, rather than leaving them to individuals.

“It’s very hard for consumers to take responsibility, and it’s also a guilt that we as individuals are trying to force companies to change their behaviour.”

While the bureau’s findings could create ripple effects within the financial industry in general, Etzion said it may not lead to the kind of outcome environmentalists hope for.

“It wouldn’t be good if the result was for the legal teams and these banks to become more careful in how they express themselves,” Etzion said.

“What would be very good is that the policies and strategies that underpin the activities of these banks are changing in a meaningful way.”

Wilson, left, hugs her grandson Quinn in the Okanagan after a purge party. Wilson said her children and grandchildren are the reason she pushed for climate action. (Provided by Jodi Wilson)

Wilson hopes it will be the latter, but regardless of the outcome she has said she will continue to push for climate action.

“There will be constant pressure like this, people just won’t give up,” she said.

The struggle for the next generation

Wilson, who will attend the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Egypt next month, said she has learned that issues must be addressed comprehensively.

Politically, legally and technically – it was the three-pronged approach that she learned from her late uncle Jorge Manuel, an internationally known local activist and founder of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples.

Wilson said she’s now adding spiritual and worldly elements as important ingredients to that formula.

“What we do is important not only to the planetary crisis, but to the well-being of our children and grandchildren,” she said.

“I will do everything in my power to keep my children and grandson well, so that they can survive. Our ancestors did it for us, otherwise we wouldn’t be here.”

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