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Shaping the future of finance

Customer and employee activism will change banking even if the banks don’t want to change

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I know a few of you have spotted that I have a regular theme these days about sustainable finance, purpose-driven banking, the climate emergency and more. It’s a reflection of the world at large and how people like Greta Thunberg and Sir David Attenborough are making our views of the world change.

This is showing itself strongly today with climate activism rising higher and higher up the agenda of all businesses. For example, it was noteworthy that the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, gave $10 billion to fund scientific solutions to climate issues in February. Although The Financial Times notes:

“The Amazon chief’s generosity is also related to the power of employee pressure. More than 8,700 Amazon staff last April signed an open letter to the founder demanding the company cut its carbon emissions, end its use of fossil fuels, and stop providing “custom solutions” using its technology to help with oil and gas extraction and exploration. Mr Bezos responded with a range of efforts to cut Amazon’s carbon footprint — a day before thousands of employees staged a walkout to highlight their criticism of its climate practices. As popular anger builds, company bosses will find out that enacting eco-friendly policies is a business necessity rather than a branding exercise.”

It is not to say that Mr. Bezos’s gesture is irrelevant, but it does reflect growing employee activism to get business to be sustainable.

It reminded me of the BlackRock CEO Larry Fink’s shareholder letter this year:

“Our investment conviction is that sustainability- and climate-integrated portfolios can provide better risk-adjusted returns to investors. And with the impact of sustainability on investment returns increasing, we believe that sustainable investing is the strongest foundation for client portfolios going forward.”

I called this BS and more evidence of investment markets talking the talk of climate emergency but, when it comes to walking the walk, they do not. Most of BlackRock’s investment are in non-sustainable markets and companies. Their sustainability record is pretty disgusting to be honest, and Larry’s talk is just that. Talk.

But, again, this is changing because of climate activism. At BlackRock’s annual investors meeting in Paris this year, activists sprayed their offices with graffiti accusing the firm of climate abuse: “BlackRock — murderer.” “Greenwashing kills.” “Our planet. Your crime.”

In a similar way climate activists have targeted many of the largest banks in the world from JPMorgan Chase to Barclays to Westpac. Here’s an example of what they’re doing.

If you click on the video you will hear Jane Fonda saying:

“This video is not for you. It’s for someone else. That person is Jamie Dimon, CEO of Chase. Right now, the oil, gas and coal companies are laying waste to our planet. But they need money from banks to look for more coal, oil and gas. And the big banks have been eager to comply. Chase is the worst. Since the Paris climate agreement, Chase has poured $196 billion into digging up more fossil fuels. That makes Chase just as responsible for the destruction of our planet as Exxon, Chevron, BP and all the rest. So, here’s the message for Jamie Dimon. Jamie: move Chase’s money out of coal, oil and gas now. If you don’t, we’ll leave your bank. We’ll cut up our Chase cards and find a better bank.”

Hmmmm … and this is the bank whose economists are screaming we are living in a climate emergency?

Jamie. Change the bank.


Chris Skinner Author Avatar

Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog,, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...

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