A billboard for Lloyds bank.

Lloyds Bank isn’t a climate leader, despite its seaweed ads

After a series of sustainability-themed ads for HSBC were banned for greenwashing, banks have taken a cautious approach to the green claims in their public-facing advertising.

But is greenwash creeping back? This month saw ads for Lloyds Bank loudly proclaiming its green and socially responsible credentials. Bright green billboards in Bristol show strings of seaweed, advertising Lloyds’ financing to an alternative packaging company. A series of LinkedIn ads show a video of electricity powering houses, cars and farm buildings, with others signposting a partnership with a nature project, alongside Lloyds’ familiar logo.

Lloyds’ billboard ads are in major UK cities as the bank’s 2024 AGM was disrupted by climate and pro-Palestine activists protesting the bank’s financing of fossil fuel companies and arms companies including BAE systems.

Isn’t Lloyds a “climate leader” among high-street banks?

Lloyds Bank’s climate policies place it ahead of the pack among the UK’s big six banks. It does not fund as much fossil fuels as Barclays and HSBC, and in 2023 it was the first UK bank to make a commitment not to provide direct finance to new oil and gas projects (“project” or “asset-level” financing).

However, Lloyds has been given a “red” warning over its climate policies by consumer organisation Which?, and campaigners say the bank still has a way to go to exclude fossil fuels, and other polluting industries such as deforestation-linked industrial livestock farming, from its portfolio. Despite making climate announcements, Lloyds increased its fossil fuel financing by $500 million in 2023 compared to the previous year.

Jeanne Martin, Head of Banking Programme at ShareAction, said that Lloyds’ action so far does not yet make it a climate leader, given that the bank still finances fossil fuel companies: “…asset-level financing is only a fraction of the financing provided by banks to new oil and gas. Lloyds Banking Group should not rest on its laurels just yet, but instead urgently turn its focus to the companies behind these new oil and gas fields.

Why are these ads greenwash?

UK advertising Codes require ads not to mislead, for example by omitting “material information” – detail that could impact the choices made by customers, as well as others with interests in a company or product, such as investors or business partners. Climate is an important topic for UK citizens, with 77% thinking climate change is a serious global threat. A poll in 2022 found that over two thirds (67%) of consumers want their bank to become more sustainable.

While the ads talk up Lloyds Bank’s green financing and its drive to reduce its operational emissions, such as from the power supply to its buildings, there is no mention of the degree to which the bank continues to finance polluting industries. Some key information missing from Lloyds’ ads includes:

  • In 2022, after the bank committed to end direct financing to new oil fields, it increased fossil fuel financing by $500 million compared to the previous year.
  • Despite being a member of the Net Zero Banking Alliance, Lloyds Bank provided $1.9 billion in finance to fossil fuels in 2023, and more than $17 billion between 2016-2023.
  • Lloyds Bank provided $5,918 million to the world’s largest oil and gas expanders between 2016-2021. As yet it has no policies in place to prevent financing companies expanding oil and gas production, including BP and Shell.

What next?

We’ve reported Lloyds’ adverts to the Advertising Standards Authority. The regulator has said that it is cracking down on greenwashing and have a new AI tool for this purpose – but it seems like plenty of ads are slipping through their net.

In the next months, the ASA will make a judgement on whether or not to investigate the ads. If the ads are investigated, a ruling could take up to a year. We’ve previously raised concerns that the regulator is neither timely nor effective, and despite its best efforts it simply isn’t able to prevent the volume of greenwash advertising that’s reaching us.

We’re calling for a ban on advertising for fossil fuel companies and their financiers, as well as other high-carbon industries including aviation. We no longer see ads that promote smoking. Together we can act on ads that are driving global heating.

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