‘Misleading’ HSBC Climate Change Ads Banned by UK Watchdog

Alexander Zhang
By Alexander Zhang
October 22, 2022Businessshare
‘Misleading’ HSBC Climate Change Ads Banned by UK Watchdog
People commute on a tram past the HSBC bank headquarters in Hong Kong on Oct. 25, 2021. (Isaac Lawrence/AFP via Getty Images)

The UK’s advertising watchdog has banned two HSBC adverts for giving “misleading” information about the bank’s green credentials.

The banned posters were seen at bus stops in London and Bristol last October, in the run-up to the United Nations COP26 climate change summit.

The first poster featured an aerial image of waves crashing on a shore with text that stated “Climate change doesn’t do borders. Neither do rising sea levels. That’s why HSBC is aiming to provide up to $1 trillion in financing and investment globally to help our clients transition to net zero.”

The second poster featured an image of tree growth rings with text that stated “Climate change doesn’t do borders. So in the UK, we’re helping to plant 2 million trees which will lock in 1.25 million tonnes of carbon over their lifetime.”

The adverts attracted 45 complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), including that they were misleading because they omitted significant information about HSBC’s contribution to carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions.

Campaign group Adfree Cities, which led the complaint, accused the bank of “greenwashing” its image.

‘Unqualified Claims’
In its ruling, published on Oct. 19, the ASA said the basis of environmental claims must be clear and that “unqualified claims could mislead if they omitted significant information.”

It noted that the bank’s 2021 annual report indicated that it intended to invest between $750 billion and $1 trillion in helping its clients transition to “net zero.”

But ASA found that “despite the initiatives highlighted in the ads, HSBC was continuing to significantly finance investments in businesses and industries that emitted notable levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses.”

It added, “We did not consider consumers would know that was the case and we therefore considered it was material information that was likely to affect consumers’ understanding of the ads’ overall message, and so should have been made clear in the ads.”

The watchdog concluded that “the ads omitted material information and were therefore misleading.”

ASA ruled that the ads must not appear again, adding: “We told HSBC UK to ensure that future marketing communications featuring environmental claims were adequately qualified and did not omit material information about its contribution to carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions.”

An HSBC UK spokeswoman said, “The financial sector has a responsibility to communicate its role in the low carbon transition to raise public awareness and engage its customers, so we will consider how best to do this as we deliver our ambitious net zero commitments.”

PA Media contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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