HSBC adverts banned for "greenwashing"

Climate change has been at the forefront of news not just in the UK, but globally in recent years. As brands and consumers aim to be more sustainable by launching various campaigns, not all major names in the UK appear to be spreading the message out in the right way; according to the Advertising Standards Authority. 

They have banned two of HSBC’s latest advertisements for being misleading about their work to reduce harmful emissions. The advertisements in question are posters which were visible at bus stops in London and Bristol in October 2021. The posters outlined HSBC's efforts to plant trees and help its customers achieve "net zero" emissions. 

One of the posters displayed an image of waves crashing on a shore with text that said "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 Advertising Standards Authority received 45 complaints challenging that the ads were misleading because they failed to include significant information about HSBC’s contribution to carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions.

In response to complaints, HSBC said it had been making the claim in one ad since 2020 and aimed to meet the ambition to provide financing and investment globally to help some of its clients transition to net zero by 2030.

In taking actions against HSBC, the ASA say that both advertisements in question “must not appear again in the form complained of”. They also told HSBC to ensure that future marketing campaigns in relation to environmental claims were “adequately qualified and did not omit material information about its contribution to carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions”. 

The ASA’s full statement can be found here