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  • Writer's pictureLivia Firth

Make my greenwashing matter?

Updated: Dec 2, 2023

Every month one of our authors brings you a viewpoint on fashion and the climate and nature crisis from their perspective.

Written by Livia Firth

Today’s COP28 event in Dubai at Goals House, hosted by HSBC with the Apparel Impact Institute on “scaling carbon solutions in the apparel industry” raises several questions about integrity during an already heavily greenwashed climate conference.

HSBC, one of the UK’s largest investors in fossil fuels (over £144 billion pounds in the 6 years between 2016-2022 since the Paris Climate Agreement was signed) hosting an event with an Institute whose funders and program partners include some of the biggest users of fossil fuel fibres in the world like, H&M and Target, would be enough alone to ring alarm bells. But there’s more.

First a recap and some important context The fashion industry is estimated to be responsible for up to 8% of global emissions — that’s more than shipping and aviation combined — and its emissions are projected to grow exponentially if action is not taken.

The COP28 President Sultan Al Jab recently seemed to acknowledge that fibres and other plastics are emerging as the fossil fuel industry’s cash-cow, and analysis from the industry itself suggests petrochemical products like plastics and synthetics could account for up to 95% of future growth in demand for oil. This is hardly surprising when fast fashion — fuelled by cheap, fossil fuel based fibres, cheap labour, and dirty energy — is growing aggressively.

The fashion industry is not just going in the wrong direction on climate change. It is sprinting along the catwalk away from the Paris Agreement. This is obviously what concerns me and the True Cost Alliance.


In addition we need to understand how fossil fuels are emboldened by and embedded in fashion culture and the fashion-climate regime. We need to examine this carefully in order to understand whether we really are making meaningful progress to decarbonisation and the many other barriers to just transition in an industry that often serves huge transnational corporations and money markets while externalising environmental impact.

It was this need that led me to look more closely at events staged in Dubai by Goals House. Goals House is the place to be seen at many of the big climate and sustainability summits these days and is described online as creating ‘a community of business and political leaders, activists, NGOs, and entrepreneurs that come together at significant global moments throughout the year, united in the shared mission of driving progress to achieve the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030’. Partners include Project Everyone (co-founded by Richard Curtis) and board members include Richard Curtis himself.

I have been following The Make My Money Matter campaign, co-founded by Richard Curtis, with great interest for many years. The campaign has pioneered the calling out of financial entities that are using our investments to bankroll oil and gas and therefore super charging climate change. Their public work has been persistent, dogmatic and may I say a source of inspiration for those of us who want this socialised so that we can urgently cut funding and subsidies for climate destruction.

In a press release October 2022 the campaign identified HSBC as one of the UK's worst financers of fossil fuels.

“While HSBC continues to position itself at the forefront of the fight against climate change, in reality, it's the UK's worst financier of fossil fuel expansion - activity that is unpopular with the public, bad for the planet, and directly contradicts the International Energy Agency’s guidance on how we limit global warming to less than 1.5 degrees.
Make My Money Matter supports the decision of the Advertising Standards Authority, and hopes today’s ruling begins to turn the tide against banks like HSBC - and other leading UK banks - who may hide their dangerous relationship with the fossil fuel industry through a campaign of misleading and contradictory corporate advertising."

But despite these best efforts, things have famously been getting worse – at least for us! In September this year, the Guardian published a pan-European investigation into how banks have helped fossil fuel firms raise more than €1 trillion from global bond markets. According to the Guardian "The research found that the British bank HSBC facilitated bonds that raised €423 billion for fossil fuel companies since 2016 while pledging to shrink its financed emissions for the oil and gas sector by 34% by the end of the decade, before reaching net zero by 2050."

A very recent article from Reuters revealed how four major banks, including HSBC, have left the UN–backed Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi). According to sources in the article, the banks found the initiative’s GHG target-setting demands too difficult to meet and feared the targets would impede on their ability to fund fossil fuels.

The Make My Money Matter campaign pulls no punches, even asking UK citizens not to invest in banks like HSBC which are putting their customers’ future at risk by engaging in fossil fuel expansion. This is guidance which I wholeheartedly agree with.


So imagine my frustration and desperation when I took a look at important fashion events taking place at COP28 and found that HSBC was indeed hosting a key event at Goals House. This event “scaling carbon solutions in the apparel industry” also took place alongside H&M (which this report by the Changing Markets Foundation discovered the Swedish brand to be historically a prime offender in greenwashing deeming up to 96% of their claims to be misleading of unsubstantiated)

Alongside the obvious value clash between Richard’s laudable activism calling out HSBC, there are myriad other issues in letting a bank so connected to fossil fuel production host high-level dialogues on decarbonising fashion. Perhaps for these purposes HSBC is considered somewhat neutral – the reality is very difference. But it allows all bad actors to remove themselves deftly and decisively on to the solutions side of the argument, without doing any of the graft. Critically it gives them a halo when they are increasing their emissions. At this stage in the climate and nature emergency when people are seeing the effects of wildfires and floods on a daily basis and becoming ever more desperate, you can’t buy this type of laundering process on the world stage: except they did.

I wrote to Richard Curtis expressing my dismay. His reply was characteristically charming but calculated to distance himself from the matter (ironically). He also referred me to Sophie Cowling from FREUDS who replied on behalf of Goals House. I found her reply to be an extended form of the old ‘better to be changing things from the inside’ which I’m afraid I think is nonsense. We are way past that point, in every sense.

I am taking the opportunity to share them because I think it’s important we challenge the complacency and the idea that it’s fine to be chums with fossil fuel entities when it suits.

As Richard, Sophie, Goals House, all the panellists and sponsors know, we face an existential crisis in climate change, biodiversity loss and record temperatures. Just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of emissions, including those funded by HSBC.

When we go up against corporate greed and their colossal greenwashing budgets, integrity is all we have.

Are we going to protect it with everything we have, or are we going to Make My Greenwash Matter?

You tell me.

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2 comentários

04 de dez. de 2023

Well done Livia for a great article which reveals sadly the status quo of our fight against climate change. Business follows the smell of money, regardless of who it harms Where will this take us? Either we let the polluters continue to pollute, or we stop them.... and to what extent will we go to stop them?! Look at the comments made by the President of Cop28 to Mary Robinson on Nov 21st. It is more than disgraceful that the head of an oil company should be chairing Cop28. In my opinion this is a huge low point in our fight against climate change, but fight we will.


03 de dez. de 2023

Well said Livia, we have to walk the talk otherwise what’s the point? It’s like being in Animal Farm by Orwell some shades if green are better than others but right now 30 years on from this argument this has to stop draw the line find better funders and talk about real resolutions reduce production by at least a third across all sectors and maybe we have a chance to turn the ship around ..

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