Investigating Royal Bank for misleading advertising on climate action

Program area – Climate Status: In progress
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Ecojustice is supporting six members of the public in a complaint to the competition bureau alleging that Royal Bank continues to produce misleading advertising related to the bank's commitments on climate action while financing fossil fuel development. The Competition Bureau is Canada’s federal law enforcement agency responsible for protecting consumers in Canada from companies making misleading and false statements.

Royal Bank has a long track record of continuously greenwashing itself while in reality it’s the world’s fifth largest funder of fossil fuels among private banks, and largest in Canada - and has publicly stated within the last month that it will not be ending investments in fossil fuels.

Moving forward on a complaint alleging greenwashing in advertising shows that government agencies are increasingly willing to crack down on companies who misrepresent their environmental credentials to the public. This complaint is part of a wave of legal actions around the world to challenge companies making bold climate claims not backed by credible actions.

Earlier this year, in a complaint brought by Ecojustice and the University of Victoria Environmental Law Clinic, Keurig was fined $3 million for misleading claims its coffee pods were recyclable, demonstrating that the Competition Bureau is willing to act when it comes to allegations of greenwashing.

The investigation will be conducted wholly by the Competition Bureau and could take up to two years to conclude.

If the Competition Bureau’s inquiry confirms that RBC’s statements are misleading and false, RBC could be forced to stop advertising itself as supporting the principles of the Paris Agreement and aiming to achieve net-zero emissions targets by 2050.

The applicants have also requested that the bank pay a $10 million fine, credited to the Environmental Damages Fund and to be paid to an organization, preferably Indigenous-led, for the purposes of climate mitigation and adaptation in Canada.

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