Levels of competition Bureau probes RBC around ‘greenwashing’ allegations

The Competition Bureau has opened an inquiry into the internet marketing techniques of the Royal Lender of Canada over allegations of “greenwashing” as the country’s most important lender encourages its efforts to combat climate improve.

In April, a coalition of 6 Indigenous leaders and land defenders and person environmental activists submitted an application saying that while RBC publicly claims it is using techniques to minimize greenhouse fuel emissions and handle the local weather crisis, the financial institution is actually exacerbating weather improve by continuing to present funding for fossil fuel development and growth.

The bureau, an unbiased law enforcement company, not too long ago wrote to legal professionals for Ecojustice, an environmental law charity that supported the 6 people in their software, to verify it has introduced an inquiry “into certain advertising tactics of RBC.”

“The inquiry seeks to determine the specifics relating to allegations that RBC has contravened the (Levels of competition) Act by generating bogus or misleading environmental representations,” mentioned the letter dated Sept. 29. Marie-Christine Vézina, a spokesperson for the bureau, confirmed Wednesday that the bureau has launched an investigation but could present no even more particulars.

Andrew Block, a spokesperson for RBC, claimed in an emailed statement the lender “strongly disagrees with the allegations in the grievance, and believes the criticism to be unfounded and not in line with Canada’s local climate program.”

“RBC has been participating with our purchasers, companions and other stakeholders, operating in the direction of alternatives to help Canada fulfill its internet-zero commitments,” the assertion reported. “It’s critically important that we get the changeover to web-zero correct in get to deal with local weather transform and we have taken a calculated, considerate, and deliberate tactic in our weather tactic.”

On the bureau’s web-site, it calls greenwashing “the apply of making phony or deceptive environmental adverts or claims” and notes that it is illegal. Investigations into wrong or deceptive representations or deceptive internet marketing techniques can guide to criminal prices or a civil lawsuit. The maximum penalty for firms in civil conditions is $10 million.

“RBC is indicating just one detail in terms of what the public would like to hear — that they’re active and a chief on weather motion — nevertheless, they’re executing other factors that undermine the local weather objectives that they purport to assistance,” Matt Hulse, a lawyer for Ecojustice, explained in an job interview.

Hulse explained the group targeted RBC for the reason that it is a single of the largest gamers in company Canada and, as an field chief, it can travel substantial action on climate policy.

He said he hopes the bureau’s investigation will “send a sign to the money field in Canada and other folks as properly that you can’t guarantee one particular thing and do the other on climate modify. Ultimately, we’d like RBC to do what they’re saying: be a chief on local climate action.”

RBC CEO Dave McKay told the Star’s editorial board in September that the lender will not divest completely from fossil fuel investments (he stated relocating way too speedily absent from the sector would destabilize the economy and direct to occupation losses), but claimed it normally takes emissions into account when creating threat determinations about its lending portfolio.

The software to the Opposition Bureau, which the team amended in June, details to what it suggests are two essential statements RBC tends to make in its internet marketing literature.

A single is that the financial institution supports the rules of the 2015 Paris Arrangement (like the aim of restricting world warming to effectively under 2 degrees Celsius) and that RBC has thus dedicated to achieving “net-zero emissions in (its) lending by 2050.”

But the candidates say RBC “provides tens of billions of dollars on a yearly basis in fiscal support to maintain and extend the fossil gasoline sector,” working counter to the ambitions of the Paris Agreement.

The application factors to a 2022 report “Banking on Weather Chaos,” revealed by U.S. environmental group the Rainforest Motion Community, which identified RBC was the fifth largest service provider in the entire world of bank financing to firms tied to fossil fuels.

The second claim the application targets is RBC’s pledge to present “$500 billion in sustainable financing by 2025.”

The candidates argue RBC’s definition of “sustainable financing” is misleading and has bundled the bank’s participation in syndicated “sustainability-linked” financial loans to pipeline operator Enbridge.

“Climate modify disproportionately impacts Indigenous Peoples around the environment as effectively as below in Canada,” Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, secretary-treasurer of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs and one of the person candidates, explained in a assertion Wednesday. “Until RBC stops funding fossil fuels, advertising itself as Paris Agreement-aligned is greenwashing — and it should not be tolerated.”

Impartial Sen. Rosa Galvez tabled a invoice in March that would, amid other things, impose new local climate disclosure procedures and need banks and other federally regulated institutions to develop clear ideas to satisfy federal emissions targets. The bill is at the next reading stage in the Senate.

Galvez stated Wednesday she’s delighted but not stunned to see the bureau examine RBC, noting that lawful action tied to local climate alter is a worldwide development. She reported Canada’s local weather legal guidelines are not distinct sufficient, which is contributing to litigation.

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