Standard Chartered office building

A young activist from the Philippines has taken aim at Standard Chartered in a passionate letter about the bank’s continued support for fossil fuel companies. The letter heralds the start of a major campaign on the bank’s role in coal, oil and gas.


Mitzi Jonelle Tan, a climate justice activist, has written an open letter to Standard Chartered’s CEO Bill Winters. She asks Winters why his bank is still financing coal companies which are linked to landgrabs and pollution as well as operating coal-burning power stations or coal mines.


And the letter comes from the heart. The Philippines is regularly hit by typhoons which are being made stronger and more devastating by the climate crisis, and Tan describes to Winters her personal experiences of these massive storms.


‘I remember spending several nights last year doing my homework by the candle light — our electricity was gone because of the raging typhoon outside, the strongest typhoon on the planet last year. Do you know what that is like, Sir? To be afraid to wake up one day and you have no choice but to climb to the roof with your family in order to possibly survive?’


Meanwhile, Bank on Our Future has collaborated with other organisations to launch, which aims to get the word out to Standard Chartered staff about their employer’s track record. Adverts to grab their attention are popping up all over social media, and the intention is to kickstart discussions between employees about how the bank is spinning its climate policies to seem far more impressive than they actually are.


Why Standard Chartered?

Standard Chartered’s slogan claims that the bank is ‘here for good’. And a slick new advert spins the line that ‘progress doesn’t have to cost the planet’. And yet its financing decisions fly in the face of these greenwashed words – $24 billion has been given to fossil fuels companies between 2015 and 2019.


In 2018, Winters plugged a new policy on power generation finance. ‘Here for good means saying no to coal,’ he trumpeted. But in fact the policy is no good and full of loopholes.


Standard Chartered will no longer finance new coal power stations, but it is still able to finance companies involved in other areas of the coal industry. It will also still provide finance to companies in the coal industry, even if the bank isn’t funding the projects directly.


The policy does provide a timescale for phasing out this indirect financing but it’s very shabby. Meaningful changes don’t begin until 2025, when clients earning more than 60% of their profits from coal will be excluded. Until then, Standard Chartered will only exclude companies getting 100% of their profits from coal – and there aren’t many of those around.


And there’s no date set for when the bank will say no to coal completely. As for oil and gas, there’s no mention of those either – Standard Chartered has made absolutely no commitments to phase out the other two fossil fuels.


Until Winters and Standard Chartered bring out a much stronger policy which sees them moving out of coal straight away, Tan and billions of other people around the world will pay the price for the bank’s inaction.