NAB CEO Ross McEwan was speaking at a PwC event when he was presented with the 2022 Market Forces Greenwashing Award by activists.
Market Forces said McEwan won the award thanks to NAB continuing to support Whitehaven Coal, Glencore and Santos - three of Australia’s major coal and gas expanders - while preaching that the bank was committed to net zero by 2050.
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After the encounter was posted on Twitter, users praised Market Forces for awarding NAB the prize.
“Still! Unbelievable! If Ross McEwan would like to nominate the biggest Australian fossil fuel funder to back up his spin, let him do so,” one user wrote while encouraging McEwan to reply.
Founder of Market Forces Julian Vincent told Yahoo Finance it was not just NAB that had failed to stick to its climate promises.
“All of the Big Four banks say on their websites that they are supportive of the Paris Agreement on climate change and they’re on board with net zero emissions by 2050,” Vincent said.
“But reaching net zero emissions by 2050 requires a few steps before we get there. First and foremost, and the most important thing is to stop expanding the scale of the fossil fuel industry.”
Vincent said NAB itself was invested in a whole host of companies that were doing exactly that and called on the bank to ensure its financing didn’t enable the expansion of the fossil fuel industry.
“That is the glaring hypocrisy we are trying to focus on with greenwashing,” Vincent said.
“There is a big conversation we need to have as a society about the transition from the current fossil fuel energy economy to a renewable-energy and efficiently run economy. But obviously, we need to stop making the problem worse in the first place.”
Vincent said shareholders in the major banks would have an opportunity in a couple of weeks to air their frustrations at their annual general meetings.
Customers are also able to put their banks on notice if they aren’t happy with their investment in projects from companies that are involved in the expansion of fossil fuels.
“We have a number of actions you can take and we also have a comparison table for those that want to find a bank that has never funded fossil fuel projects,” Vincent said.