Extinction Rebellion Demands a Greenwash-Free Bristol

Greenwash: when businesses and governments portray themselves as caring for the planet whilst knowingly destroying it.

From today [Saturday 26th February] a range of dramatic advertisements on billboards and posters are appearing across Bristol as Extinction Rebellion (XR) launches its Greenwash-Free Bristol campaign.   As the campaign kicks off there will be a significant effort to raise public awareness of greenwashing. 

An information stall in Broadmead will be set up and XR’s ‘Greenwash Busters’ will also be active in the city centre.  

The practice of greenwash is the cynical mechanism by which corporations and decision-makers pay lip-service to the urgency of the climate crisis while just disguising business-as-usual behind deceptive claims to be sustainable.

Over the coming months the campaign group will be exposing some of the worst greenwashing offenders in and around the city – businesses and local government – with a series of actions.

Launching the campaign on behalf of Extinction Rebellion Dr Claire Gronow, a Lecturer in Environmental Management at the University of Bristol, said:

”In Bristol – as is happening world-wide – we are facing a tsunami of greenwash as businesses, local and national governments try to avoid the growing challenge of reducing carbon emissions.

“The public are widely concerned about climate change, concerned about elite hypocrisy and concerned about lies at the highest levels. People want their politicians and media to be truthful. People want to do the right environmental thing. But the dishonesty of greenwashing makes it impossible to know what’s right or true.

“It is clear that some high carbon emitting businesses and their financial backers are using smoke and mirrors to hide the fact that they are not moving fast enough to reduce emissions.  Outwardly they promote elements of ‘green’ or ‘sustainable’ business practices when in reality they are carrying on business as usual and this is ultimately putting people’s lives in peril.

“Political greenwash is also really worrying.  While central government [1] and Bristol City council have made commitments to lead us to net zero carbon, neither has any credible plan to reach that target. The government is actively supporting fossil fuel projects that will increase, not reduce, carbon emissions.

“Bristol City Council declared a climate emergency committed to making Bristol a carbon neutral city by 2030 but not has not produced any credible plans to achieve this, and indeed is not even monitoring progress.  The danger here is that people will think it’s all under control and of course it is not.

“For example, the council is still approving housing developments with gas boilers even though these will all need to be replaced by 2030.

“Over the coming months our billboards and posters will call out these dishonest practices and make Bristol a no-go area for greenwash.”

Redland resident and teacher, Richard Baxter from the Bristol Airport Action Network (BAAN) said:

“It’s no joke when Bristol Airport claims it puts sustainability at the heart of their expansion proposals when their plans to grow to 12 million passengers per year is estimated to result in adding 1 million tonnes of CO2 emissions every year.  

“In supporting the expansion, airport owners and the government are gambling with our future by promising technological solutions that don’t even exist and the practice of ‘offsetting’ that will do little to reduce their carbon emissions.”

St Andrews resident Jo Flanagan, who has extensively researched the greenwashing practices of the finance industry, cites the example of Barclays Bank’s greenwashing.  

“Barclays Bank, with numerous branches and an investment centre in Bristol, wants you to think it’s responsible and climate-friendly. Yet despite their 2020 pledge that they were committed to aligning with the Paris Agreement – to reach net zero emissions – they increased their funding to the very fossil fuel companies. This means billions being spent on finding even more reserves of these fuels, when we already have more than can ever safely be used. 

Barclays is the biggest financier of fossil fuels in Europe and the seventh-largest in the world [2].

Other greenwash offenders include Coca Cola, Amazon, HS2, HSBC and Innocent Drinks.