Standard Chartered will be in the sights of shareholders next year if its poor record on climate change doesn’t improve, according to environmental organisation Market Forces. 

The news comes as Standard Chartered participates in a US$ 400 million, 5-year loan for global coal giant Adaro Indonesia, as part of a syndicate of banks. By the bank’s own internal estimations, this company is in line with between five six degrees of warming, raising the question about how seriously Standard Chartered takes its climate commitments. 

Shareholder action has rocked UK banks in recent times, with Barclays forced to improve its climate policies after a shareholder resolution last year. HSBC managed to convince a coalition of investors to withdraw a climate change resolution for this year’s AGM by announcing end dates for its coal financing. Despite this, Standard Chartered has largely escaped attention until now.

Among the charges levelled at the bank are:

  • Standard Chartered is a globally significant funder of the fossil fuel industry, having financed US$31.4bn to the fossil fuel sector since the Paris Agreement was signed.
  • Chairman Jose Vinals said in 2018 that the bank’s slogan ‘Here For Good’ meant ‘saying no to coal.’ However, Standard Chartered’s coal addiction continues, with largely meaningless coal policies that defer any real restrictions on funding coal companies until the middle of the decade. The bank can continue funding the coal industry well into the next decade too, with no final coal phase-out date. Currently, the bank is a major funder of coal companies that have no plans to align with the Paris Agreement. 
  • The bank has no restrictions on the oil and gas sector. Even if coal burning was to stop overnight, research shows that developed reserves in existing oil and gas fields alone would push the world beyond the Paris Agreement 1.5C target. No bank can credibly claim to support the Paris Agreement without acknowledging this reality and taking appropriate steps.

The loan to Adaro underlines how weak Standard Chartered’s  coal policies are. Adaro Indonesia is one of the top coal producers in Indonesia, with 46.8 million tonnes of coal production in 2020 alone, and coal reserves of 774 million tonnes. Burning all of these reserves would release 1.5 billion tonnes of C02, almost the equivalent of the annual emissions of Russia. 

The bank is a major funder of coal in other emerging markets, including the Philippines.

The threat of a shareholder resolution at next year’s AGM comes at a time when investor expectations on climate change are increasing rapidly. 

Adam McGibbon, UK Campaigner for Market Forces, said:

Standard Chartered is aware that Adaro’s business plans are consistent with 5-6 degrees of global warming. How can a bank that says it supports the Paris Agreement fund this company?

Despite years of engaging with Standard Chartered to get them to take the climate crisis seriously, they are still happy to fund global coal giants Adaro Indonesia.

If the bank really means what it says about supporting the Paris Agreement, it must stop funding companies that will lead to the agreement’s failure. We’re putting Standard Chartered on notice that if we don’t see improvement in their policies, we will table a shareholder resolution for next year’s AGM and seek investor support to force the bank’s leadership to properly address the climate crisis.

Binbin Mariana, Indonesia Campaigner for Market Forces, said:

Their climate policy is barely worth the paper it’s printed on. It allows them to continue supporting Indonesia’s coal giant, Adaro.

“Here For Good” means nothing if it means continuing to provide hundreds of millions to a company ripping the heart out of communities in my country, and making global climate change worse.   

Standard Chartered can say it cares about climate change and supports the Paris Agreement, or it can fund a company whose business plan depends on the Paris Agreement failing – but it can’t do both.

Mitzi Jonelle Tan, a youth climate activist from The Philippines, said:

No other bank puts more money into coal plants and mines in my country than Standard Chartered. Their slogan is “Here For Good.” Yet, Standard Chartered finances the pollution of our water, makes our air unbreathable, and toxifies the soil we live on. Standard Chartered, if you actually want to be “Here For Good,” stop funding our destruction.

Notes for editors: