Royal Bank of Canada Awarded “Most Environmentally Irresponsible Company” at Davos

Written by Nell Greenberg

Topics: Oil

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Tar Sands Financing Causes Global Embarrassment for Nation’s Largest Bank

It isn’t often that Rainforest Action Network heads to Davos for the opening of the World Economic Forum (WEF). But that’s just what our tar sands campaigner, Brant Olson, is doing. Why? Because as world leaders gather at Davos today to discuss the year’s economic fortunes, one financial institution, the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), will be singled out for their outstanding contributions to increasing climate change.

In a ceremony held concurrently to the World Economic Forum, RBC was awarded the Public Eye Global Award presented by the Berne Declaration and Greenpeace. As a result of our increasingly successful efforts to highlight RBC’s role in financing tar sands extraction projects, RBC was named the year’s most environmentally and socially irresponsible company.

RAN’s Brant Olson is accepting the award for RBC as the bank’s representatives declined to attend the ceremony. As Brant said in a press release earlier today:

“Global banks can no longer ignore the impact their financing has on the climate, people and the future of this planet. The Public Eye Award demonstrates the increasing global concern over the billions of dollars of financing flowing into destructive tar sands projects, which Royal Bank of Canada is playing a leading role in. The world is watching RBC.”

RBC is the leading financier of companies extracting oil from the Alberta tar sands. Since 2007, RBC has backed $14.3 billion (USD) in credit to companies operating in the tar sands, and earned more than $84 million (USD) in underwriting fees. As a result, RBC has enabled the production of the world’s dirtiest oil. Oil extraction from the tar sands generates three times the CO2 emissions as conventionally extracted oil, which will soon make Canada the biggest contributor to global warming.

The Global Public Eye Award is essentially a shame-on-you-award given to the nastiest corporate players of the year. The Public Eye Awards are a critical counterpoint to the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. The Public Eye Awards are held in Davos, Switzerland, on the opening day of the World Economic Forum (WEF). At this counter-event to the WEF, the organizers of The Berne Declaration and Greenpeace Switzerland remind companies of their duty as truthful corporate citizens. Awards are given to multinational companies that have excelled in irresponsible social and environmental behavior. The Public Eye Global Award included nominees from three continents, but this year RBC took the prize for. RBC declined to attend the event.

Mining oil from tar sands requires churning up huge tracts of ancient boreal forest and polluting so much clean water with poisonous chemicals that the resulting waste ponds can be seen from outer space. The health impacts to Alberta’s First Nation communities are severe, with cancer rates up in some communities as much as 400 times its usual frequency. In addition, communities living near oil refineries face increased air and water pollution from tar sands oil, which contains 11 times more sulfur and nickel and