Barclays’ eventual sale of Third Energy has set a precedent for public pressure influencing the bank’s energy policy.
What do Barclays and Steve Buscemi have in common? One is a multinational bank and the other a respected actor. So not much. Except if Barclays’ brazen sponsorship of Pride parades was a meme, it would be the queer version of Steve Buscemi in 30 Rock adorning a reverse baseball cap, skateboard and ‘music band’ t-shirt asking “how do you do, fellow kids?’
Barclays’ insistence on affirming their LGBTQ+ credentials every Pride season is largely indicative of the corporate co-option of the marches that have their roots in radical protest.
Barclays have spent months occupying the spotlight for all the wrong reasons: their financing of fossil fuels and climate breakdown; and (now cleared) charges of fraud levelled at former CEO John Varley. You might have thought they’d appreciate a summer off? Wrong. No rest for the wicked.
Plastering their logo over anything with a rainbow, and indeed a rainbow over their logo, is Barclays’ way of portraying itself as ‘cool’ and ‘progressive’. The irony here being Barclays’ significant contribution to accelerating planetary heating and profiting from a financial system which relentlessly dispossess, emmiserates and deepens inequality. Groovy.
Someone, concerned: “Barclays, please stop funding fossil fuels.” Barclays, pink-washingly: “How do you do, fellow gays?”
Despite years of grassroots and NGO pressure for them to stop profiting from climate breakdown, between 2016 and 2018 Barclays provided $85.176bn to companies behind fossil fuel extraction. Banking on Climate Change - a report produced by BankTrack, Rainforest Action Network and others - ranked Barclays as the worst bank in the UK and Europe when it comes to fossil fuels financing. They’re sixth worst in the world.
Although Barclays have excluded coal projects from their financing, they continue to fund the companies behind coal mining alongside tar sands pipelines, oil and gas.
Just one week before Barclay’s 2019 AGM, however, the bank sold its majority stake in fracking company Third Energy. This was the company seeking to frack at the Kirby Misperton site in North Yorkshire.
After persistent grassroots campaigning from students to grandmas and a coalition of organisations, Barclays told its 2017 AGM that it would exit fracking. At the 2018 meeting, the Chairman indicated that they would sell Third Energy only when fracking had begun. This was met by disruption of the meeting by People & Planet activists.
Barclays’ eventual sale of Third Energy has set a precedent for public pressure influencing the bank’s energy policy. Campaigners can use every tool at our disposal to wreck Barclays’ reputation, including frustrating their pursuit of the ‘pink pound’, to force them to drop fossil fuels.
Black Pride and Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants have kept the spirit of “Pride is a protest!” alive in recent years. We can learn from them to organise resistance to the cynical use of Pride by Barclays and other corporate behemoths to bolster their reputations? Without this, the LGBTQ+ movement cannot reasonably seek to reaffirm the radical history of Pride through placards, chants and think-pieces while passively participating in its co-option by capital.
It’s time queer organisers face up to the cosy proximity of the community to the corporations driving climate injustice. And take action accordingly. It’s time Barclays is made explicitly unwelcome at Pride as they continue to profit from the imminent planetary heating that will cause so much death and suffering. Not unreasonable.
Organisers of Pride parades should take the initiative to drop Barclays’ as sponsors. If they don’t, participants should disrupt Barclays’ presence at the parades. In 2020, queer students from People & Planet will be making it clear there can be no pride in Barclays; no pride in climate breakdown; no pride in greedy banks.
Chris Saltmarsh is co-director of climate change campaigns at People & Planet. He tweets at @chris_saltmarsh.