“CommBank Is Funding Coal Projects…” Advertisements
Client: Greenpeace Australia Pacific
Greenpeace Australia Pacific is the regional office of the global environmental campaigning organization, Greenpeace. Internationally, Greenpeace has existed for over 50 years and in that time has become one of the most well-known environmental organizations. Their name suggests two of their core values. The first part of their name, “green,” symbolizes the value they hold for the environment and their goals of environmental protection. The second part of their name, “peace,” symbolizes the value they hold for using non-violent means to achieve their goals of environmental protection. That is, they use “peaceful protest and creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems and promote solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future.” The Greenpeace Australia Pacific headquarters is located in Sydney and is currently focused on campaigning on protecting forests, oceans, the Great Barrier Reef, and the Antarctic; along with climate justice, and ending our reliance on fossil fuels.
In 2017, Greenpeace Australia Pacific focussed a great deal of effort on a campaign to get one of Australia’s “big four” banks, the Commonwealth Bank, to stop funding coal. This is because coal pollutes the environment causing harm to health, and more importantly, is one fossil fuel that is the single biggest contributor to climate change. At the time, the Commonwealth Bank had no policy to reduce their fossil fuel exposure and had provided approximately $6 billion in funding to fossil fuel projects in the previous two years alone (despite this being out-of-line with their commitment to keeping climate change below 2° celsius). The campaign aimed to end its funding of one of these fossil fuels, by getting the Commonwealth Bank to make a commitment to end its funding of coal projects. The campaign was titled the Coal Bank campaign. For more information, watch the “honest ad” that Greenpeace made for the campaign, where the Commonwealth Bank was renamed the “CoalInstealth Bank.”
“The advertisements were displayed in outdoor advertising spaces throughout Sydney and posted up around Commonwealth Bank branches all over the country. There were even rumors that the Commonwealth Bank was scrambling to try and find out who was responsible for placing the advertisements, which seemed to be a pretty good sign that we had gotten their attention.”
Greenpeace initially approached Agency, a (former) creative studio, to create subverted versions of the Commonwealth Bank logo, along with some other graphic assets for the campaign. They then approached me to design two advertisements for the campaign. The first advertisement was focused on the more immediate air pollution that is caused by coal. It featured a photo montage of a Greenpeace employee’s child wearing a dust mask with a coal mine in the background. It said “CommBank is funding coal projects that pollute our air,” and explained that “air pollution causes 3,000 premature deaths in Australia every year,” where “the coal industry is the single biggest source.” The second advertisement was focused on the climate impacts of coal by demonstrating its effect on the Great Barrier Reef. It featured a photo of coral that had died in severe coral bleaching events that happened in 2016 and 2017. It said “CommBank is funding coal projects that are killing our Great Barrier Reef,” and explained that “49% of the Reef’s corals have died in the last two years due to overheating oceans,” where “coal pollution is the biggest contributor to dangerous warming.” Both versions of the advertisement called on viewers to tell Ian Narev (who was the Commonwealth Bank CEO at the time) to stop funding coal via the campaign website. The advertisements were displayed in outdoor advertising spaces throughout Sydney and posted up around Commonwealth Bank branches all over the country. There were even rumors that the Commonwealth Bank was scrambling to try and find out who was responsible for placing the advertisements, which seemed to be a pretty good sign that we had gotten their attention.
The Coal Bank campaign involved over 100,000 people calling on the Commonwealth Bank to end their funding of coal, along with many campaign-related actions all around the country. A few noteworthy campaign actions are listed below.
On 5 May 2017, Greenpeace performed a banner drop of a seventy square meter banner (pictured below) that faced towards the Commonwealth Bank’s Sydney headquarters. It had the message “Commbank: dump coal” and “invest in our future,” along with the URL of the campaign website.
On 29 May 2017, Greenpeace and local community members occupied the Newcastle coal port (the world’s largest coal port) to display the message “CommBank’s coal kills” on a large pile of coal (pictured below) to highlight the serious health and climate impacts of the Commonwealth Bank’s funding policies.
On 16 October 2017, a number of people wearing dust masks and hazmat suits, including members from coal-affected communities, visited the Commonwealth Bank’s Harbour Street office in Sydney to dump a load of coal on their doorstep. The coal was delivered in a series of four fabricated coal mine carts with the Coal Bank logo and hashtag printed on the side. The coal was packaged in white bags, also with the Coal Bank logo printed on one side of them, along with the impacts of their coal funding (e.g., “bleached coral”) printed on the other side. Two members staunchly held up large-format poster versions of the advertisements I had designed for Greenpeace.
On 15 November 2017, after a massive year of campaigning, the chair of Commonwealth Bank’s AGM, Catherine Livingstone, announced in her opening speech that the Commonwealth Bank intends to reduce its funding of coal, which effectively rules out the funding of any new coal projects, and created what Greenpeace called the “biggest climate finance win in Australia’s history.”
“Our coal funding is comparatively small and has been trending down for some time. We expect that trend to continue over time as we help finance the transition to a low carbon economy.” — Catherine Livingstone, Chair, Commonwealth Bank
Greenpeace was in attendance (again in hazmat suits with coal mine trolleys full of coal) outside the AGM, held at the International Convention Centre in Sydney. Upon hearing the news, they celebrated this epic campaign victory (pictured below).
It was an absolute pleasure to be involved with such an important win towards the goal of limiting climate change and maintaining an inhabitable planet for us all. But, we now need to maintain pressure on the Commonwealth Bank to live up to this commitment and ensure the end of its funding of all fossil fuels, not just coal.
Find out more about this campaign win on the Greenpeace website: greenpeace.org.au
Multimedia Producer and Project Manager: Ella Colley, Greenpeace Australia Pacific.
Campaigner: Jonathan Moylan, Greenpeace Australia Pacific.
Art Direction & Design: Jarren Nylund, Design Good Design Studio.