< Programmes and Campaigns

Breaking the Bank

Campaigning to end banks funding of fossil fuel companies
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About

This was a campaign run from 2022-2024 supporting university students to take action on the banks funding the fossil fuel industry.

Funding for this campaign has now ended, but action on fossil finance is far from over. Resources from the campaign are freely published below, and other ways to get involved in fossil finance campaigning are outlined as well - both are under the "Legacy" heading.

If you make use of one of our resources and want to let us know, or have any queries about the campaign or information below, please contact us at hello@sos-uk.org

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Funding fossil fuels is breaking the bank.

Students are leading a campaign to stop the world’s biggest banks from pouring billions into the fossil fuel industry - because there’s no future in fossil fuels, for our careers or our planet.

Banks need universities and students to keep running business as usual, which includes funding the very fossil fuel companies that drive climate change. But universities and students don't need those banks - we have alternatives, which means we have valuable power and influence.

Through university campaigns across the country, we are using this reliance to demand that they stop funding fossil fuels - it's time for them to stop pouring billions into destroying the climate.

Are you part of a university community and interested in getting involved with our campaign to pressure banks to stop funding fossil fuel companies? Get in touch at [Please see our Legacy section below for contacts].

Why big banks?

The Banking on Climate Chaos report found that over the past 7 years, just 4 banks were responsible for 25% of all fossil fuel funding by banks, a massive $5.5 trillion from 60 banks in total. The Dirty Dozen banks were behind 50% of the bankrolling, including Barclays, Europe's top fossil fuel funding bank.

The Guardian reported that just 100 companies - fossil fuel producers and their investors - are responsible for 71% of all global emissions.

The problem is clear: The fossil fuel industry needs money to fuel the climate crisis, and banks are giving it to them. Banks must stop this funding.

How can we stop big banks from financing fossil fuels?

Banks rely on universities and students for recruitment and reputation: we can use this to put the pressure on for our demand that they stop financing fossil fuels.

Without students for internships and jobs, the banks will struggle to function. Exposing the banks' financing of fossil fuels and how it goes against universities' academic and sustainability values will damage their reputation and thus their business.

We're building university campaigns across the country, each one unique to the institution and group of students. While our tactics vary, our goal is the same: pressure big banks to stop financing fossil fuels. From circulating petitions to disrupting careers events, we are taking a varied approach to make these big banks feel the heat.

Other campaigns have been successful: For example, the University of California system of ten universities, and the cities of Seattle and Davis all broke ties with Wells Fargo after student campaigning against the bank's funding of private prisons and investment in the Dakota Access Pipeline. Christian Aid, one of the UK's largest charities, cut ties with Barclays over fossil fuel financing.

Get Involved

Are you part of a university community and interested in getting involved with our campaign to pressure banks to stop funding fossil fuel companies? Get in touch at [Please see our Legacy section below for contacts].

Follow us on twitter at @break_ngthebank

Follow us on instagram at @breakingthebank__

Our Research

Breaking the Bank is actively undertaking research and looking for interested university students and staff to support our work. To find out more, please contact us at breakingthebank@sos-uk.org or fill out the form above. Subjects include the relationships between banks and universities; recruitment mapping; and campaigning tactics.

Survey on student perspectives on careers, banking and finance, and the fossil fuel industry

In Spring 2023, we undertook a survey of 2,728 students with results representative of the UK higher education student population. The survey found that:

  • 79% of students say that an important factor in choosing a job to apply for is whether the business/organisation makes a difference to social/environmental issues
  • 60% of students who would consider a job in the banking or finance sector wouldn’t take a role in a company that currently funds the fossil fuel industry and plans to continue doing so, while only 16% would still take the role
  • 57% of students weren’t confident in their understanding of the link between UK banks and the fossil fuel industry

These results mean that the majority of students want jobs in companies that make a positive difference to environmental and social issues, and don’t want to work for companies that fund fossil fuels. Students are unaware that they’re being recruited for jobs they don’t want, by the fossil fuel industry’s biggest funders: banks.

Breaking the Bank is educating students to bridge the gap between their need for careers that align with their values and the lack of knowledge of fossil fuel funding, and empowering students through campaigning to effect real change on the issues they care about. We provide training, support, and funding for students to run their own campaigns locally.

To join a campaign at your university or to find out more, contact us at [Please see our Legacy section below for contacts].

Full survey results are available on the SOS-UK site: as an article here and a PDF download here.