Brandalism group take action against city advertisers

Birmingham campaigners target HSBC billboards over ‘climate colonialism’.

Environmental activists have covered billboards and bus stops in Birmingham city centre with spoof HSBC adverts, accusing HSBC of climate colonialism and demanding the bank end its investment in fossil fuels, detention centres and climate destruction.

Targeting the city that is home to the HSBC UK headquarters as part of a nationwide campaign, the Brandalism group has installed billboards and bus stops around Birmingham, with billboards going up near the Balti Triangle and Digbeth Coach Station. Brandalism are an anonymous group of ‘subvertisers’, artists or activists who replace outdoor adverts with their own satirical art and messages.

HSBC is one of the largest banking and financial services institutions in the world and has been targeted by activists for its damaging investment portfolio. HSBC have been accused of climate colonialism because of their destructive investments ravaging land and indigenous communities, from Mozambique to indigenous territories in North America.

Campaigners accuse HSBC of using advertising to portray themselves as an ethical bank. HSBC’s adverts seek to position it as “the world’s local bank”, and claim their latest Local Heroes advertising campaign is in sharp contrast to their investment portfolio.

Tom from Adblock Brum, who campaign on advertising issues locally, welcomed the action and said: “These are our streets, they should reflect our talent, our culture, our aspirations. We should feel good about ourselves when we walk out of the door, our city should be full of art, not ads.

“It’s time us Brummies fought back against these giant corporations who litter our communities with targeted advertising. They want us to spend money we haven’t got on products that pollute our minds and planet. These are our streets and we’re taking them back.”

Since the international Paris Climate Agreement was signed in 2015, HSBC have poured £67 billion into fossil fuels alone. In Mozambique, HSBC are bankrolling a Liquid Natural Gas extraction project. In addition to the environmental destruction fossil fuel extraction brings, the project has displaced over 550 families and evicted communities from their land and livelihoods, as well as brought increased militarisation to the area. Despite extremely limited access to resources in Mozambique, the project will bring no benefit to local communities, instead enabling big multinationals like Shell and Total to extract Mozambique’s natural resources for export.

At the 2020 HSBC AGM, local NGO JA!/Friends of the Earth Mozambique told the board: “The development of HSBC-funded LNG gas project has caused mass human rights violations in Mozambique, forced removals of hundreds of families from their homes, and the loss of livelihood for farmers and fishermen who have been deprived of their land and access to the sea. These communities are literally starving. Financiers like HSBC are collaterally responsible for these human rights violations as a major contributor to the project.”

HSBC also holds significant investments in for-profit US prisons and detention centres which have been strongly criticised for separating families and using incarcerated migrants as a source of cheap labour, as well as major weapons companies like BAE Systems whose munitions have been used to commit serious human rights abuses.

The campaign will continue over the Autumn, with a series of public information nights examining HSBC’s role in climate colonialism. More information on the campaign can be found by following #FossilBanks.