Clean up the bailed-out banks | World Development Movement

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Clean up the bailed-out banks

WDM campaigned to clean up the bailed-out banks between 2009 and 2011.

Terms and conditions of the bailed out banks


Following the financial crisis of 2008, the UK government used a staggering £45.5 billion of UK taxpayers’ money – the GDP of Kenya and Tanzania combined – to prop up the Royal Bank of Scotland.

RBS used that public money to finance projects and companies that threaten the climate and human rights, such as tar sands extraction in Madagascar and Canada.

WDM campaigned to get the government to rein in the power of RBS and the other bailed-out banks and force them to keep to the highest environmental and human rights standards when investing our money.


  • After sustained campaigning by WDM, including meetings with RBS group chairman Sir Philip Hampton and other board members, RBS’s 2010 and 2011 sustainability reports for the first time highlighted the issue of tar sands mining. Significantly, they also committed RBS to developing external environmental, social and ethical risk statements and internally implementing similar policies for oil and gas, mining and metals and forestry and defence. They also committed to developing further policies  for energy generation and chemicals.
  • With proxy votes donated by WDM supporters, Canadian First Nation’s representatives were able to get in to the RBS AGM in 2010 and again in 2011 to protest directly to shareholders and the bank’s board about RBS’s financing of tar sands mining in Alberta. With media stunts arranged by WDM, and a coalition of other campaigning groups, the First Nations communities also got their story told in the media in the UK, adding further pressure to the Canadian government.
  • In June 2011, after concerted lobbying by WDM supporters, French oil company Total postponed plans to mine tar sands deposits in one of the poorest regions of Madagascar. Since the 2008 banking bailout, the Royal Bank of Scotland provided £303 million of corporate finance to Total, the only major oil company exploring for tar sands in Madagascar. 
  • WDM built a network of support from NGOs across the UK for the work of campaigners in Madagascar fighting tar sands proposals, after hosting the visit to the UK of a Madagascan human rights and environmental campaigner

Judicial review

In October 2009, along with People and Planet and PLATFORM, we launched a legal action against the Treasury for failing to properly assess the impact of using public money on human rights and climate change, as it should have according to the government's own rules.

Unfortunately at the oral hearing, permission to proceed with a full judicial review was denied as the judge agreed with the Treasury that government intervention would be harmful to the ‘financial stability’ and 'commercial interests' of the bank. The subsequent appeal was also denied.

Campaign materials


Curing RBS of its oil addiction

Cleaning up the Royal Bank of Scotland

Image sets

RBS 'oily bankers' protest

RBS week of action

Photo petition


Where are RBS' dirty investments?

Government consultations and inquiries

Evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee on a Green Investment Bank


RBS: Here for who? Spoof RBS leaflet

Madagascar Tar Sands Oil: the bloody truth

Greening the Bailed-Out Banks


Dirty Money: Corporate greenwash and RBS coal finance

A Bank for the Future - Maximising public investment in a low-carbon economy

Towards a Royal Bank of Sustainability

Cashing in on Tar Sands: RBS, UK banks and Canada’s “Blood Oil”


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