The Deutsche Bank greenwashing scandal and how can it would have been avoided 

by Mar 24, 2023Climate change, Sustainable culture0 comments

The biggest bank in Germany, Deutsche Bank, has been involved in a series of unfortunate events regarding some of their investments. To be more precise, the asset management division of Deutsche Bank, DWS, has come under fire for allegedly engaging in greenwashing after it emerged that it was making significant investments in fossil fuels despite marketing itself as a company that cares about the environment. DWS’s green fund portfolio also included fossil fuel company shares worth $5 billion by the end of 2022. DWS invested just under $200 million in renewable power companies. This represents a number 20 times lower than its investment in fossil fuel producers. Through a raid by German control authorities in mid-2022 led to the resignation of the CEO. The new CEO Stefan Hoops aimed to rebuild trust in DWS as a platform. 

Stock Exchange

Deutsche Bank ESG scandal in the past

Earlier this year, a report revealed that despite its commitment to lowering its carbon footprint, DWS had invested in businesses with high carbon emissions. The latest accusations come from a coalition of environmental organizations. They claim that DWS invested more than €500 million in businesses with sizable fossil fuel holdings, including oil and gas exploration and production companies. According to the groups, DWS’s investments are in conflict with its public declaration. Which is committed to using sustainable and responsible investment strategies. DWS has defended its investment choices by emphasizing its commitment to the transition to a low-carbon economy. Reasoning that they cooperate with businesses to help them lower their carbon footprints. The allegations cast doubt on the validity of DWS’s environmental commitments. Thus drawing attention to the difficulties faced by investors trying to match their investments with their values.

Environmental organizations and journalists brought up the accusations after finding proof that the bank’s sustainability claims were not backed up by its deeds. The bank was specifically accused of continuing to lend money to businesses engaged in coal mining, tar sands, and other environmentally harmful industries despite promises to stop doing so in public. The bank was also accused of exaggerating the results of its own sustainability initiatives. To be more precise, they reported a decrease on their carbon emissions, more than they actually experienced.  In response, DWS has numerous times denied the claim that it misled investors and rejects all the accusations by the environmental group. Currently, DWS is facing a lawsuit for “allegedly overstating their green credentials

The case highlights the ongoing challenges facing banks and financial institutions. Specifically, in preventing money laundering and other financial crimes, and underscores the need for stronger regulatory oversight and enforcement.

In response, Deutsche Bank promised to reevaluate its financing practices for environmentally harmful projects and to strengthen its commitment to sustainability. The incident did, however, raise concerns about the efficacy of voluntary sustainability commitments and the requirement for tougher regulations to combat greenwashing.

5 things Deutsche Bank could have done differently:

1. Implement a reliable compliance program. Deutsche Bank had the option of putting in place a reliable compliance program to guarantee that all of its operations complied with all applicable rules and laws. This would entail rigorous oversight of high-risk activities, consistent training for employees, and careful client due diligence. 

2. Conduct thorough due diligence on clients. To make sure that its clients were legitimate and not involved in any illegal activity, Deutsche Bank could have done thorough background checks on them. 

3. Create transparent policies and procedures. The bank could have created transparent policies and procedures for its staff to adhere to when dealing with high-risk customers or transactions. Strict guidelines for identifying and reporting suspicious activities may be part of these policies.

4. In order to increase transparency, Deutsche Bank could have given regulators access to pertinent information that would have shown that it was in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.

5. Develop a culture of compliance. Last but not least, Deutsche Bank could have created an environment where employees felt empowered to report any suspicious activity. Reassuring them that any compliance was given top priority. Due to their commitment to upholding the highest ethical standards, this would have ensured that all employees understood the significance of compliance.

How can the situation be improved

The scandal has raised questions about the effectiveness of the bank’s sustainability efforts. Shifting the need for greater accountability in the finance industry’s approach to environmental issues.

If employees and other internal stakeholders within Deutsche Bank had a deeper understanding of sustainability and ethical principles, they may have been better equipped to identify greenwashing practices and other unethical behaviours and voice their concerns.

Therefore, in addition to educating employees about sustainability and ethical principles, it is also important for companies to create a culture that values ethical behaviour and provides incentives for employees to act in an ethical and sustainable manner. This can involve providing regular training and education on sustainable behaviour and creating a system for reporting and addressing ethical concerns.

Factories in sunset

2030Builders’ Role in Promoting Sustainability and Avoiding Greenwashing

2030Builders is a company that assists organizations in sharing their sustainability strategies with internal stakeholders. At the same time, raising awareness among employees about the company’s sustainability goals and mission. By doing so, 2030Builders helps companies to be more transparent and clear in their communication with internal stakeholders. Through training and customized green upskilling programmes, increasing their knowledge and awareness of sustainability.

As a result, employees may develop their capabilities and become advocates for the company’s sustainability efforts. This can furthermore, enhance the company’s reputation and credibility in the market.

By gaining the full buy-in of employees, this approach has the potential to bring about a cultural shift within the company that promotes sustainability from within, and helps to steer clear of the pitfalls of greenwashing.

In the end, DWS might have acknowledged its desire to be environmentally friendly. While also emphasizing the need to assist businesses who are now dependent on fossil fuels in making the shift to more sustainable practices. For example, this might have included funding for the retraining and upskilling of workers in these sectors. As well as investments in cutting-edge technologies to assist these businesses in lowering their carbon footprints.

Building trust with investors and stakeholders by being open and honest about the difficulties and constraints of the shift to a low-carbon economy may have prevented “greenwashing” charges. DWS could have shown its dedication to sustainability and taken efforts to match its investment methods. Sharing its ideals by frankly admitting the need for a phase-down period and pledging to public reporting on its progress.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *