Press release

UK financial regulator falling behind on greenwashing enforcement, lawyers say

26 April 2024 

The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is failing to live up to its own ambition and legal obligation to be transparent about its greenwashing and climate-related enforcement, ClientEarth lawyers say.

The watchdog has refused requests from ClientEarth to reveal what greenwashing or climate cases it is bringing – despite its existing transparency obligations as a public authority – leading the environmental law organisation to file a complaint to the Information Commissioner.

ClientEarth has been in correspondence with the FCA regarding a freedom of information (FOI) request for almost six months. But the watchdog has so far refused to say whether it is investigating any greenwashing or climate-related cases, leading ClientEarth to escalate the matter.

Lawyers fear the UK watchdog is falling behind other markets where regulators in the United States, Germany and Australia have been handing out fines for those violating existing law.

ClientEarth lawyer Catriona Glascott said: 

“Greenwashing in the financial sector is a serious problem with a lack of enforcement being a key factor in rogue actors being able to continue to potentially mislead investors and customers.

“The FCA has made clear statements in recent weeks that it wants to improve transparency. Yet, it continues to stall revealing what cases it is bringing to tackle this important issue.

“It's a disappointing and confusing contradiction from the regulator, which is falling further behind other international watchdogs and market regulators at home. But they can course-correct.

“If the FCA truly wants to mark a new era of enforcement transparency, what better way to honour its commitment to transparency and outline its current climate-related cases.”

ClientEarth lawyers said the FCA had refused earlier requests for transparency, with the regulator arguing any disclosure would impact the enforcement itself.

However, the watchdog provided similar details to the public in previous information requests and told ClientEarth in 2022 that there were no greenwashing enforcement cases underway at that time. [1]

Falling further behind 

The Australian Securities & Investments Coalition (ASIC) have issued several infringement notices against financial managers in recent years – including Vanguard – and the US Securities and Exchanges Commission has handed down multi-million-dollar fines to investment firms such as Goldman Sachs for failure its ESG policies. [2]

And Germany’s Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin) raided DeutscheBank AG and its asset management unit’s Frankfurt offices in relation to greenwashing claims against them in May 2022. [3]

Within the UK, the FCA has also lagged behind other domestic regulators when it comes to climate claims enforcement.

In 2022, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled to ban misleading climate-related ads by HSBC, and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched an investigation into three fashion brands – ASOS, Boohoo and George at ASDA – in relation to their green claims. [4]


Notes to editors:

The FCA recently announced plans to name firms under enforcement investigation, see FCA plans to name firms under investigation in UK deterrence drive (  (27 February 2024) and says it wants to ‘improve pace and transparency around enforcement cases’ on its own website, see FCA to improve pace and transparency around enforcement cases | FCA

[1] The FCA has provided similar data, arguably in more detail, in response to previous FOI requests including FOI8992, which is published on the FCA’s website: FCA enforcement investigations 2021 and 2022 - February 2022 | FCAand told ClientEarth in 2022 that they were able to confirm “that there are currently no active climate and environment Enforcement cases underway”.

[2] See Australian regulator steps up greenwashing crackdown ( (7 January 2024) and | SEC Charges Goldman Sachs Asset Management for Failing to Follow its Policies and Procedures Involving ESG Investments (22 November 2022)

[3]See Deutsche Bank’s DWS Unit Raided Amid Allegations of Greenwashing - Bloomberg (31 May 2022) and DWS shares slide after greenwashing claims prompt BaFin investigation | Financial Times (31 May 2022)

[4] See ASOS, Boohoo and Asda: greenwashing investigation - GOV.UK ( (26 January 2023) and Watchdog bans HSBC climate ads in fresh blow to bank’s green credentials | HSBC | The Guardian (19 October 2022)

About ClientEarth

ClientEarth is a non-profit organisation that uses the law to create systemic change that protects the Earth for – and with – its inhabitants. We are tackling climate change, protecting nature and stopping pollution, with partners and citizens around the globe. We hold industry and governments to account, and defend everyone’s right to a healthy world. From our offices in Europe, Asia and the USA we shape, implement and enforce the law, to build a future for our planet in which people and nature can thrive together.