Banking on Student Futures: An investigation into the social license gained by the Big Five Canadian Banks at the University of British Columbia

Author: Liana Salviejo, Yeslie Lizarraga Leyva, Samyukta Srinivasan, Jose Reyeros

Faulty Supervsior: Dr. Lisa Sundstrom

Community Partner: Banking on a Better Future

Graduate Academic Assistant:   Manvi Bhalla

Year: 2023

The 2022 Complicity in the Climate Emergency report found evidence of UBC’s role in the legitimization of the fossil fuel industry, which is one of the leading perpetrators of the climate crisis. The Big 5 Canadian Banks (Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), Scotiabank, Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD Bank), Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), and the Bank of Montreal (BMO), are known to be some of the largest fossil fuel financiers in the world. According to the 2023 Banking on Climate Chaos report, the Big 5 Banks’ investments in the fossil fuel industry have grown significantly since the Paris Agreement (1). These banks also have a large presence on the UBC Vancouver Campus, with branches across campus and regular contributions to the university. UBC is a renowned research institution, and has many active programs and initiatives aimed at tackling the climate crisis. However, by continuing its relationships with the Banks, UBC contradicts its own climate commitments, and potentially grants the banks a social license to operate, which serves to legitimize their operations. Our research aims to investigate the nature of the relationships between the Banks and UBC and the ways in which UBC, through its continued relationships with the banks, grants them a social license to operate. 

We investigate three key pathways through which the banks establish their presence in UBC in order to gain a social license:

  1. Career advancement opportunities for UBC students
  2. The exchange of human capital in the form of the “revolving door” phenomenon
  3. Provision of donations for buildings, organizations, and student groups at UBC

Read Report

Click Here