Greenwashing, whistleblowing and governance failures in the German finance sector

Desiree Fixler, Daniel Mittler

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Desiree Fixler, former sustainability officer at Deutsche Bank’s asset manager DWS, blew the whistle on her company’s greenwashing practices uncovering a massive scandal. Daniel Mittler, ex Political Director of Greenpeace Intl. and now Managing Director of Finanzwende will discuss greenwashing with Desiree and what it takes to blow the whistle.

A major police raid at the offices of DWS, the asset manager of Deutsche Bank, shook up the booming sustainable investment sphere in 2021. It was the biggest greenwashing scandal so far and the first that forced a CEO to resign. Greenwashing means that a financial product or an entire company claims to be more sustainable or climate-friendly than it actually is. Behind the raid and investigation by financial supervisors and criminal policy were Desiree Fixler’s revelations. DWS had claimed to manage 459 billion Euro according to sustainability standards, so called “ESG (environmental, social and governance)” criteria. After taking over the role of group sustainability officer, Desiree discovered that the number was largely exaggerated. She tried to raise the issue internally with the CEO and chair of the supervisory board. Instead of correcting the numbers, Desiree was fired and DWS tried to publicly discredit her. That’s why she turned to the press, became the most prominent greenwashing whistleblower and later supported investigations by financial supervisors.

Desiree will be joining us remotely.

Daniel Mittler will discuss greenwashing in finance with Desiree Fixler, what has changed since the DWS scandal and what needs to happen for financial markets to be truly sustainable. While her story is about sustainable investment in the first place, it is strongly linked to issues about corporate culture and governance failures. Whistleblowing is hugely beneficial for our society, yet whistleblowers often pay a high price for their revelations. This is also the case for Desiree, who was fired and faced legal struggles against her powerful former employer at the same time. That’s why today she strives for a better protection of whistleblowers. How this can be achieved and what other whistleblowers can learn from Desiree’s experience, will be one of the main focal points of the discussion. In the end participants will have the chance to discuss with Desiree and Daniel.

Foto von Daniel Mittler, Finanzwende
Managing Director