The Co-operative has launched a corporate social responsibility programme, setting a new standard for the industry. Is it time to put our money where our mouth is and switch to an ethical provider?
In November last year I asked the question ‘Can we afford to care about ethical finance?’
My conclusion at the time was to separate the issues, splitting my efforts between hunting out the best finance deals and renewing my efforts to improve my wider environmental and social impact.
Your responses made me question if I was trying to have my cake and eat it. Arthur Jones made the observation that ‘While you’re supporting conservation with your offset projects, your money is being invested in the companies which are destroying rainforests and woodlands around the world – unless you’ve made a specific effort to ensure otherwise.’
He’s right. It’s both refreshing and promising that it was a financial services provider that finally made me take action.
The Co-op plan
The Co-op’s new three-year plans are definitely welcome in my book. They include:
- Ethically screening its general insurance products
- Increasing its financial support for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects to £1 billion
- Launching a new £20m international Co-operative Development Loan Fund
- Expanding its community investment to include £5m a year to help tackle poverty around its stores and branches
These are all positive steps and mark the first time that a major high street bank has sought to fully align its ethics with its operational objectives.
The Co-op is already well known for its firm ethical stance. Their targets are ambitious and, if successful, will act as a benchmark for other retailers and banks.
The good guys of banking
There are some financial services providers who are setting the ethical standards for the whole industry. The Co-op, Charity Bank, Triodos Bank and the hundreds of credit unions around the country are amongst those that stand out.
I’m lucky insofar as I can afford to take a small hit on my savings rate, or pay a bit more on my credit card, without endangering my wider finances.
Charity Bank and Triodos, for example, both pay a respectable 2% on their cash Isas, while the Co-operative is a Which? Recommended Provider for savings accounts, credit cards, car insurance and current accounts.
Only by transferring our banking to the ‘good guys’ will other banks and building societies listen and change their own practices. For my part, it’s time I put my money where my morals are.