How ethical is your bank?

For the past few years I have been on a journey to live lighter. It began as a teenager when I became aware of how our lifestyles can affect other people and the planet. I realised it was time to change, but when I looked at my life it seemed there was so much that needed change. It was overwhelming. So I started small and asked God what he wanted me to change. Since then God has gently taken me on a journey of lifestyle changes. Now when I look back, I can see the many ways I’m living more lightly. Six months ago, I asked God what next? His answer – banking.

Money talks

I hadn’t given much thought to my banking before. Money appears after a month’s work and magically disappears when I do my weekly shop. But after doing some research I became aware of how my banking practices might not match my values. Money left my account each month to support an environmental charity, yet the money remaining in my bank account was being invested in things I didn’t agree with.

Did you know that many of the big banks invest significantly in fossil fuels? Including the most damaging ones like tar sands and ultra-deep sea drilling. Many are also involved in tax dodges and invest in nuclear weapons. For me this did not reflect the calls in the Bible to live justly and care for His creation.

Finding change 

But I found another way. After some internet searching, I was surprised by the number of banks who don’t invest in fossil fuels and are paying their fair share of tax. So I decided to make a switch. 

My current account is now with Triodos. It was pretty simple to switch my current account over, including all my direct debits and standing orders. Triodos charge £3 a month for their current accounts. Usually banks fund their current accounts with high charges on overdrafts. This means people who are financially vulnerable are footing the cost of these ‘free’ accounts. Instead Triodos charge £3 to each customer to cover the costs of running the current account. For me, this seemed like a far better way to bank justly. Even their debit card is made from 100% renewable resources. 

This wasn’t the easiest lifestyle change I’ve made. It took time to research the various ethical banks and their investment policies. My savings account is now with the Co-Operative bank. Their savings accounts are completely over the phone. This means I must call their operators to arrange any transfers, which is slower than using a mobile app. However, when I consider the impact my former banking practices were having on the environment and other people, it suddenly doesn’t seem like such a big sacrifice.

Staying accountable

Do you know what your bank is investing in? If you don’t like it, why not switch? Here are three things I’ve found helpful when making the switch:

  1. Set aside time:
    Research the different banks and their investment policies. Use the Ethical Consumer online guide for help
  2. Remember the big picture:
    If switching banks seems too much hassle, think about the positive impact your banking could have on the planet and other people rather than the time it could take to make the switch
  3. Be patient:
    Switching bank accounts won’t be done in a few hours, especially if you have a few different bank accounts! Yet, it will be worth it when it’s sorted.
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