When you decide to live more environmentally and animal friendly, your bank may not be the first thing you think about. However, which bank you choose can have a significant impact. Banks use your money to invest in companies and projects. Unfortunately, most banks invest in fossil fuels, factory farms, weapons or projects that involve cutting down forests. In addition, many banks don’t have many requirements regarding human rights, the environment or animal welfare that companies have to meet in order to get funding. If you don’t want your money being used for projects that harm humans and animals, it may be worth checking what your bank invests in and change to another bank. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to find as much information about banks in the UK as we have for banks in the Netherlands, but the information we did find should be helpful in deciding whether your bank is pretty ethical or not.
80 percent of people in the UK have a bank account at one of five banks: HSBC, Lloyds, RBS, Barclays and Santander. However, these banks get very bad ratings when it comes to ethics. All these banks are known for tax avoidance, using tax havens and excessively high salaries of millions of pounds for directors. They are also some of the biggest investors in fossil fuels and therefore play a major role in causing climate change. For example, Lloyds Banking Group invested $10.047 billion in fossil fuel companies in 2015. These banks also invest in other unethical companies. For example, HSBC is infamous for giving loans to a dozen nuclear weapons manufacturers.
So what are some of the more ethical banks?
Co-op bank refuses to do business with companies that breach human rights or that test on animals. They also invest in renewable energy and have committed to not investing in fossil fuels.
Triodos is a Dutch bank and is also one of the most ethical banks in the Netherlands. They only invest in environmentally friendly organisations and in clean energy. They don’t invest in the fur industry or industries that use animals for entertainment and have strict requirements for animal testing. They also don’t invest in factory farms. In addition, they have strict rules regarding human rights for companies who want funding and don’t invest in weapons.
Charity bank has received the Social Enterprise Mark, given to companies who put the interests of the planet before profit and the interests of their shareholders. They give loans to domestic violence victims, low-income housing and eductation for excluded young people.
Founded by the Salvation Army, the church receives 75 percent of the bank’s profits. However, the bank is committed to ethical banking and managers only receive small bonuses.
The Move your Money scorecard gives an indication of how ethical different banks are. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any detailed information about investments in industries that use animals and the environmental impact of different banks (cutting down forests, mining, fishing etc), except for Triodos as there is a Dutch organisation that publishes detailed research on different ethical aspects of banks. However, as most big banks invest in factory farms, fossil fuels and weapons and changing to another bank is really easy nowadays, it’s definitely worth changing looking into and changing to a more environmentally and animal friendly bank.