“It’s not hard to run a bank on ethical principles”, according to the boss of Triodos UK in The Independent, 3rd Nov 2011
Outrageous bonuses, socially useless trading, shaky funding, reckless lending and dealing with dodgy customers. These are just some of the practices that have stirred mounting anger about the banks’ role in society. With protesters camped at St Paul’s and railing against City excess, Charles Middleton wants to let people know that his bank has nothing to do with this mess. Mr Middleton is the UK chief executive of Triodos, which bills itself as one of the world’s leading sustainable banks.
So how has the mounting antipathy towards banks affected Triodos in the UK? “It’s an interesting time,” Mr Middleton says. “There have been more phone calls and people hitting our website. We’re trying to get our views out there, partly because every time I turn on the radio they are talking about ethical banking and we believe there are specific things people can do to have an impact.”
Triodos sticks to the basics of banking that became obscured by financial engineering, racy funding and a dash for big returns in the years before the credit crisis. Money it raises from retail savers is lent to social, cultural and environmental businesses that meet the bank’s “sustainability” requirements.
Unlike other banks, it also publishes details of all the businesses it lends to, so that savers can see where their money goes. The list is filled with environmental, campaigning and social enterprise clients.
Triodos only finances loans to customers creating social, environmental or cultural added value – key sectors include organic food and farming, renewable energy, social housing and fair trade. Transparency is a core value: customers are informed about the bank’s lending and can target their savings to particular areas of investment. A range of personal savings accounts is offered and full banking services are available for businesses and charities.
Moving your money to an ethical bank is the first very simple thing you can do until we’ll reach the ideal option – a true full-reserve banking (a bank that doesn’t promise you instant access to your money even though it’s lent to somebody else) which would also give customers a choice in how their money was invested.
Do you have a bank account in one of the four biggest banks? Perhaps you are an environmentalist and work hard every day to minimize the destruction of environment. But at the same time you help to fund climate change! Or maybe you fight against poverty, but at the same time, you help to fund food speculation…
Today the banks decide where to invest your money – not you! When you put money in the bank in present system it becomes the banks’ legal property to do as they like with.