In this Money Makes Change blog, Rosie Venner (Programme Manager) explores why Christians should care about how banks work.
Jesus spoke frequently about the right use of money. It follows then that we should pay attention to how our stewardship of money might be contributing to injustice. This includes where we bank.
The banking system underpins the global economy. Banks make loans and investments, and the way this money is used has consequences.
Our current system doesn’t enable people and planet to flourish. Many banks provide finance to companies that cause harm- whether to the environment, individuals or marginalised communities. The world’s biggest banks, for example, have provided trillions of pounds of finance to the oil and gas industry in recent years, fuelling the climate crisis.
We may feel there is little we can do in the face of such a powerful, complex system, where sums of money we can scarcely comprehend are moved around the world at the touch of a button. But the system is a human system that can change.
Imagine if every Christian chose to bank ethically and campaigned for a fairer, greener financial system – what a difference that would make!
Where to start – a guide to fairer, greener banking
For a quick introduction to ethical banking, take a look at this short article. Looking for more information and ideas for action? Read on.
Ask the right questions
It’s easy to see our choice of bank as a neutral decision. But every bank operates differently. Find out what your bank does with your money. Look at other ethical issues too – like how the bank treats vulnerable customers or its own employees.
Here are some questions you could ask:
- Who owns the bank? Does the bank have an overall policy statement on its ethics and values?
- Does the bank invest in or provide services to industries you have concerns about (e.g. nuclear weapons, fossil fuels, tobacco, pornography)? What restrictions does it place on who it will do business with?
- Does the bank provide “basic bank accounts” and other services that can be used by people who are financially excluded?
- Does the bank pay a real living wage to all staff?
- What pay and bonuses did the highest paid staff receive last year? What is the ratio between the pay (including bonuses) of the highest paid and lowest paid staff member?
If you have concerns about your own bank, raise them at your local branch or nationally. You’ll have a bigger impact if you do it as part of a group or a bigger campaign.
Move your money
Not happy with your current bank? It’s easy to switch to a more ethical bank, thanks to the Current Account Switch Guarantee. Here are some places to do your research and compare different banks:
An ethical bank will aim to have a positive impact. It will have transparent policies around what it finances and might only provide loans and investment to organisations and businesses that work to improve society or the environment. The Global Alliance for Banking on Values is a pioneering network of banks trying to change finance for the better.
Don’t forget to look at alternatives like building societies and credit unions which offer a more ethical option than the big retail banks.
Switching your church’s bank account? Check out our analysis of ethical bank accounts for churches here.
If you switch bank, don’t forget to tell your old bank why you are leaving! And tell us too, we love to hear and share #MoneyMakesChange stories to encourage others to take action.
Campaign for change
There are lots of ways to speak out for a fairer, greener banking system. Here are a few ideas:
- If you bank with the Co-operative Bank, join the Customer Union for Ethical Banking – a group who have been holding the bank to account on its ethical standards ever since the bank’s buy-out by private investors.
- Concerned about your bank’s involvement with financing nuclear weapons? Take action through the Investing in Change campaign.
- ShareAction engages banks, pension providers and big companies on issues that matter to all of us. Find out how you can get involved through AGM activism.
- Want to learn more about financial regulation? Read our blog about why we need regulation that helps banks and the wider finance sector put people and planet first.