Over the past couple of months JustMoney Movement has been working with the Student Christian Movement (SCM) on an ethical banking campaign, developing resources for students and young adults and inspiring SCM members to switch to a greener, fairer bank. Here, SCM’s Faith in Action worker Phoebe Edmonds explains why she has chosen to move away from Barclays.  

In 2024 I ended a nine year relationship. It was one I entered into because it was convenient. I didn’t know any better, and then after a while it was comfortable and harder to get out of. This was my relationship with my bank; Barclays. However, today I switched to an ethical, greener bank with the help of the JustMoney Movement.   

I am ashamed to say how long I banked with Barclays for. I chose them when I was 11, basically because in the small village where I lived it was the only bank with a branch there. Then, when everything moved online, I didn’t feel the need to swap, even after the branch closed down and I moved to Liverpool.  

However, the more I learnt of Barclays’ involvement in fossil fuels, funding militaries and the arms trade, and their links to human rights issues, I became more and more uncomfortable banking with them. As a Quaker, I found their involvement in wars particularly troubling. Quaker Advices and Queries 31 says:

we are called to live in the virtue of that life and power that takes away the occasion of all wars… Search out whatever in your own way of life may contain the seeds of war.

My research found that, according to Don’t Bank on the Bomb, Barclays invested $5,255 million in companies that manufacture nuclear weapons between January 2020 and July 2022, a point which I highlighted in a letter I sent to them after my switch. It didn’t take a lot of searching to realise who I banked with was a large “seed of war” that I had to eradicate from my life.   

Once deciding to switch, the next effort was to decide who to switch to. This was the longest part of the process. However, now SCM and JustMoney Movement have produced the resources to help in doing this it will be easier for others to do. I chose the Co-operative Bank for various reasons, but, as our resources highlight there are many ethical options to switch to. It was a remarkably quick task. In fact, it took me all-in-all about ten minutes to switch. I had always assumed it would take a long time and there would be a lot of paperwork and time involved, but there wasn’t. Cutting Barclays out of my daily life has been one of the easiest forms of protest I have taken part in.  

When we think of protest, the image that comes to mind is often of large crowds with placards, shouting and marching. Although this is an effective and popular form of protest, I have spent this year with SCM exploring different ways to have our voice heard, particularly through the creative protest blog series. So, with this campaign, we bring to light another form of protest: boycotting.   

Boycott (verb): withdraw from commercial or social relations with (a country, organisation, or person) as a punishment or protest.  

We have the power to choose which businesses we interact with, and to encourage others to do the same. Boycotting is a great form of protest. In a world where we may feel powerless, having the agency to decide you will no longer be using a service, because you don’t align with them ethically is a great way to make a small difference.  

Therefore, the call in SCM’s ethical banking campaign is to boycott unethical banks, and switch to greener, fairer banking. It is important to contact your old bank and tell them that you left because of their unethical activity. It was not a decision based on interest rates, overdrafts, or free railcards. No. We switched because they were unethical.  

We switched because we care about the planet we live on. We switched because we care about the people who are being harmed by the actions of powerful businesses. We switched in a move towards a fairer world.  

Boycotting doesn’t have to start and end with you either. Along with encouraging friends and family, we can also call on our institutions and groups to move away from unethical banks. Universities have a lot of money and influence, so asking them to consider switching too is a great way to carry on the positive effects of boycotting.   

It took me nine years to act on the issues my bank was causing. It doesn’t matter when you decide to make the switch – you may have been with your bank months, years, even decades – but boycotting unethical banks is a great way to protest their actions, with little inconvenience. For me, it was nine years with Barclays ended in ten minutes. All it took was one lunch break, a scroll on my phone and a cup of tea.  

Call to action 

Comments

  • Brenda Dodson
    28 Feb 2024

    We have money in Barclays from many years ago We have and have been with the Co_op for many years and please can you tell us how to put the money money from Barclays into the Co _op which is where our main money is

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