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Date: 6 May , 2010
'Ethical banking means social responsibility, such as fair-trade principles, or being involved in the local community.'
With all the issues of global banking that have been in the news over the last year or two, it’s clear that some parts of the banking industry are not as ethical as we would like. By Suzanne Elvidge
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What is ethical banking?
Ethical banking is also known as social, alternative, civic, or sustainable banking. Ethical banks focus on:
social responsibility, such as fair-trade principles, or being involved in the local community;
environmental responsibility, which can range from reducing the use of paper and using eco electricity suppliers to making environmental choices where investment is concerned;
ethical responsibility, for example avoiding funds that are involved in the arms or tobacco trade, repressive regimes, animal experimentation or Third World debt and exploitation, and making a positive choice to invest in socially- and environmentally-positive funds.
Ethical banks and building societies
There are a number of banks and building societies in the UK that claim green or ethical criteria. The Co-operative Bank is probably the best known in the UK.
The bank remains rooted in the original aims of the co-operative movement, which gives all members a stake (and a say) in the organisation.
It invests in the local community, has strong ethical policies, and invests in renewable energy.
The Co-Operative Bank has been involved in a number of ethical and environmental; campaigns – its current campaign, Toxic Fuels, is to stop the extraction of crude oil from unconventional sites.
The Co-operative Bank provides business, community and personal banking. The Co-Operative Bank also supports Christian Aid through a credit card.
Based in West Yorkshire, the Ecology Building Society says that it is one of the fastest growing building societies in the country.
The Ecology Building Society offers mortgages to people who are building environmentally friendly housing, renovating derelict buildings, or making eco-based improvements.
The mortgages are supported by the building society’s savings accounts.
A number of mainstream banks and building societies also offer ethical investments and eco options – ask your bank what they offer, even if it is as simple as getting your statements online rather than on paper.
Ethical investment companies like Eco Investments provide access to investment projects in the environmental sector, which it claims combine good financial returns with the opportunity of helping improve the future of the planet.
Ethical financial advice
Not sure where to start? Some financial advisors specialise in ethical and environmental projects, including Ethical Investors which, as well as providing access to ethical funds, also gives 50% of its profit to charity.
The Gaeia Partnership provides advice on ethical investment, and can arrange visits to the projects in which you have invested.
For more information on ethical money, have a look at YourEthicalMoney.org.
Find out more about helping Christian Aid by using the Christian Aid credit card
If you are struggling with debt, talk to Christians Against Poverty