Is it time to ask banks what is happening with your money?
Rebecca Pritchard, head of business banking at Triodos Bank UK | 09:00 Wednesday 10th April 2019 | 9
With Mark Carney indicating that the Bank of England will soon produce new rules on how it wants banks, insurers and investment companies to manage the financial risks from climate change, fossil fuel divestment is a hot topic.
Ahead of governments or central banks passing legislation, many organisations are increasingly recognising the importance of adapting their financial activities to low-impact, efficient and sustainable alternatives. Not only can this better reflect the values of those that they serve, but it could also provide resilience against climate change’s potential economic impact.
While the majority of the focus has been on institutions with large deposits, such as universities and charities, the fossil fuel divestment movement is also sparking a healthy debate for all businesses and personal customers to talk about the impact their money has.
Spurred on by staff, stakeholders, donors and customers, institutions have come to realise these holdings couldn’t be reconciled with their principles — nor, many would argue, with good financial sense, given the trajectory many believe fossil fuels are on.
Wherever the debate takes place — on university campuses, in board meetings or in the media — the same key question is being asked: what future is our money building?
If we consider that the basic function of any bank is to take this money and lend it elsewhere in the economy, it follows that any values-led organisation would like to understand how its money is used.
Triodos Bank’s research has shown that 64% of people want to know where their bank lends their money, but 75% are unaware of where it ends up. In the UK, opaque reporting means that very little information on lending activity is disclosed, which impedes this understanding.
There is no reason why banks can’t publicly disclose — as Triodos Bank does — every organisation that they are lending to and set minimum standards expected of these organisations, considering both the positive and negative environmental and social impact of what they do.
As a result, we are proud to be able to say that we lend to organisations putting people and the planet first. Certain issues as a society — such as climate change, biodiversity loss or inequality — require urgent action. That’s why we’ve signed up to the UN Principles for Responsible Banking, which provides the banking industry with a framework to embed sustainability at the heart of its operations. Now is the time for real choices.
The fossil fuel divestment movement has helped remind us of an important truth: for all the abstract talk that surrounds global finance, at the end of the day it is simply about what banks are doing with our money. Perhaps it is time to ask what is happening with yours?
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