Ethical Banking

I had a growing concern for the role that my bank is playing in contributing to the destruction of our environment, global conflicts, and human and animal rights abuses – so I decided to research this. Fortunately there is a really helpful site, Ethical Consumer, which ranks UK banks according to a set of ethical criteria:

  • Environment: Environmental Reporting – Climate Change – Pollution & Toxics – Habitats & Resources – Palm Oil
  • Animals: Animal Testing – Factory Farming – Animal Rights
  • People: Human Rights – Worker’s Rights – Supply Chain Management – Irresponsible Marketing – Arms & Military Supply
  • Politics: Controversial Technologies – Boycott Call – Political Activities – Anti-Social Finance – Company Ethos
  • Product Sustainability: Organic Product – Fairtrade Product – Environmental Features – Other Sustainable Features – Animal Welfare Features

Ethical Rating of Current Accounts by Bank (mark out of 20)

Triodos 14.5
Co-op Bank 12.5
Metro Bank 12.5
Nationwide BS 12.5
Norwich & Peterborough BS 12.5
Smile 12.5
Bank of Cyprus 11.5
Al Rayan Bank current & savings Accounts 11
ICICI current accounts 10
Virgin Money current and savings accounts 9
Handelsbanken current & savings accounts 7
Clydesdale Bank current & savings accounts 6.5
Yorkshire Bank current & savings accounts 6.5
Danske Bank current & savings accounts 6
Bank of Ireland current & savings accounts 5.5
Bank of Scotland current & savings accounts 5.5
Cater Allen current account 5.5
Halifax current accounts 5.5
Lloyds Bank current & savings accounts 5.5
Santander current & savings accounts 5.5
Citibank current & savings accounts 5
First Trust current accounts 5
TSB current accounts 4.5
First Direct current & savings accounts 4
HSBC current & savings accounts 4
Post Office accounts 4
Coutts current & savings accounts 3.5
M&S Money current & savings accounts [S] 3.5
NatWest current & savings accounts 3.5
Royal Bank of Scotland current & savings accounts 3.5
Ulster Bank current & savings accounts 3.5
Barclays current & savings accounts 3
Tesco current & savings accounts 1.5

As a result of finding out just how awful NatWest Bank was, I switched my current and savings accounts to Triodos Bank. There are also other more ethical options for savings accounts such as Ecology Building Society, Charity Bank and Coventry Building Society.

Triodos are an international bank that lend money exclusively to the sustainable sector and are entirely transparent about where their funds go. So far it is the only bank I have found for both ethical current and savings account options. They do charge a £3 monthly fee for their current account, justified as follows:

“Rather than charging excessive penalties to a minority of customers to subsidise a ‘free’ account, we think a fairer approach is for all customers to pay a monthly fee (£3). This charge does not cover the full cost of running the account – it’s a statement that we need fairer and more transparent banking.”

If you are with any of the banks from the lower half of the above rank (i.e. Barclays, RBS, NatWest, HSBC, Santander, Halifax, Lloyds etc.), try and find out where exactly your money goes. Search on their website, the newspapers and/or contact their customer services. Find out which unethical institutions they are lending to or hold accounts for – are you happy supporting these activities inadvertently with your money? Do this also for your investments and pension, i.e. ask your pension provider how they incorporate sustainability issues into their investment strategy, demand transparency and action in line with the Paris Agreement.

Action: Take responsibility and switch to a more ethical solution if you are unhappy. There are plenty of options out there from ethical banks to certain building societies and credit unions. ALSO: Don’t forget to write to your former bank to explain why you are closing your account. This letter was sent to NatWest a couple of years ago:


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