Eco-finance

15 August 2020

Image credit: 401kcalculator.org, CC BY-SA 2.0

Imagine these scenarios:

  • Someone who doesn’t agree with war invests in the arms industry.
  • Someone who understands the dangers of smoking invests in tobacco.
  • Someone who is an ethical vegan invests in industrial meat manufacture .
  • Someone who strongly advocates for renewable energies invests in fossil fuels.
  • Someone who abhors animal testing invests in companies that do just that.

It seems bizarre, but we were doing at least one (and possibly all) of these things, albeit unknowingly, until very recently. This was because we had no idea about, nor control over, the companies and industries towards which the money sitting in our bank accounts was being directed.

In fact, nowhere in the 2019 Annual Report of our UK bank did it mention this and, as far as climate action is concerned, our bank apparently “does not currently have a formal environmental policy.” The best they can manage is to install LED lighting in their offices and more efficient air conditioning units in their branches, a somewhat feeble action to be taking against the climate crisis in current times.

It was for this reason that we decided to move our money to a more ethical bank. We looked at a few different alternatives and opted for Triodos Bank. Having a current account with Triodos means that our money will be used only to “lend to, or support, organisations that positively affect people’s lives, protect the planet, or build strong communities”, all of which appeal to our values.

Amazingly, it was only very recently that we discovered we, as individuals, really do have the power to determine where our money is being invested, not only the money in our bank accounts, but also in our savings accounts, pension funds and stocks and shares. In this 60-min podcast, British filmmaker Richard Curtis explains in very clear terms why we should be taking more notice of where we are putting our money.

Curtis has even started a movement to raise awareness about how our money is invested. The reasons why we should be taking action are summed up very nicely on his MakeMyMoneyMatter website:

Evidence shows that sustainable, resilient, well-run companies are more likely to perform better in the long run. Companies that do harm are riskier places to invest in for the long term because they face a future of increasing consumer criticism, government regulation and financial penalties. So investing in responsible businesses means you can build a better world while giving your money a chance to get better returns at the same time.

What steps can you take now?

  • Find out if your bank is investing ethically and responsibly and if not, switch to a bank more aligned with your values.
  • Contact your pension or other savings fund providers and ask them where they are investing your money. Sign the MakeMyMoneyMatter petition.
  • If you buy stocks and shares, invest in responsible and ethical companies and not in ones that cause harm to the planet.

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