Over the last year, it has been great to see that there has been a lot of discussion and debate about the ethics of capitalism. However our new campaign is not just about speaking, it is about action, and so we are issuing a challenge to members to 'put your money where your mouth is'... We are stepping into this new campaigning season with confidence, based on the successes of our campaigns for a Financial Transaction Tax and the separation of retail and casino banking. What were once considered fringe interests are now mainstream thinking, and this would not have happened without the many letters and emails written by CSM members over the years. So over the coming months, CSM will be putting forward ideas for action and campaigning, building on the important work of groups such as the Living Wage Campaign and those who are calling for a cap on interest rates and curbs on doorstep lending. But our first priority is to encourage CSM members and their churches to join in with the 'Move Your Money' campaign, and at a national level, to call for a regulatory shift that enables greater shareholder responsibility and participation. In short, we want people to see that how and where they invest says as much about their values as possibly any other area of life. After all, where we put our money reveals our true priorities. The other aspect of “where our mouths are” is that financial transactions are meant to be built on relationships. The very word credit after all is derived from credo, implying a belief and trust between lender and borrower, buyer and seller, shareholder and corporate impact. Sadly however the relational aspect has been slowly but surely driven out of financial transactions. We will be campaigning to see this change.
Think of the snowball effect of thousands of people moving their money to places where profit isn’t the only bottom line. It has happened with fairly traded coffee, bananas and chocolate, so why not with money?
Yes, I’m a terrible person. I’ve been avoiding calls and emails from the Christian Socialist Movement for about a month now, and I’m still not sure if it is that that makes me the miserable worm that I am or whether it is just a symptom of my worminess. Either way, if I didn’t believe in Grace, I’m pretty sure I’d be going to hell. I mean, it’s one thing to avoid people who love Jesus (we’ve all been there), quite another to duck calls from people trying to promote justice for the poor. But rejecting calls from a combination? Not even Rob Bell thinks that’s okay. CSM have been asking me to write about moving my money from a bank to a more ethical money-house. It’s a worthy cause, too. Banks are, I think, almost fundamentally flawed institutions. We’ve all read about the ultra-complex world of ‘casino banking’ and we’re all feeling the effects of what a model of business without conscience or sense of consequence (raised to the status of priestly caste by Mamom-worshipping politicians of all three main parties) has done to the global economy. But just listen to almost any episode of Moneybox on Radio 4 and you get another, equally grim picture at another level: banks fighting against legal decisions that will protect ordinary people. Banks ignoring the legal judgements of regulatory authorities. Banks behaving like Somali warlords who know they control something essential to a population too weak to oppose their decisions. But, then, that’s hardly surprising. Organisations whose sole motivation is profit will do what it takes to make profit. Caring about human beings, doing the right thing, making the world a better place: these things do not please shareholders (and when we criticize banks we really must remember that while they are the priests sacrificing us all on the altar of a greedy death-cult, it is the shareholders who are their gods). Charities and public bodies are there to do good. The rest exist to make money, and damn the icebergs, as it were. This is one of the reasons why our current government’s mania for disposing of public bodies in favour of privately-owned ones is so disgusting. And it is why if, as Christians, we want to avoid doing harm in our daily lives, we shop ethically. We try to favour small or local businesses, always choose the fair-trade option if it is available and do not shop in supermarkets. We recognise that if this makes things more expensive, then we should consume less, because ending slavery also made things more expensive, but it was the right thing to do. But there is an obvious limit to what this can do. My coffee may be fairtrade and my clothes sweatshop free. But is the paint on my walls? Is the ceramic in my bathroom? And what of the steel in my car, the coltan in my phone and the hundreds of chemicals in the tins that house my sustainably-fished tuna? And what, CSM ask, about banks? Should we really be lending our money to these megasharks of the economic world? This is where my guilt (followed by not wanting to write this article) comes in. I don’t want to move my money. It’s a hassle. Moving from a global megacorp to a smaller business may well result in less convenience. Reapplying for loans and accounts, learning new PINs and frankly talking to any financial institution, however ethical, sounds about as appealing as dinner with David Cameron, Rupert Murdoch and that awful blond kid from Game of Thrones. And, honestly, I don’t know if I will do it. I want to. At least, I want to want to, if you know what I mean. But whether I do or not doesn’t change the fact that it is the right thing to do. The fact that I am a terrible person (Exhibit A: I avoid writing about doing the right thing because I don’t want to have to do it myself, Exhibit B: I avoid CSM calls like the man in the Poe story, trying to block out the sound of the tell-tale heart) doesn’t change the fact that disinvesting in banks is a good idea. But neither does it change the fact that disinvesting is not enough. I hate to sound defeatist, but with the best will and witness in the world, we will not convince everybody to do it. If people find it tough to care enough to buy chocolate or jeggings that don’t rely on slave labour, how in the name of Adam Smith and all his little wizards will we convince them to care about the stuff that’s difficult to change? Like paint and steel and iPhones and banks. People often say of Socialism that it is naïve – that it believes the best of people and that this unrealistic vision of the world is its weakness. But I am a Socialist precisely because I do not believe the best of people. I love them. I understand why, but I know that they (we) rarely choose to do the right thing voluntarily. And hey, that’s fine as long as nobody gets hurt. But people are getting hurt. Millions upon millions of them. And that’s why legislation is needed, not just to reform banking, but to reform our sick, unrealistic, anti-human global economy. How I wish that absolved me of any responsibility to do something personally to help, to do the right thing even if it changes nothing. But I’m a Christian. We don’t do right because it changes things. We do right because it is right, because it pleases God. It’s really very inconvenient. So, yes, fine, CSM. Fine! I’ll move my money. It may not be all at once, but I will. Are you happy now? Will you stop calling? Please?
Jonty also blogs for the Huffington Post and the Narnian Socialist Review
This article also appears on the Narnian Socialist review website... here
Jonathan Langley, 02/05/2012
See the original article as it appeared on the Premier Christian media's website here...
Trust lies at the heart of our transactions, you pay money and trust that you will gain something in return, from holidays to financial products, trust is key.
The amount of trust we put in our banks is up there with the trust we put in our education system to teach our children well and our health service to keep our well being in check. We put our money in banks because we believe that it will be safer than it would be under the mattress at home, it’s one of the most important trust relationships we enter into. Yet what do we actually trust our banks to do?
The banks most of us use do a great job of helping us to feel secure in our banking, they aim to provide excellent customer service , a range of financial products and appealing interest rates, 24-7 customer help-lines, flexible ways to deposit and access money and the rest of it. A great deal of effort is put into attracting you into the bank with the promise of security for your money and more often, to journey with you through life’s challenges, helping you along the way with a range of products designed to put you first.
At face value, this is great! Just as we expect our schools to put our children first and our NHS to put patients first, so our banks put customers first. Or so the advertising claims. It only takes seconds to realise that, of course this isn’t the case. We may put more trust in our banks than in any other business, but we know that at the end of the day, they are still businesses that share the common bottom line of all businesses, they exist to make money. This is what comes first; of course treating customers well is key to turning a profit, but I’m afraid that yes, you are a means to an end.
If we think about it, all the things we trust our banks to do focus on our side of the bank vault. Take a peek through the other side however, and a different story emerges. It can prove incredibly difficult to find out what your bank does with your money, but there are some who have taken it upon themselves to do just that: investigate and publicise the nature of the investments made by our most popular (and most trusted) high street banks and whose money they choose to invest. The findings open a number of ethical cans of worms, that as followers of Christ, I believe we should be concerned about.
From investments in the arms trade and propping up corrupt regimes to exploitation of the environment, excessive bonuses for directors to blatant tax avoidance, the picture painted is not a pretty one.
The independent monitoring body ‘ethical consumer’ rates all of the ‘big 5’ banks (Barclays, Lloyds group, Santander, RBS and HSBC) no higher than 4.5 out of 20 on their ethical rating system, with some scoring as low as 0.5 overall. Sites like these give a very useful break down of where you are inadvertently investing your money.
So what does this have to do with you? In trusting the banks to keep your money safe and give you a decent rate of interest you are, in quite a direct way, financing a range of investments that you yourself would perhaps wish to steer clear of, even things that you might condemn and campaign against in other ways.
Banks can very subtly straddle that divide between the way we think about trusted institutions that provide important services and the way we perceive big business (in often less positive terms). This is a call to rethink what we trust our institutions and businesses to do.
There are alternative banks, building societies and credit unions whose purpose is to invest ethically and locally, to be trusted by customers to work for the common good as well as to offer competitive services. You can find out more through CSM’s ‘Put your money where your mouth is’ campaign at www.thecsm.org.uk
Why entrust your money to businesses you cannot trust to hold the same values as you hold? Why settle for giving a proportionally small sum to good causes whilst the bulk of your money runs the risk of finding its way into dodgy investments that have damaging impacts on people and the planet?
Let’s bank on something worth while, in something we can trust.
Sam Buck is a member of the Christian Socialist Movement.
Sam Buck, 24/04/2012
The combination of a push of activists occupying streets across the globe, and the pull of an ever worsening economy, is brewing up the perfect storm for banking. With liquidity pricing at its highest since the fall of Lehman Brothers, it could well get a lot worse. But despite this, the fundamental role of banks in society still isn’t receiving the attention it deserves. Perhaps as a society we’ve become so blind to banking’s potential for good, that while we express frustration at the unacceptable behaviour of banks, we can’t actually imagine them doing anything else. But it doesn’t have to be this way. The role of banks is no longer an academic exercise, but a timely and fundamental question. Picture society as a human body. If money is its lifeblood, then banks should act as society’s heart – determining where that blood is required and pumping it across. If the heart is healthy, the body will be able to access the resources it needs to remain healthy. But without a conscious approach to the flow of money, the malaise in the society will feedback to the banks and infect them. The financial crisis has proven that when the banks fail, the whole of society suffers. And as the very organisations that brought the economy to its knees, it’s morally and practically right that banks take an active role in helping to build it back up again. So what should the future of banking look like? We believe that banks and money should act as enablers of positive change, but it feels as if the financial sector has lost its way in terms of purpose and potential. We need to see the industry focusing more on the real economy and supporting its future, rather than operating with a primary mission of delivering short-term shareholder returns. Research commissioned by Triodos shows that five in six people believe their bank should play a role in helping society. Two thirds (64%) wanted to see more investment in communities. Just 3% of savers feel banks are transparent about what happens to their savings once deposited. We can guess why. At present, only a fraction of the money lent and invested by the main banks is used to bring about positive change. Clearly the banks’ customers do not think this is good enough. It’s a call to action for policymakers, shareholders, and bank executives: they have to ensure the banking sector gives more back to society, rather than just taking. A compelling alternative to banking as we know it is a shift towards smaller banks, and more of them. It’s a model that could help banks to deliver benefits to society while limiting the financial sector’s potential to harm it. These smaller banks could operate on a human scale. They could specialise, and pass expertise onto their customers. The more focused they can remain on the direct impacts of the finance they provide, the more emphasis they can place on its environmental and social advantages. The Global Alliance for Banking on Values is an independent network of banks which aims to use finance to deliver sustainable development for people, communities and the environment. It demonstrates how a new model made up of smaller, interconnected banks can work. While they serve very different communities, from urban San Francisco to rural Mongolia, they learn from each other, sharing ideas on long-term sustainable thinking, new forms of ownership and economic cooperation. Crucially, scaled-down banks would be small enough to fail. One of the cruellest ironies of the financial crisis has been that banks – which often act as judge, jury and executioner for struggling businesses – have not been forced to play by their own rules. Arguably, smaller banks would not benefit from the economies of scale enjoyed by today’s banking behemoths. But, while it’s questionable whether these savings are passed on to the consumer, there’s no doubt that the cost of their failure has been. The banking industry owes an awful lot to society. A little open heart surgery is exactly what it needs to start making repayments.
Bevis Watts (Head of Business Banking, Triodos Bank). This article was first published in Green Futures magazine, January 2012.
Bevis Watts (Head of Business Banking, Triodos), 28/03/2012
There are plenty of reasons to be angry with the big 5 UK high street banks right now. Recklessness, risky spending, tax avoidance, abusing government support, continuing to award obscene bonuses to senior management to name but a few. But here's one that might not seem immediately apparent: climate change. The connection between your high street banks and climate change may not appear immediately obvious. When you pop into your local bank to deposit some cash you are greeted by a friendly cashier in a shiny clean enterprise, not a dirty building with a massive chimney spewing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. But who do you think finances the factories? Factories require large amounts of capital, and without some serious help from a bank most would not get built. Banks provide direct corporate loans as well as investment banking services (such as helping companies sell bonds and shares.) And this damning recent study shows that UK high street banks are among the biggest culprits. The study put Barclays, RBS and HSBC in the top 20 world banks financing coal-fired electricity and coal mining since 2005. Barclays (in fifth place) has spent a phenomenal €11,514 million. This includes providing more than €35 million in finance to Indian Mining company Vedanta Resources which has resulted in widespread illegal tree felling, intruded on local tribes and caused water scarcity and pollution. It has also provided Dynegy-LS Power with credit as they have built 12 new coal power plants in the USA – these plants will put out more than 65 million tonnes of CO2 per year! RBS, HSBC and Barclays all participated in financing €70 billion for energy giant E-ON which, in 2008, proposed to build the first coal-fired power station in the UK for 30 years in Kingsworth, Kent, as well as announcing plans to build a further seventeen coal and gas-fired power station in Russia. The report also points out the hypocrisy in these banks' statements: RBS states it ensures that “As a financial services group our direct impact on the environment in terms of climate change … is limited”. Not that limited, since it spent €10,694 million financing coal since 2005, and is the UK's biggest tar sands funder. In fact, there has been such anger about RBS' alleged greenwashing that it has been forced to pull out as a sponsor of Climate Week. In contrast, some banks' ethical investment policy prohibits it from financing any oil, coal or gas projects. But remember, banks use your money. You give a bank your money to keep it safe, the bank loans it to someone else to make money from interest. The more people who use a bank, the more money the bank has to turn into profit. If we stop giving money to these banks, if we show them that we do not support dirty coal factories and tar sands, if we trust our money instead to banks that invest in clean, ethical, sustainable projects then these banks will not be able to turn a profit. So move your money – and give the coal-financing banks something to be angry about. To find out more about banks' dodgy dealings go to www.banktrack.org Sarah Arnold is Co-Director (International Programmes) of UKYCC, and is currently an economics student at the University of Edinburgh.
Sarah Arnold, 28/03/2012
It is easy, now that “banker” has become a dirty word, to dismiss the entire industry as a complete waste of time. The resignation declaration from a Goldman Sachs’ executive director, published in the New York Times on Wednesday and referring to a bank whose environment is “as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it”, has swept round Twitter like a cyclone, further confirming the public’s view of the shocking state of the industry. But it needn’t be like that. The reputation of the high street and of investment banks has been tarnished by years of careless investment, disregard for customer service and a display of arrogance only slightly less extreme than Mr Banks’s institution in Mary Poppins. At the same time, smaller, less flashy banks and building societies have been continuing to lend responsibly, safeguarding depositors’ money and investing in projects that have people, the environment and local communities at the heart of their decision making. We need banks. We want to be able to put our money away safely, to have access to it when we want to spend it, and we want our savings to be growing. Charities and social enterprises frequently need access to loan finance as much as their profit-making counterparts. But it’s not true that ethical banking is eccentric, risky or low-yield. Ethical banks offer mainstream, regulated products. An ethical ISA will offer you the same return as many of its high street counterparts, but the money invested will be doing good while it waits for you. Indeed, returns on ethical ISAs are likely to be sustained rather than enter a downward spiral the moment you’ve signed up. Charity Bank’s policy is to lend only to charities and social enterprises, while being fair and transparent and offering customers a competitive return. Our message to Greg Smith, the disillusioned executive would be: come and talk to us; banks can be different. Mark Howland, Charity Bank
Matt Howland, Charity Bank, 26/03/2012
I am excited that today CSM is launching its "Put your money where your mouth is" campaign. I have become more and more convinced that transformation in countries only happens through movements, and that movements only happen when folks with a passion for certain policies flesh them out in their lifestyle. Our nation has seen too much of those who espouse certain policies but whose lifestyles look no different to anyone else. There are also plenty of us who studiously model a different way of living, that springs from a different set of values, yet step back from arguing to see those values fleshed out in public policy. Both are required, and to be a movement, you need both. As the Christian Socialist Movement, we are in a unique and potentially prophetic position, to make good the word "movement" in our title, speaking and acting in a way that goes against the consumerist, individualist grain of our society. Never has this more been needed, as society's ability to even imagine a different way is shrinking fast. People need to see what community based on co-operation rather than competition could look like. THE CONTEXT Over the last year, it has been great to see that there has been a lot of discussion and debate about the ethics of capitalism. However our new campaign is not just about speaking, it is about action, and so we are issuing a challenge to members to 'put your money where your mouth is'... We are stepping into this new campaigning season with confidence, based on the successes of our campaigns for a Financial Transaction Tax and the separation of retail and casino banking. What were once considered fringe interests are now mainstream thinking, and this would not have happened without the many letters and emails written by CSM members over the years. So over the coming months, CSM will be putting forward ideas for action and campaigning, building on the important work of groups such as the Living Wage Campaign and those who are calling for a cap on interest rates and curbs on doorstep lending. But our first priority is to encourage CSM members and their churches to join in with the 'Move Your Money' campaign, and at a national level, to call for a regulatory shift that enables greater shareholder responsibility and participation. In short, we want people to see that how and where they invest says as much about their values as possibly any other area of life. After all Jesus said in Luke 12:34 that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Where we put our money reveals our true priorities. The other aspect of “where our mouths are” is that financial transactions are meant to be built on relationships. The very word credit after all is derived from credo, implying a belief and trust between lender and borrower, buyer and seller, shareholder and corporate impact. Sadly however the relational aspect has been slowly but surely driven out of financial transactions. We will be campaigning to see this change. Check out the info on the campaign page. http://www.thecsm.org.uk/Groups/191967/Christian_Socialist_Movement/About_CSM/Put_Your_Money/Put_Your_Money.aspx Think of the snowball effect of thousands of people moving their money to places where profit isn’t the only bottom line. It has happened with fairly traded coffee, bananas and chocolate, so why not with money? We are working with the “move your money” campaign – www.moveyourmoney.org.uk. It contains very useful information about moving your or your church’s money to better places, especially exploring the vital role of credit unions. Find out what your money is doing while you’re not looking! Where are banks and other bodies investing and using your money? Reports are available from Ethical Consumer magazine - http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/home/bankingspecialreport.aspx They provide excellent resources and explanations as to how different banks, mortgage firms and investment companies use your money when you’re not looking. Why do we believe that when we give money to charity it is OUR money feeding the poor in say, Rwanda, but when we invest in stocks and shares, it is not OUR money that may be exploiting natural resources in the developing world, or causing environmental pollution? Being separated by a few links in the chain does not remove us from responsibility. The same must obviously apply to how we invest our finances together, and for many Christians this happens actively through their churches. Could you find out how your church is investing its money and with whom (both at a local and a national level). It may be time to encourage your church to also put its money where its mouth is. Think of the impact of hundreds of churches moving their money to places where it will be invested locally and invested for the common good rather than for fast profit. There have already been large ripples in the United States from many churches re-investing in a thoughtful way. “Before Thanksgiving, churches moved $55 million away from Wall Street banks and pledged to move at least $100 million more. In late February, a San Francisco coalition moved $10 million from Wells Fargo.” http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2012/03/12/442286/churches-lent-mortgage-crisis/ We are partners in the Move Your Money campaign. Find out more about the campaign at www.moveyourmoney.org.uk
Andy Flannagan, CSM Director, 26/03/2012