How ethical is Barclays?
Our research highlights several ethical issues with Barclays, including its approach to climate change, habitats and resources, animal rights, human rights, workers’ rights, arms and military supply, political activities, anti-social finance, tax conduct, and being the target of a boycott call.
Below we outline some of these issues. To see the full detailed stories, and Barclay's overall ethical rating, please sign in or subscribe.
Barclays was ranked as the highest financier of fossil fuels out of all UK and European banks in a 2022 Rainforest Action Network report, titled ‘Banking on Climate Chaos: Fossil fuel finance report 2022’. The report examined 60 of the largest banks globally, and Barclays ranked as the 7th highest financier of fossil fuels worldwide.
Barclays lost a whole mark under our Boycott Call category. The campaign group People and Planet is calling for divestment from and a boycott of Barclays.
It states “We want Barclays to divest from all fossil fuel pipelines, fracking & fossil fuel extraction across the globe… If we’re serious about preventing catastrophic warming we can’t dig any new coal mines, drill any new fields or build any more pipelines. Not a single one. Since 2016 Barclays have pumped 144.897 BILLION US dollars into fossil fuel companies. We cannot let these projects go ahead. We need to keep fossil fuels in the ground."
It did however score a best rating for its Environmental Reporting, showing that it does have a reasonable understanding of what its main areas of environmental impact are – even if its actions don’t match up.
According to ‘Don’t Bank on the Bomb’, Barclays invested a total of $6,286.2 million in companies that manufactured nuclear weapons between January 2019 and October 2020. This includes investments in weapons manufacturers such as BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon Technology.
Barclays is also facing increasing scrutiny over its shareholdings in, and loans and financial services provided to, companies selling weapons to Israel.
In October 2022, campaigners picketed dozens of Barclays branches across the UK, highlighting the bank’s complicity in Israel’s regime of military occupation.
According to Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), “Research by Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Campaign Against Arms Trade, and War on Want has identified that Barclays invests over £1 billion in companies supplying weapons and military technology to Israel, used in militarised repression of Palestinians. We are calling on Barclays to stop facilitating Israel’s violence by ending all financial ties with companies arming Israel."
According to a report by Banktrack, ‘Investing in the Military Cartel’, Barclays had investments of more than US$1,105 million in companies directly linked to the Myanmar military or with relationships to Myanmar state-owned enterprises. Since the military takeover in 2021, Myanmar has been run by a government renowned for human rights abuses and clamp downs on protests, including through torture.
Barclays has operations in Bangladesh, China, Egypt, Mexico, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia, all of which are on Ethical Consumer’s list of Oppressive Regimes.
Barclays lost a whole mark in our Animal Rights category. In 2021 the organisation Sinergia Animal ranked 69 global banks and investors on their policies on animal welfare for farmed animals, animal testing, fashion, conservation, education, entertainment, and commercial activities (like circuses or horse racing).
The banks were scored in four sectors: animal farming, animal testing, pets & fashion and governance. Barclays got an overall score of 7%.
It scored 1/20 for animal farming, 0/6 for animal testing, 0/8 for pets & fashion and 2/8 for governance.
It was also criticised by the campaign group Feedback in its report ‘Butchering the Planet’. It named Barclays as one of the “largest creditors” to the world’s 35 largest meat and dairy corporations in the last five years.
The figures showed that it was the second biggest creditor overall; it provided just short of $5 billion in underwriting and approximately $10 billion in loans between 2015 and 2019.
According to the report, Barclays was responsible for providing loans and/or underwriting for companies including the following mega meat and dairy companies: JBS, Nestlé, Cargill and Danone.
Barclays is not very transparent about its investments, making only vague or unsubstantiated claims. It’s unclear how robust its investment policies really are. It has investments in lots of questionable companies, such as Amazon, Walmart, General Electric, Shell, Coca-Cola and others.
It lost a whole mark for Excessive Director’s pay in our ratings system, because its highest paid director received £5.2m in total compensation in 2021.
It also has subsidiaries in tax havens, including the Cayman Islands, Guernsey, Hong Kong, Ireland, Isle of Man, Jersey, Luxembourg, Mauritius, Monaco, Singapore, Switzerland and Delaware (US). Many of these were high risk company types for likely use of tax avoidance, including holding companies in the Cayman Islands. It lost a whole mark in our Tax Conduct category.
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See how Barclays compares to other banks in our guide to current accounts.