Co-op Bank agrees to external auditing of sustainability report

Following this year’s publication of the Co-op Bank’s ‘Values and Ethics Report 2018’, the Customer Union for Ethical Banking raised the alarm after its eagle-eyed discovery that the report lacked external scrutiny from a third party.

This is vital for ensuring that the bank is sticking to its ethics, particularly now that it is mostly owned by private equity funds.

Despite dropping it, the Co-op Bank apparently understood the importance of external assurance. The Values and Ethics page of its website boasts, “we're also independently audited every year, to make sure we keep our commitments and maintain an Ethical Policy that reflects our customers' values.”

Elsewhere on its website the bank states, “We were the first bank in the world to produce an independently verified sustainability report in 1998, and we have led the way in reporting ever since.” Had the bank not ditched independent verification, this year’s report would have marked its twentieth anniversary of this great achievement.

The Customer Union contacted the bank to seek a clear commitment to reinstate auditing next year and encouraged its members to do the same.

Following this pressure, the Co-op Bank stated the following:

“Some customers and customer union members have expressed concern that the report was not externally audited this year. We would like to reassure customers that, while the report was not externally audited, it did receive a high degree of internal scrutiny to an exacting standard.

We are committed to ensuring that next year’s report is subject to independent specialist third party audit. We’ll discuss our plans for the report with the Customer Union.”

The commitment to resume external auditing is fantastic news and is a great illustration of how collective pressure can change corporate practice.

For customers of the Co-op Bank who are interested in joining the Customer Union, please visit the Save Our Bank website.

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