Ethical Consumer Week 2020: Using your money for good

Anna Clayton and Clare Carlile talk to Rosie Venner (RV) and Dr Justin Thacker (JT) of the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility about their work on ethical finance, tax justice and appearing at Ethical Consumer Week 2020.

Can you tell us a little bit about the ECCR and your work?

RV: ECCR’s vision is to see money used in a way that creates a fairer, more sustainable world. Our name – the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility – reflects a long history in working with church groups to hold big corporations accountable.

More recently, we launched the Money Makes Change programme to help individuals and churches make more ethical choices with their money – from which bank account you choose, to where you buy your coffee.

JT: Another strand of ECCR’s work is Church Action for Tax Justice. We campaign on issues of tax justice both nationally and globally, to address poverty and inequality. Our fundamental aim is to campaign for a fairer, greener tax system which serves the common good and especially the needs of the most vulnerable

For Ethical Consumer Week 2020, you’re going to be holding a workshop on matching up your values and financial decisions. Can you talk a bit about why you think this is important?

RV: Values are often behind what really motivates us, for people of all faiths and none. It’s about how we think society should be and how people should relate to each other. Values are at the heart of the things we get passionate about. But often we compartmentalise things, and our financial decisions don’t match up with our values.

For example, I believe men and women should be treated equally – but what do I know about the businesses behind the products and services I buy? Are they transparent about their gender pay gap and working to close it?

This workshop is about shining a light on the things we care about and then translating that into practical action with our finances – because there’s power in what we do with money and how we raise our voices as consumers and campaigners. 

How can we use our day-to-day financial decisions to build more resilient communities?

RV: We need to take a step back and think about where our money is going and what it is shaping. It’s an injustice that poverty exists and that not all workers in our communities receive a wage they can live on. But we can be intentional about choosing products and services from companies that pay a Living Wage.

We can make a commitment to supporting local social enterprises who reinvest their profits back into our local economies. Switching to an ethical bank account or ethical savings account or exploring ethical investing might feel like bigger decisions but they can have a huge impact.

Even with just a small amount of money you could invest in a community-led housing development to provide people with decent, affordable homes or fund a local community-run renewable energy scheme. There are endless ways to make a difference with your finances!  

Tax justice is another big campaign area for you. What is the importance of this for communities?

JT: In the UK, between £35 and £90 billion a year is not paid in tax that should be paid. Just imagine what those sums could do for communities right across the country!

That money could ensure schools are properly funded, nurses and care workers are adequately paid, that council services are no longer cut but instead supported. We could end child poverty and homelessness. Tax Justice is about fighting for a fairer tax system in which individuals and corporations pay their share.

It’s about replacing corporate greed with a focus on the common good.

You also talk about holding businesses accountable. Could you talk about some of the ways you see for consumers to do this?

RV: It’s important to be informed consumers. We need to be aware of ‘greenwash’ and other ways in which businesses might seek to convince us that they are more ethical than they are!

Ethical Consumer’s ratings are a great place to do your research and arm yourself with the facts you need to engage directly with companies, perhaps about their supply chains or plastic packaging. Look for where you can influence.

That might be through raising concerns with a local store manager or making a noise on social media. Check out local campaigns like Plastic Free Communities or Labour behind the Label’s work on the UK garment industry. There are also some excellent independently accredited schemes that you can encourage businesses to work towards like the Fair Tax Mark

Most importantly, talk to others. Get your friends, family, colleagues and neighbours involved. The more voices we raise the harder we are to ignore!

Rosie Venner is the National Programme Manager for Money Makes Change, a programme of the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility.

Dr Justin Thacker is a Director at Church Action for Tax Justice (a programme of Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility).

Both will be taking part in Ethical Consumer Week 2020.

Put your money where your values are

Saturday 24th October 2020 - 16:00 - 17:30

How can we align our values with where we save, invest, spend and campaign? From tackling climate change to creating greener, fairer jobs, this interactive workshop will help you take action on the issues you are passionate about. Hosted by the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility.