Money news for Jan/Feb 2020

Catch up on all the important ethical news in the financial sector.

Equator Banks ignore civil society

The Equator Banks revised principles have let down civil society. In November 2019, Ethical Consumer joined over 300 organisations, from Transition Edinburgh to Friends of the Earth Australia, in signing a letter to the association of Equator Banks asking them to stop financing climate change and to respect Indigenous Peoples’ rights.

The Equator Principles are a set of rules for banks on how to finance big infrastructure projects in a socially and environmentally responsible manner.

However, as just one example of their failure, in 2016, 14 signatory banks were involved in financing the Dakota Access Oil Pipeline.

This pipeline was fiercely opposed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and allies because of the threat it posed to their water sources. Civil society groups then mobilised as the ‘Equator Banks Act!’ coalition and petitioned the banks, which promised to strengthen their commitments. As the two-year revision of the principles came to a close, civil society again called on the banks to act.

But the new principles fail to take the climate crisis seriously, merely noting that banks “have a role to play in improving the availability of climate-related information”. There is no requirement for alignment with Paris Agreement objectives, or clarity on what measures should be taken if projects do not align with emissions reductions goals.

Regarding Indigenous Peoples Rights, the new principles have been said to amount to “a steamroller process designed to move a project forward with knowledge of – but regardless of – impacts on Indigenous Peoples.”

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Last year, Exxon Mobil invested £5 billion in new fossil fuel exploration.

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Co-op Bank teams up with Customer Union

In November, the Co-op Bank signed a recognition agreement with the Customer Union for Ethical Banking, in a move which represents the first time a UK business has formally recognised a union of its customers.

Ethical Consumer was involved in setting up the Customer Union in 2016 as an independent union of Co-operative Bank customers. Since then, it has been engaging directly with the bank to represent members’ interests and hold the bank to account on its Ethical Policy – just like a regular trades union.

The agreement establishes guidelines for regular meetings, consultation and collaboration.

Ryan Brightwell of the Customer Union said:

“Importantly, this agreement doesn’t compromise our independence. It is an agreement that we will negotiate to represent our members’ interests. We don’t expect to agree all the time, but this agreement means we commit to work constructively for a good outcome.”

For more information see the Save our Bank website.

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