This piece promises not to be a diatribe against the banking establishment for the current financial crises. After all, inappropriate things were done by the many in the sub-prime mortgage flood, but many were also not involved in negligent profiteering. And lest we forget, unless you live in one of the few communist holdouts on the planet, the motive for a capitalist free market is: profit and growth. We are all supporting that directly or indirectly.
But, the brilliant thing about the idea of the free market and democratic society is the freedom of choice. That last proviso is coming back in a multitude of ways to haunt those in greedy ivory towers. The OWS movement has seen a potential for positive change – an active participation, for once in the freedom of democracy – and now consumers are voting with their feet another way: ethical banking, instead of the bonus-bloated high street branches. Good for you!
As the world waits for new regulations to stop the same financial meltdown from happening again, it’s becoming clear that those in government might not push any real reformation through at all. So, recently in London and Leeds, customers took part in the ‘move your money’ campaign – essentially standing outside of Barclays and other high street giants, and tearing up their bank cards – opting to move their accounts to an ethical bank.
What is an ethical bank? It’s one of the now many establishments, like the Co-operative bank in the UK, with more than 300 branches, also building societies and credit unions top the recent list published by Ethical Consumer magazine. What all of these mean (each has their own conditions), was put rather succinctly in a recent Guardian piece, ‘This bars the Co-op from lending to companies involved in a range of activities from the arms trade and animal testing to genetic engineering and global warming.’ But other ethical organizations do similar things – connecting the dots between customers, commerce and the planet. Makes sense, doesn’t it?