April 4, 2007
photo - Cwmni Gwynt Teg (Fair Wind) in Wales, UK
My 1st post, scary and exciting.
I feel so lucky to have been included in this blog with these great women who have already influenced changes in my own life through their recent posts. But what to write? My current pet topic is eco building, but with April 5th approaching (deadline for ISA's in the UK) my thoughts have been around banking.
For years I prided myself on living ethically, being veggie, eating organic, and caring for the environment etc. Then, in 1995, I found out my bank, my little (so I thought) Scottish bank was financing the arms trade, among other unsavoury things. I was horrified and wanted to switch immediately.
I learned that The Co-operative Bank had responded to customer demand in '92 (yay) and developed an extensive ethical policy. They are now well known for SMILE, their highly acclaimed online banking facility, which helps as they don't have a lot of high street branches. I liked that they were not investing in companies etc. which would harm the environment, make or trade arms, hold 3rd World Debt or support oppressive regimes. This was all great. But could it be better?
Yes it could.
When I went self employed in 1996 I discovered Triodos Bank. They didn't have high street banks for me either, but they had a totally inspiring ethical policy. In their own words 'Triodos Bank only lends to organisations which create real social, environmental and cultural value'. And they mean that. You can see all projects they have loaned to or invested in on their website. Most banks refuse to disclose such details at all.
They began in the Netherlands in 1980 and now also operate in the UK, Belgium and Spain, and have an agent in Germany. One of the nicest things about banking with them is the mail. No more letters encouraging you to get into debt so you can have the latest car, the hottest holiday or the biggest TV. Nope, with Triodos you get updates on who they've helped with lovely profiles and great photo's. It's so inspiring and un-banky, and it gives you the most incredibly good feeling to know your savings are doing something so positive.
As well as a traditional savings accounts they have Charity Saver accounts, so you can direct your savings towards causes that are particularly dear to your heart, like wildlife, human rights, renewable energy or social housing to name a few. At the time I was spending my free time campaigning against GM trails near our local Organic Farm so I opted for an Organic Saver Account. Years later Triodos helped when the farm shop needed rebuilt. That felt good. They've also help local artists with studio space, which I know you crafty types will approve of. Honestly, this bank is GREAT.
We have enormous power to create positive change by where we keep our money, as well as where we spend it. Not all countries have such great examples as Triodos but many have banks similar to the Co-operative bank. And it's not just savings accounts, but also investments, pensions, mortgages and all the other ways we deal with the bigger finances in our lives. It's worth having a search to see what options are available where you live. Through Triodos I even bought shares in a windfarm!
I've added a selection of UK links below to get you started and also some worldwide links. Please feel free to use the comments section to let us all know of other links that you recommend. Oh, and I've not forgotten about alternative currency, just keeping that for another post. Happy saving...
The Ecology Building Society
Ethical Investors (Mortgage, Pension & ISA options)
Australia - MECU
Australia - Savings & Loans Credit Union
Australia - Australian Ethical
Belgium - Triodos Bank
Canada - Citizens Bank
Denmark - JAK
France - Institut de Dévelopement de l'Economie Sociale
France - Société Financiere de la NEF
Germany - GLS Bank
Germany - Triodos Bank
Italy - Banca Etica
Netherlands - Triodos Bank
Spain - Triodos Bank
Sweden - JAK
Switzerland - Alternative Bank (nice graphics)
USA - Common Good Bank