the Co-operative Bank updates Ethical Policy and reveals how it has helped grow total lending

the Co-operative Bank updates Ethical Policy and reveals how it has helped grow total lending

The Co-operative Bank today (2nd February 2009) unveiled a radical new Ethical Policy. The value of business turned away since launching its ethical stance in 1992 has now passed the £1 billion mark; however, over the same period, the Bank’s total commercial lending has grown from £571 million in 1992 to £4.4 billion in 2008, an average of 14% per annum.

The Bank revealed that its ethical positioning has helped underpin its strong business performance, which saw a further 15% growth in customer lending in 2008 as well as lower bad debt charges compared to 2007. It also registered a 40% increase in personal savings (which topped £4bn for the first time), and a 65% increase in current account opening.

Today, the Bank is restating its commitment to continue to lend and to do so responsibly, with some 28% of the Bank’s corporate and business ‘lending’ going to support social and environmental organisations. Furthermore, it reiterated its pledge to fund £400 million of positive green initiatives and £25 million for microfinance, in line with its customers’ expectations.

In the autumn last year The Co-operative Bank, which is unique in consulting its customers on who it will and will not do business with, initiated its 5th Ethical Policy consultation.

A record 80,000 customers responded to a detailed questionnaire inviting account holders to express their views on topics as wide ranging as human rights, international development, ecology and animal welfare.

In the light of its customers’ views, from now on the Bank will decline business in connection with: biofuels that have a particularly high global warming potential, organisations that advocate discrimination and incitement to hatred and any exploitation of the great apes.

Since the launch of the Policy, the bank has declined over £1 billion of potential finance. Funding requests for fossil fuel extraction and production have resulted in the highest value of declines at £169m, followed by finance for cosmetic manufacturers utilising animal testing (£118m) and oppressive regimes (£112m).

David Anderson, The Co-operative Bank’s Chief Executive, said: “Never has it been more important that responsible lending is prudent lending and I’m pleased to say that The Co-operative Bank’s Ethical Policy has stood us in good stead for more than 15 years now.

“The Bank’s Ethical Policy has led to more than £1 billion in unethical business being declined, but it has also contributed to a massive £3.8 billion net growth in our corporate lending”

The Bank’s new Ethical Policy mandates the following:

The Bank will extend its exclusion beyond the extraction and production of fossil fuels to those businesses engaged in the distribution of fuels with a particularly high global warming impact, particularly unconventional oil sources (such as tar sands) and certain biofuels. The development of these fuels has the potential for significant local environmental impacts and will accelerate increases in global greenhouse gas emissions.

Certain weapons are unacceptable, regardless of the nation deploying them. The Bank is extending its policy on the arms trade to include the manufacture or transfer of indiscriminate weapons such as cluster bombs and depleted uranium munitions.

The Bank, which already avoids organisations involved in animal experimentation for cosmetic or household products, will extend its policy to cover activities connected with the exploitation of great apes, be it for experimentation or general commercial use. They are human’s closest living relatives, and have cognitive abilities and a degree of self-awareness not shown by other animals.

The Bank strongly supports freedom of speech as a basic human right and the right of organisations to express views or beliefs that may be perceived by others as offensive. However, if such views are coupled with incitement to hatred then organisations will be declined, be it on grounds of sexual orientation or race.

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