Confessions of an ethical bank switcher
Mark Engineer of Extinction Rebellion Lewes has been protesting against Barclays Bank’s fossil fuel funding activities for over two years. But it was only this September that he ditched them as his own bank – and discovered how easy it is to make the move.
You probably think I’m going to tell you that most high street banks invest billions in fossil fuels. That it’s driving the climate and environmental emergency. That the best thing you can do is vote with your feet. That genuinely ethical alternatives are out there.
I’m going to say switching’s generally pretty easy, right? That you can go to www.switchit.money and see how your bank rates, and who else is out there. That you won’t have to worry about transferring over your standing orders and monthly payments, because your new bank will probably do that for you. Right?
Well…yes. That’s all true. But I have a terrible confession to make.
For the past two years or so I’ve been involved in activism against the financial sector. One of the prime targets has always been Barclays. You’re probably familiar with the facts, but here they are. Europe’s biggest funder of fossil fuel projects. Over $100bn invested in fossil fuels since the 2105 Paris agreement. Recently rejected a shareholder call to take meaningful action to phase out fossil fuel investment. Ah yes, that Barclays.
I’ve attended anti-Barclays demos. Been involved in street theatre. Written a film script. Participated in online actions. And all this time, who have I been banking with?
Yup. ‘Fraid so. I’ve no excuses. Apart from being human. Apart from switching being always something really important that I’d do ‘tomorrow.’ It’s been a deep and abiding source of shame.
Well, last month I finally did it. And yes, it was easy. And yes, it felt great! When I open my wallet, I no longer have that card staring at me like the eye of Sauron. And the financial sector has so much pressure on it right now, from activists, shareholders, consumers and many other quarters, that it’s actually a really good time to switch. (Or so I tell myself, to lessen the guilt.)
So I’m not here to tell you anything. I’m here to ask you not to be like me. To click here right now. It’s not just Barclays; HSBC are dreadful, Lloyds are far from great. And there are plenty of other villains.
When you’ve switched, write to the CEO, the Chair, the Head of Investments and anyone else you can find, and explain why you’ve taken your money elsewhere. I’ve already done it, and already had replies. Because losing customers equals losing money, and money is the language they understand best. It’s the only way they can be made to stop the damage they’re wreaking.