QUICKIE GUIDE: The ethix of money

Can you invest in what you believe? Yea, defo. As part of our “quickie” series, we aim to give you big ideas in a quick read time. Let’s go…

Iona Bain


What are your money morals?

You’re a good person, right? You share petitions for worthy causes on Facebook. You buy The Big Issue. You’re decent to live with (but woe betide anyone who steals your cheese).

But can we all go a little deeper? Every time you spend or save, you are giving money to all kinds of companies. So do they deserve it? Do they behave decently? Are you happy with the choices you’re making as a consumer?

“Let’s get ethical, ethical…”


You’ve got the power. It’s called cold, hard cash. You could be using your money to drive the kind of changes you want to see in the world. Whether you’re mad about preserving our environment or furious about tax avoidance, you can choose to support or avoid companies in accordance with your values. 

Knowledge is power


Sort out your ‘naughty’ and ‘nice’ list. Ethical Consumer rates various companies based on all sorts of ethical criteria, from use of palm oil to whether they support Donald Trump. Good With Money is also a terrific resource, only stamping its coveted Good Egg trademark on companies that can pass its rigorous tests. These sites should help you think about the brands, services and shops you use everyday – do you know their supply chain? Their record on tax, environmental strain and employee rights? If you don’t like what’s going on, vote with your feet. And before you come over all cynical, boycotts work: SeaWorld agreed to stop keeping Orca Whales in captivity after a worldwide consumer backlash caused visitor numbers to plummet.

Bank better


Gratuitous picture of James Norton. You’re welcome.

Most of us don’t think about whether our bank is doing more harm than good. Sadly, there aren’t many options that will guarantee a clean conscience. There’s the Co-operative Bank, which still has an ethical lending policy of promising not to hand your money to evil dictators or other wrong uns. It’s had a rough few years following the disastrous buy-out of the Britannia Building Society, which is one reason why Triodos is becoming much more popular these days. James Norton, star of McMafia, became a recent convert after realising how much criminal money gets laundered through our banking system. Triodos offers current accounts, savings AND investments. You could also save or borrow money with Charity Bank, which will only funnel your cash towards charitable causes. Savers get get interest rates of up to 1.4%. 

Invest in what you believe


We’ve talked about the benefits of investing already, but are you aware that many mainstream funds invest in miners, oil companies betting firms, distillers and porn publishers? How do you feel about that? If the answer is “eugh” then ethical funds were made for you. But you’ve got to get clear on what you think is “ethical”. This is a pretty neat table of all the UK’s ethical funds and their policies. FYI, a company you hate might be in an ethical fund just because it publishes loads of information on recycling or energy efficiency. So look out for “impact investing” funds. These go the extra mile to find socially useful or progressive companies, like those in renewable energy or social housing.

DISCLAIMER: My finances aren’t purely ethical – hypocrite klaxon! – but I am slowly getting there. I mostly bank with TSB, which doesn’t claim to be ethical and is part-owned by Lloyds, but it does offer an admirably transparent account of its activities and positions itself as a challenger to the high street monopoly. As flawed as they can be, I also prefer building societies to banks when it comes to my savings as they are owned by members and have a stronger sense of accountability as a result. I moved some of my investments out of funds I felt were ethically compromised last year (entirely based on my personal criteria) and am definitely looking to move more of my money into explicitly ethical options this year. Watch this space…

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