Writing in the 17th July edition of the Friend on the complexities of divestment, Gill Westcott reminds us that the Co-op, despite its faults, still offers the only nationally available current account that avoids investing in fossil fuels as well as eschewing the arms trade and some other vices. It has consulted 74,000 customers and revisited its ethical policy, concluding:
“As we rebuild the Bank, we have continued to apply our Ethical Policy to how we run the business. We remain the only bank on the high street with a clear customer led ethical policy which gives customers a say in how their money is used. Adherence to co-operative values and ethics is now written into the constitution of the Bank to ensure that this vital aspect of our heritage is maintained”.
Amongst its commitments is one which is relevant to Gill’s letter:
“We will not provide banking services to any business or organisation whose core activity contributes to global climate change, via the extraction or production of fossil fuels (oil, coal, gas and shale gas), with an extension to the distribution of those fuels that have a higher global warming impact (e.g. tar sands and certain biofuels). To continue reading, click on this link.
Gill continues: “while it is good to invest ethically, the biggest pot of money which belongs to most of us is our pension pot, over which pension funds have direct control. Other funds are held by local authorities (on our behalf, presumably), churches, universities and so on”.
We note that this movement is spreading worldwide. Several American cities are committed to divestment and many students – Harvard above – are also campaigning for their universities to divest and reinvest.
Gill points out: “A public movement is beginning to persuade these institutions that there is a real moral boundary in investing in planetary destruction, and that there are additional risks involved in holding fossil-fuel-based assets, which might become stranded if real measures are taken to limit climate change . . .
“Divestment on a large enough scale will push up the costs of producing fossil fuels and a decline in output and use is much more likely”.
Interested readers may want to get the latest news from the fossil fuel divestment movement at http://gofossilfree.org/what-is-fossil-fuel-divestment/