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Banking with who?

September 13, 2021

Black horses running on the beach. Bikes for hire in London. “We Are Not an Island” billboards.

These might bring three of the biggest UK banks to mind - Lloyds, Santander and HSBC. Along with Barclays and NatWest, they make up the “Big Five” in the UK.

Many of us may have a bank account with these companies already, or we may be considering opening a new one with them. This choice is influenced by a variety of factors like size, financial offers or reputation.

Banking with who? logo

But what about their contributions to environmental and social injustice?

Do they fund the fossil fuel industry?

Do they fund the arms trade?

Do they fund immigration detention centres?

The “Big Five” all fund fossil fuels to varying degrees, with Barclays and HSBC being the worst in Europe. This is not only limited to existing projects either: despite us being in the midst of the climate and ecological crises, they continue to fund new projects! Surely this has to stop immediately?

Money is also poured into weapons companies, which results in the loss of millions of innocent lives and neighbourhoods, not to mention the huge amount of emissions released in the process. Why are they still banking on bombs? What if that money was building peace instead?

And, in a world where Black lives truly mattered, would there still be funding of oppressive private prisons in the USA, where people of colour are disproportionately affected? Whilst some banks have more recently stopped supporting the sector (for now), stronger commitments are needed from all to ban funding in any sector that is furthering injustice.

These were just three examples. The list is long...

SOS-UK, a student-led educational charity, is currently running a campaign called Banking with Who? to raise awareness of these very issues and encourage young people to consider sustainability before opening their first bank account.

We can all agree that teaching about money in schools is really important. But it’s important who does it and why. Big banks are currently going into schools, developing name recognition and building a rapport with a whole generation of young people –or future customers¹. You can bet these banks aren’t talking about their role in climate breakdown and soaring social inequality through the dodgy industries they fund! We’re tackling this head-on -by going into colleges and sixth forms to talk with young people, giving them the fullpicture and empower them to make a more informed choice.

From more ethical banks to using more progressive structures like building societies and credit unions, the campaign does highlight alternatives too i.e. what “responsible banking” really looks like!

Ultimately, money can have a positive impact when channelled into more sustainable areas instead. And there is no doubt we need to immediately cease funding of destructive fossil fuels and other harmful industries. Whilst there are structural issues with the financial system that need to change too, thinking about who we bank with can make a difference.

And young people can lead the charge.

The more people that take action, the bigger the impact. We have

  • opportunities for young people to get more involved in this area
  • free workshops colleges and sixth forms can ask us to deliver to students; and
  • resources on our webpage, including a short video and written banking guide.

#BadBanksBeware... students are banking with who?



1 Resources offered by the “Big Five” UK banks:

Barclays - https://barclayslifeskills.com/young-people/

HSBC - https://www.hsbc.co.uk/financial-education/

Lloyds - https://www.lloydsbankacademy.co.uk/financial-skills/

NatWest - https://natwest.mymoneysense.com/home/

Santander - https://www.santander.com/en/our-approach/inclusive-and-sustainable-growth/financial-education