When speaking of eco-systems and the environment, it's common to talk about a looming tipping point - the moment when 'climate chaos' becomes a reality. But there's another, positive, tipping point coming. 2012 could be the year when the financial system changes for good, because a collective action has changed it.
The aim is to get people moving their money from the big banks to their ethical and socially useful counterparts. In doing so we hope to build on the growth of the financial sector in the UK that works for the benefit of people, communities and the environment, as well as profit.
Why move your money?
It is clear that the major high street banks have failed us. The financial crisis of 2008 saw the biggest tax payer bailout in history, and since then the UK has experienced the worst recession in living memory.
Instead of helping to build a productive and stable economy, the major high street banks have and continue to persistently use their enormous power to steer the economy through their lending decisions to the detriment of society.
Oxfam, WDM, Christian Aid and UN bodies, for instance, have all warned that “food speculation”, the process of betting on the price of basic food, is causing extreme hardship in countries where food costs make up a large percent of household income. Just like when the banks flooded the housing market with funds in the build up to 2008, they are now flooding the agricultural markets, pushing up and destabilising the price of food.
Among the long list of damning findings, research by Ethical Consumer Magazine has uncovered evidence that, for years, the big banks have been paying excessive bonuses to executives, avoiding tax, investing unethically and in ways that harm the environment, and providing poor customer service. If your money is sitting with any of the major high street banks, then it's helping to fund these practices.
The banks won’t change of their own accord and politicians and regulators are too narrowly focused on maintaining the status quo. So we need to make the change ourselves - by moving our money.
Banks rely on the deposits of ordinary savers. So when you choose where you keep your money, you are choosing between supporting business as usual or taking a simple but powerful step towards a better banking system and a better future. By moving your money you can directly support an ethical and socially useful bank, and send a message about the sort of society and economy you want to see. And one you’d rather not.
For such a simple, positive action, the rewards will be huge. The campaign follows the successful Move Your Money Project in the US which has led to over 10 million people moving their money into local financial intuitions, and in a single day over 40,000 people moved their accounts. It’s not the first consumer boycott in the UK either. In the 1980s a student led campaign successfully resulted in Barclays pulling out of South Africa, which was supporting the apartheid regime.
Where to move your money?
Though most people in the UK currently bank with the “Big 5” - Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds TSB, RBS and Santander (and their subsidiaries), we aren’t reliant on them. There is a flourishing group of financial providers that offer a safe and credible alternative. They have ownership structures and business strategies that are more geared towards benefiting people, communities and the environment.
Part of Move Your Money UK's mission is to raise awareness of these financial providers so that people can make informed decisions regarding the types of financial institutions they want to support. You can find out more about where you could move your money to, including credit unions, building societies, banks with strong ethical commitments and community development finance institutions on our website (www.moveyourmoney.org.uk/where-can-i-move-my-money-to).
There is a diverse range of ethical and socially useful banks, providing many different banking services. The Cooperative Bank and several of the larger building societies, such as Nationwide, have branches across the UK and offer the same services as any High Street bank. If you’re keen to keep your money in the local area or are in need of a reasonably priced loan, it is worth looking up your local credit union. If you’ve got some savings, why not use your new ISA allowance this April by opening an account at an ethical bank such as Triodos so that your money can create social or environmental benefits as well as profit?
We're asking people to move what they can, and in the short term some people might not be able to move all of their accounts because many people are tied into mortgages and other loans. Whatever your financial situation there is probably something you can do to move your money, and if not you can always write a letter of complaint to your bank about their practices.
What you can do
Move Your Money UK is run by a diverse group of people with backgrounds in campaigning, finance, marketing and events. We have a coalition of partners including Ethical Consumer, Coops UK, a consortium of unions, third sector organisations, student groups, and a number of ethical banks.
At heart, however, we are a grassroots movement and we're relying on your impetus to help create a real impact and lots of noise this Spring. You can help in the following ways.
1) Sign up to the pledge (http://www.moveyourmoney.org.uk/pledge) to move your money in support of the campaign.
3) Send us a picture of you cutting up your old bank card to: [email protected]
4) Come along to an event. The first Move Your Money UK event took place outside a Barclays branch in London on 10th February, the day that Barclays announced it's annual results and a bonus pool of over £2bn. Members of the public turned up for the 'Better Bail-out' to close accounts, remove their money and write letters of complaint. Several more events will follow this month to coincide with the bonus announcements of the other major High St banks - RBS (23rd Feb), Lloyds TSB (24th Feb) and HSBC (27th Feb). Find out more here (http://www.moveyourmoney.org.uk/events).
5) Take part in ‘Move Your Money Month’ in March 2012 when we welcome and will provide support to all individuals and groups who want to take part and organise their own events around the country to promote discussion, collectivise action and support people in moving their money. Could you bring your friends, family, or local group together for a Move Your Money Event like a film screening or money themed dinner party? If you have any inclination, let us know!
6) There are some more ideas about how you can get involved on our website (http://www.moveyourmoney.org.uk/get-involved)