Press Release - November 20th 2013
This week's revelations have once again focused attention on the problems faced by the Co-op Bank. Customers at the SaveOurBank.coop campaign remain focused on the future and how to ensure the new bank puts its principles into practice.
The Proposed Articles of Association published by the Co-operative Bank on 14th November are not strong enough to withstand commercial pressures and protect the Ethical Policy of the bank, says the campaign. The Co-operative Group has claimed that the new articles and an ethics committee will ensure that the ethical stance of the bank will be protected. However, the bank’s Ethical Policy – which sets out who it will and will not do business with – is not specifically referenced in the new constitution despite previous indications by the Bank that it has been set in stone.
SaveOurBank.coop is a campaign set up by Co-operative Bank customers with the backing of Ethical Consumer magazine. It aims to ensure the new bank sticks to its principles with an eventual return to majority co-operative ownership. The campaign has called on customers to “not switch yet” and to exercise their consumer power to influence the bank’s new private owners.
The campaign has welcomed the promise by the bank to conduct an Ethical Policy review next year, however, it is saying that much more is needed to withstand commercial pressures.
“The Bank has previously indicated that ‘the ethics are safe’ and has even run national press ads saying as much. However, there is no specific reference to the current Ethical Policy in the new constitution or a commitment to the many crucial processes that are needed to ensure that it is implemented with integrity” said Rob Harrison, editor of Ethical Consumer magazine.
“The commitment to annual reporting on ethical policies is good, but we don’t have SaveOurBank.coop campaign’s demand for an external audit. We’d also like to see some commitment to meeting the costs of running a strong Ethical Policy - costs that will come under pressure from the new hedge fund shareholders” he said.
Leading NGOs and charities including Greenpeace, Oxfam and Friends of the Earth joined the campaign in signing a letter last week calling on the bank to give real teeth to the ethical stance of the bank following re-capitalisation.