corporate responsibility economics

What’s your money up to right now?

Do you remember the Paddington Bear story where Paddington goes to get his pound note back from Floyds bank, and they give him somebody else’s pound? He knows, because he marked his specially with a marmalade paw-print.

I think it was probably from that story that I first learned as a child that the money we put in the banks doesn’t stay there in a big box. It goes out to play, bundled together with everybody else’s. It’s lent out here, invested there, made available to those that need it right now, and hopefully multiplied. We don’t see any of that, and most of the time we don’t care – as long as money comes out of the cash machine when we want it.

We really ought to pay more attention to what our money gets up to in the meantime. It could be used to fund tar sands, or provide a cash injection to an arms company preparing for a big contract. Maybe some of into sub-prime loans. Perhaps it opens a new sweatshop in Bangladesh or chops down a tranche of rainforest in Indonesia. Once our hard-earned pennies are out of our hands, there’s no knowing what the banks will have them doing next.

There is a solution, and it’s not to put your money in a big hole. You can choose a bank with an ethical policy. You can move it to a credit union that operates locally, so that your money can benefit local businesses and borrowers. Most of us never bother to change bank, but it’s not difficult.

This week saw the launch of the UK wing of the Move Your Money campaign. In the US it has inspired over 4 million people to move their money, choosing a banking institution that reflects their values and that is part of the solution.

The website is a catalogue of reasons why you shouldn’t support the mainstream banks with your custom, and offers plenty of alternatives instead. March is going to be Move Your Money Month, so expect to hear more from the campaign in the coming weeks.

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