Today I ended a nine year relationship. It was one I entered into because it was convenient. I didn’t know any better, and then after a while it was comfortable and harder to get out of. This was my relationship with my bank; Barclays. However, today I switched. To an ethical, greener bank with the help of the JustMoney Movement.
Since working with JustMoney I am ashamed to say how long I banked with Barclays for. I chose them when I was 11, basically because in the small village I lived it was the only bank with a branch there. Then, when everything moved online, I didn’t feel the need to swap, even after the branch closed down and I moved to Liverpool. However, the more I learnt of Barclays' involvement in fossil fuels, funding militaries and the arms trade and their human rights record, I became more and more uncomfortable banking with them. As a Quaker, I found their involvement in wars particularly troubling. Quaker Advices and Queries 31 says: “we are called to live in the virtue of that life and power that takes away the occasion of all wars… Search out whatever in your own way of life may contain the seeds of war.” According to ‘Don’t Bank on the Bomb’, Barclays invested a total of $6,286.2 million in companies that manufactured nuclear weapons between January 2019 and October 2020 - a point which I highlighted in a letter I sent to them after my switch. It didn’t take a lot of searching to realise who I banked with was a large “seed of war” that I had to eradicate from my life.
Once deciding to switch, the next effort was to decide who to switch to. This was the longest part of the process. However, now we have produced the resources to help in doing this it is easier for others to do. I chose the Co-operative Bank for various reasons, however as our resources highlight there are many ethical options to switch to. It was a remarkably quick task to do. In fact, it took me all-in-all about ten minutes to switch. I had always assumed it would take a long time and there would be a lot of paperwork and time involved, but there wasn’t. Cutting Barclays out of my daily life has been one of the easiest forms of protest I have taken part in.
When we think of protest, the image that comes to mind is often of large crowds with placards, shouting and marching. Although this is an effective and popular form of protest, I have spent this year with SCM exploring different ways to have our voice heard, particularly through the creative protest blog series. So, with this campaign, we bring to light another form of protest: boycotting.
withdraw from commercial or social relations with (a country, organization, or person) as a punishment or protest:
Everyone has the power to choose which businesses they interact with, and to encourage others to do the same. Boycotting is a great form of protest. In a world where we may feel powerless, having the agency to decide you will no longer be using a service, because you don’t align with them ethically is a great way to make a small difference. Therefore, the call in this campaign is to boycott unethical banks, and switch to greener, fairer banking. When doing this, we can also consider letting our old bank know why we have left. It is important to contact your old bank, and assure them you left because of their unethical activity. It was not a decision based on interest rates, over-drafts or free railcards. No. We switched because they were unethical. We switched because we care about the planet we live on. We switched because we care about the people who are being harmed by the actions of powerful businesses. We switched in a move towards a fairer world.
Boycotting doesn’t have to start and end with you either. Along with encouraging friends and family, we can also call on our institutions and groups to move away from unethical banks. Universities have a lot of money and influence, so asking them to consider switching too is a great way to carry on the positive effects of boycotting.
It took me nine years to act on the issues my bank were causing. It doesn’t matter when you decide to make the switch- you may have been with your bank months, years, even decades,- but boycotting unethical banks is a great way to protest their actions, with little inconvenience. For me, it was nine years with Barclays ended in ten minutes. All it took was; one lunch break, a scroll on my phone and a cup of tea.
Call to action:
Use the resources on our website to switch to an ethical bank
DM us or email email@example.com once you’ve made the switch and let us know how it went!
Encourage friends, family and institutions you’re linked with to also make the switch.
Consider joining a network of people passionate about the just use of money by becoming a JustMoney Champion.
Have you switched to a more ethical bank? Do you have a story to tell? Contact JustMoney Movement and let them know too.