Co-op takes tougher line on ethical banking

THE CO-OPERATIVE Bank is setting new standards in social responsibility and ecological sustainability in a move that will challenge companies that have sought to bolster their reputation by stressing their commitment to the wider community.

Organisations such as Body Shop, Traidcraft, the ethical trading company and, in the US, Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, have led the way with social audits, while BT, ICI and BP have begun to produce environmental reports and GrandMet, now part of Diageo, has benchmarked its community involvement. But the bank says its report, to be issued alongside its annual results next week, goes further in demonstrating how success in delivering value is dependent on the relationships between an organisation and its staff, customers, suppliers and other partners.

This partnership approach, launched last year, is seen as a natural progression from such moves as the development of an ethical policy and an ecological mission statement introduced earlier this decade.

Pointing out the impossibility of satisfying all of these groups at once, the bank's managers have devised an approach based on having the bank at the centre of seven partners - shareholders (in this case just one, the Co-operative Wholesale Society), customers, staff and their families, suppliers, local communities, national and international society, and past and future generations of "co-operators".

The challenge, said Simon Williams, head of corporate affairs, was to achieve a balance between all these groups. It was important not to see looking at the wider issues as an alternative to focusing on the financial aspects of running a business, he added. "It's a way of making a profit. It's not philanthropy or do-goodism - it's hard business."

Nevertheless, the bank claims the environmental aspects of the report have been assessed far more rigorously than those of many other companies because they have been subjected to the standards of a Swedish body called The Natural Step.

The bank claims it is taking the partnership issues - ranging from treatment of staff to encouraging its suppliers to adopt the highest environment standards - so seriously that it is locked in a dispute with PVC manufacturers over its campaign to reduce the use of the material in credit and other cards. Last May, it launched a card made from plant-based rather than oil-derived plastic.

And, besides winning approving comments from the verifiers - Business in the Community, the Centre for Tomorrow's Company and social audit consultants ethics etc - the report has been praised by Jonathon Porritt of Forum for the Future, which campaigns for sustainable development.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin visits her 1990s work ‘My Bed’ at Tate Britain in London, where it is back on display from today
artsBut how does the iconic work stand up, 16 years on?
Life and Style
life + style
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Recruitment Genius: Client Services Assistant

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Client Services Assistant is ...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor