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
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Content Writer - Global Financial Services

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Consultant - Financial Services - OTE £65,000

£15000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Loan Underwriter

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory