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
  • 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

Recruitment Genius: Retirement Coordinator - Financial Services

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To provide a prompt, friendly and efficient se...

Recruitment Genius: Annuities / Pensions Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will be the first point of contact for all...

Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Officer - Altrincham - up to £24,000.

£18000 - £24000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Of...

Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Programme Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Day In a Page

The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing
The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower