Ethical banking isn’t something we focus on just for Earth Day at Smart Money People, it’s something we are consider all year round. As ethical banking grows in importance and popularity we thought it was only right that in the British Bank Awards this year we add in a new category to celebrate those who are helping consumers make a greener choice with their money.

We caught up with two of the finalists in the ‘Ethical Provider of the Year’ category in the British Bank Awards 2021, Triodos Bank UK and Ecology Building Society, to find out their top tips for you to start making your finances more ethical, and to find out more about how their company operates ethically.

Firstly we spoke with Gareth Griffiths, Head of Retail Banking at Triodos Bank UK.

What would be your top tip on how people can start to change to make their finances more ethical?

It’s key to take a step back and think about what you want your money to do. Do you want to simply avoid having your money involved in harmful things, like fossil fuels or deforestation? Or do you want your money to be lent out to help restore the planet through innovative projects? How your money is used while it’s deposited in your account can be much more impactful than initiatives like tree planting or charity donations, so it’s worth considering this as you’re doing research.

Importantly, don’t take banks or financial providers (including us!) at face value. There’s some fantastic organisations that are assessing banks and campaigning for positive changes across the sector. Do check out Ethical Consumer Magazine, Good with Money, or Make My Money Matter if you want to learn more.

Can you tell the Smart Money People reviewers about the ethical background of Triodos Bank and how being ethical fits within your business culture.

Sustainability is at the heart of Triodos Bank. We were set up in the Netherlands in 1980 to help create a society that protects and promotes quality of life and human dignity for all. We report our progress annually in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. In the UK, for over 25 years we’ve offered sustainable financial products that enable individuals and organisations to use their money in ways that benefit people and the environment.

As well as our lending and investments, we also reflect our sustainability principles throughout the business. For example, our UK head office in Bristol has exceptionally high environmental standards – from water saving measures to organic paint on the walls. Consideration is given to sustainability at every point of the customer journey too – the debit cards for our personal current account are made from renewable and biodegradable resources like plant leaves and corn, making it one of the UK's most eco-friendly cards.

We believe in treating people fairly, we’re a Living Wage employer and are involved in initiatives to make financial services a more diverse and inclusive sector to work in. We don’t pay performance-related bonuses either. Much of this work is encompassed in our B Corporation certification.

Next, we caught up with Ian Rigarlsford, External Affairs Manager at Ecology Building Society.

What would be your top tip on how people can start to change to make their finances more ethical?

We’re proud to be at the forefront of the most exciting finance there could be, using money to make a positive difference for people and planet.

Increasing awareness of climate and ecological issues means that we’re seeing more interest than ever in people considering taking out a mortgage to build their dream sustainable home or renovating their existing home to a high standard of energy efficiency as well as our ethical savings accounts.

If you’re interested in ethical finance and thinking of moving your savings to an ethical provider it’s always important to look for credible ethical or environmental accreditations such as Ethical Consumer or Good with Money.

Can you tell the Smart Money People reviewers about the ethical background of Ecology Building Society and how being ethical fits within your business culture.

An ethical and ecological approach has been hard-wired into our mission for 40 years, to build a greener society and is enshrined in our memorandum. Simply put, we exist to support ecological building and sustainable development.

Our pioneering business model is optimised to provide lending for projects that have a positive environmental and social impact, funded by our members.

We put our ethical principles into practice through all our activities from managing the environmental impact of our eco-build offices and our approach towards fair pay for staff to our support for sustainable living and energy-efficient buildings.

Our recent accolades include becoming the first Fair Tax Mark accredited building society and the first to sign up to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Banking, as well as being recognised in the Finance for the Future awards for our sustainable products and climate leadership. We’re also rated as a Best Buy for our savings and mortgages by Ethical Consumer, a rigorous independent standard ensuring that only the greenest and most ethical products are selected. 

The finalists in the 'Ethical Provider of the Year' category in the British Bank Awards 2021 are:

Triodos Bank, Ecology Building Society and Cumberland Building Society.

Winners will be revealed at an awards celebration on 8th July in Central London.