Banks Failing To Address Social Responsibility Concerns

Monday, 21 February 2011
By Susan Drury

Banks need to address a far broader range of social, ethical and environmental concerns in their direct and indirect impacts on customers, employees and local and national communities both in the UK, Ireland and globally.

These issues are highlighted in a new report The Banks and Society: Rebuilding Trust by the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility (ECCR). The report discusses financial exclusion, responsible credit, project financing, asset management, risk management, lobbying, commodity speculation, money laundering, tax avoidance, country debt, gender equity in employment, board governance, remuneration and transparency. An adequate response on all these issues is required if the banks are to regain public trust, argues ECCR.

Drawing on work published by other civil society organisations as well as new research the report profiles the main UK and Irish banks and offers questions people can ask banks about their operations. ECCR makes recommendations to improve banks’ corporate responsibility performance and provides further information sources. The report is intended to inform and empower investors in, and customers of, banks, as well as those advocating and working for a more socially responsible financial sector.

"Many banks recognise some responsibility in these areas. But most do not integrate social and environmental issues effectively into their business activities or behave with enough transparency for outsiders to make informed ethical judgements,” said Suzanne Ismail, Research at ECCR and the report’s lead writer.

ECCR is submitting the report to the UK Government’s Independent Commission on Banking, whose second round of consultation is due to begin following the publication of its interim report in April 2011.

For further information, visit the ECCR website.

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