Sunday, July 13, 2008

Money matters

One of the matters Eco-congregation encourages churches to consider is their banking. St John's currently bank with NatWest and we've finally got round to looking into their environmental record. I recently sent the following e-mail to the green team and included something similar in the pewsheet:
As you know, we were looking into how ethical our church bank - NatWest - is. On the whole the conclusion seems its probably no worse than other high street banks. Indeed, aside from the Co-op it is the only one to give an environmental report. It is also involved in supporting Eco-schools and is working with WWF on a 'better business pack' for Defra as well as stopping using company cars. However, it has (like many others) been involved with funding Asia Paper and Pulp who are responsible for rainforest devastation in Indonesia and as part of the Royal Bank of Scotland it is involved in serious funding of fossil fuel projects.
It seems to me that pulling out is not necessarily the logical option. Rather I wonder if we could try to repair some of the damage our money has been doing with Nat West? There is a church in Settle that is trying to raise funds for the World Land Trust which is a charity specifically devoted to buying up endangered habitats, especially rainforest, to preserve it as wildlife reserves (patron David Attenborough). What do you think about suggesting we do something similar? The church's blogsite is and that has a link to the World Land Trust. If we do this then I'd want to write to Nat West and let them know we're doing it too. I know that as a church we support many causes so if you think this is one too many I'm not going to be offended! But I'd like to find a way to respond positively to what our money has done.

The responses have varied - the most common is that we should indeed pull out and switch to the Co-operative bank (which many of us use for our personal banking already). Another is that we should join People and Planet's Ditch Dirty Development campaign. This prompted discussion about whether it is realistic to imagine we can persuade the Royal Bank of Scotland to change its attitude to fossil fuel given the importance of fossil fuels to the Scottish economy. However, looking into the campaign I realise that my suggestion that NatWest is probably no worse than other high street banks may not be true given the extent of their responsibility for Climate Change. The third option of trying to redeem what has been done prompted suggestions that since no one had heard of the World Land Trust we should go for a better known organisation such as Greenpeace. The discussion is still continuing at present.