Tue 14th Feb 2012, 9:00amAnna Laycock, Communications and Research Manager, Ecology Building Society
Sometimes an object is so familiar to us that we forget what it means. Imagine your bank card – and the money it represents. What do you see? A sign of your success, or a source of worry? Something that enables you to enjoy life, or merely get by? It’s more than that. What you’re actually looking at is your power.
As citizens, we’re outraged by the behaviour of the big banks and the control they seem to have over our economy, society and government. As consumers – of financial services, and of money itself – we have the power to change the way the big banks behave. At Ecology we call this the democratisation of money, and we think it’s the key to a better future.
The way our financial system is now is not the way it has to be. It doesn’t have to be the remote, self-seeking, labyrinthine system that is incomprehensible and unaccountable to the average person. It is for us, as citizens and consumers, to decide what sort of financial system we want and to take action to make this a reality. Do we want a system that causes the economic fragility and social inequalities we see today? Or do we want a system that supports sustainable, equitable communities, wellbeing for all above greed for the few?
For us, Move Your Money isn’t just about making a personal decision to move to the alternative. It’s about making the alternative the norm. Moving your money is a way to show the mainstream banks that this is the way we want all banks to behave.
The success of the Fairtrade movement was built not just through every conscious choice to buy a Fairtrade product, but through the messages sent to big corporations about what we want and expect of them. When banks realise that consumers will act on their principles, those principles become a central business issue.
We know the alternative works. Ecology Building Society has been providing ethical savings accounts for over 30 years, using the money to fund properties and projects that respect the environment and encourage sustainable communities. Our savers put their money with us because they trust us to use their savings wisely – because we’re completely transparent about our driving principles and how this translates into the way we operate. As a mutual, we are a democratic organisation, owned by and ultimately accountable to our members. We’re here for long term change, not short term shareholders.
We know the alternative works because we’ve not just survived the last 30 years – we’ve thrived. In 2011 our assets passed the £100m milestone for the first time, reflecting the growing importance savers have placed on responsible banking practices since the events of 2008. People who switch to us find they’re not just joining a building society; they’re joining a community of people who use their money to shape the world they want to see.
Take another look at that bank card. It is your power, and what you do with it matters. Every individual choice can be a choice for business as usual, or change. What will you do?