Personal divestment – what can you do?
The Fossil Free movement is a high profile divestment campaign aiming to get major institutions and pension funds to take their money out of fossil fuel companies. The purpose of this is to put pressure on the fossil fuel companies to change their business model, and to remove their social licence to operate, speeding the transition to a world powered by clean, renewable energy sources. There have been some spectacular successes, both locally with Sheffield University promising to divest and globally with New York City divesting and taking on the oil companies in court.
But what can you do? Apart from joining our local campaign, there are many things that can be done at a personal level and Ethical Consumer, an excellent organisation that publishes a whole range of consumer guides, have just updated their guide to ethical finance focusing on current accounts, savings accounts, App banks, pensions, home & car insurance and ethical investment funds.
With regard to current accounts, Triodos, an online bank, is ranked the best in terms of ethical considerations, but for those who like to have a high street bank, Cumberland Building Society and Nationwide Building Society come in a close second. And if you know a friend who can recommend you to Nationwide, you each get a £100 windfall! The ones to avoid at the bottom of the list are Tesco and M&S Money, with the big high street names of RBS, Nat West, HSBC, Barclays and TSB all faring very badly too. Switching current accounts is very easy as the bank or building society does it all for you.
In terms of savings accounts, the list is similar although there are a few more options here. Charity Bank and Ecology Building Society are both very attractive options. Charity Bank is a bank owned by charitable trusts providing a social and environmental alternative to typical banks and is a living wage employer. Ecology Building Society specialises in funding environmental building projects and renovations. For high street banks, the Leeds and Coventry building societies come out top with the same suspects as for savings accounts close to the bottom of the list. In Sheffield, an alternative may be to consider the Sheffield Credit Union, which benefits the local area and provides affordable loans to the community.
Insurance is also tackled in the guide. Aviva, AXA, Quotemehappy, Swiftcover and UK General are the top 5 recommendations while some of the big names to avoid are Tesco (again) Legal & General (despite launching its ethical investment fund) & Allianz. It should be noted that none of the insurers score particularly highly with 9 out of 20 being the top score.
Finally, if you have a personal pension, you may be able to transfer your investments into ethical funds but this is something that you would probably be better taking advice on. The guide does give a list of pension funds to consider such as Royal London and Aviva. However, it would be well worth taking some advice on where to put your investments and local firms, for example Hamnett Wealth, offer advice and a choice of ethical funds to invest in.
So what are you waiting for – go and divest!